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Collaborative Learning and Academic Integrity

Research shows that group study can accelerate learning, but only if each student is a full and active participant in that learning process. Group collaboration often calls for more rather than less effort on the part of each member of the group. It calls for the mastering of the group process as well as the mastering of a subject.

However, collaboration often brings fears of "over collaboration"—that students will cheat in a collaborative environment. An understanding of plagiarism in the context of collaborative learning, combined with strategies for maintaining academic integrity in collaborative environments, will allow collaborative projects to be used to maximize student learning.

NOTE: Most of the examples and texts below are an amalgam from key writers and researchers in the area of collaborative learning. Sources are provided at the head of each section

What is Collaborative Learning?

(Source: University of Sydney)

Collaborative learning occurs when small groups of learners help each other learn. Each member of a group contributes personal experience, information, perspective, insight, skills and attitudes to the group. Ideally, the group’s collective learning is ultimately acquired by each individual in the group.

Collaborative learning requires that learners meet face-to-face or in a computer conference producing a single cohesive assignment, not a group of related assignments. Each learner must help other members of the group learn, so that each member of the group can attain the same level of performance.

What About Collaborative Learning and Academic Integrity?

The boundary between legitimate and illegitimate collaboration can be ambiguous. In collaborative learning, each member must contribute to the group performance. It is unacceptable for all members of the group to attach their names to an assignment completed by a couple individual members.

The following are useful resources in maintaining the highest standards of academic integrity in collaborative environments: