Tutoring: Academic Achievement or Academic Offence?

Caution Academic Offence RiskKnowing the difference between acceptable forms of help and the forms of help that pose an academic offence risk can make a large difference in your undergraduate experience. As a student at the University of Toronto (U of T), it is important that you have read and understood the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (Code). While seeking the help of a tutor is not listed as an academic offence in the Code, there are ways in which forms of tutoring can pose an academic offence risk. There is a limit to the type of assistance that a tutor can provide. A good tutor will help you improve your understanding of the subject area by giving you the tools you need to be successful—without giving you the answers!

This resource uses the term “tutoring” to define extra help outside of the classroom. The following scenarios are designed to help you detect unacceptable forms of extra help: 

Scenario #1:

You wrote your essay in your native language and planned to change it to English before making the final submission. You are worried that your English language ability is not strong enough to translate the essay into English on your own, so you decide to use an online translation software to translate the essay for you. Using the translation output as your final draft you submit the essay.

For your next assignment, you ask your tutor, who is also a good friend of yours, to translate your essay into English for you. You submit the translated draft as the final version of your essay.

What is the Risk?

Submitting work translated by a software system can be considered an academic offence. The translation software has changed the language so it is no longer considered your own work: The translation software has assisted you by doing the work of structuring sentences, selecting tense, and conjugating verbs. You cannot take credit for this work. Likewise, it also can be considered an academic offence to have another person (tutor, family member, friend, etc.) translate your work for you.

Using translation software, having a tutor, family member, or friend, translate your work for you, can be considered an unauthorized aid in this scenario, which violates Code section B.I.1.(b). 

Scenario #2:

You’re having difficulty understanding the lecture material and homework assignments in your U of T course. A friend of yours invites you to attend a tutoring session that goes over all lecture notes and assignments for the U of T course. This session runs outside of class time and is not run by your professor, but uses the same lecture slides and syllabus as your U of T course. You attend the session and the topic for the day is a homework assignment for your U of T course that is due next week. Your U of T professor was clear that the assignment was to be done on your own. You and other people at the session work together to complete the assignment. You submit the assignment to your U of T professor on the due date the following week.

What is the Risk?

Working with others to complete an assignment that is supposed to completed on your own can be considered an academic offence. Working with others on an assignment that is to be completed by you alone can be considered unauthorized assistance and is in violation of section B.I.1.(b) of the Code. Given that these types of sessions are not run by the University of Toronto, they often do not follow U of T’s rules for academic integrity. There are broader issues in relation to these types of sessions, such as copyright infringement. 

How can you Reduce your Risk of Committing an Academic Offence?

To safeguard yourself from possibly committing an academic offence, avoid environments that encourage you to complete your assignments contrary to your professor’s instructions. If you are having difficulty completing an assignment, there are many resources that U of T offers to help you. Please click here for frequently asked questions about tutoring.