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Collaboration or collusion?

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Do you know the difference between collaboration or collusion? Over the last couple of years we’ve all got used to sharing a lot online, whether it’s for studying, keeping up with family and friends, pursuing a hobby or interest and even seeing a doctor or counsellor. In an academic context, some types of sharing can lead to problems, even if you have the best of intentions.  With assessments coming up on the horizon we’re talking everything you need to know about collaboration and collusion, so you can stay on the right track.

Collaboration vs. collusion – what’s the difference?

Collaboration: debating ideas in seminars, working together on group projects, discussing concepts and theories.

Collusion: sharing and using assessed work as if it is solely your own.

The problem is that Collaboration – which is a useful skill and a great tool for learning – can step over the line into Collusion, which involves the sharing and use of assessed work, and as such is a form of academic malpractice. For example, this could include posting an assignment online or discussing an exam question over WhatsApp.

As a general rule, it’s good to collaborate for learning, but not for assessment. This is because any mark that you gain through that assessment could then be based on work that is not wholly your own. Where you do collaborate, make sure you are able to distinguish your personal notes and contributions from those of others. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a family member, friend, fellow student or anonymous person on the internet (or whether any money has changed hands or not!). Getting anyone else to help you write an assessment is collusion. (This is different from proof-reading.) Just like when you get input from a source such as a book or website, you need to acknowledge these contributions in your work.

Sharing work that you have submitted for assessment with others is also risky. You may mean well, but if a student – whether at Manchester or another institution – goes on to use some of your work in their own assessment, you could both be guilty of collusion, because you have enabled them to gain an unfair advantage. If you are considering publishing a piece of your work, ensure you speak to your course unit lecturer or Academic Advisor first, and consider timing so it can’t be used by others still doing the assessment.

Incidentally course materials belong to The University, and should not be shared with anyone or posted on any website outside of the organisation.

Further sources of information

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