Collaborative Activities

Collaborative activities must be given careful consideration, as they involve the potential for intentional and unintentional cheating. These situations can arise if you are unfamiliar with course policies on collaboration or if your collaboration results in conflicts with team members.

Definition of collaboration

The definition of collaboration can vary from course to course, and even within a course, depending on the expectations of an instructor and course policies. It is your responsibility to clarify with your course instructor when, how, and with whom you can collaborate in a course.

Collaboration policies

Collaborative policies vary between courses and between activities within the same course. Many times students cannot collaborate at all and must work independently. For other projects students are permitted to collaborate, but only in the manner defined by the course or assignment policies.

When collaboration is not allowed for a course, activities such as studying together and discussing the assignments before working on them individually or checking final answers with classmates can be considered violations of collaboration policies by some instructors.

Check Your Understanding

How can collaboration requirements vary among courses or instructors?

In some courses, you may not be allowed to collaborate on any activities at all, but in others you may be allowed to collaborate in some or all activities depending on the collaboration policies set forth by the course instructor.

Inappropriate collaboration

Although collaboration is allowed for some coursework, not all types of collaborative work are acceptable. Inappropriate collaboration is any type of collaboration that is not permitted in a course activity. Students who work together on an assignment when they are supposed to complete it individually are collaborating inappropriately. However, when some type of collaboration is allowed, determining what type of collaboration is inappropriate may be more difficult. For example, students may be required to complete a team project for an undergraduate course. Working with undergraduate classmates would be considered appropriate collaboration.

However, collaborating with graduate students on the project (when such collaboration is not allowed) is considered inappropriate collaboration. Similarly, collaborating with people who work in industry for a team project is inappropriate if it is not allowed.

Other types of collaboration may be inappropriate, even though they may seem to conform to collaboration policies. For example, the situation of a boyfriend and girlfriend working together on a team project can be problematic because the relationship between the two may make other members of the group feel uncomfortable. Or, if the couple fights or breaks up, the project may suffer, which would adversely affect all involved.

In course activities where collaboration is allowed, unequal or inappropriate collaboration can result in conflicts and misunderstandings. You can protect yourself from such situations by double-checking each other's work when possible and documenting clearly who contributed to which part of the collaborative activity.