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Academic Integrity at TCTC

A Flip-Guide to Ethical Academic Behavior

Collusion and collaboration are not synonymous, and it is important to understand the difference between them.  Collusion suggests willful engagement and cooperation by knowingly participating or "assisting another person in an act of academic dishonesty" (p.150).  By distinction, collaboration suggests working in unison with others to better address or understand an intellectual problem. 

Collaboration is an important and effective learning technique.  As students, collaboration may serve as a form of peer-to-peer learning in which we come to understand a subject or problem better by articulating the key points and issues to one another.  As professionals, collaboration allows us to harness our mutual strengths in order to better address an obstacle or meet a goal.  As scholars and scientists, we collaborate by sharing our thoughts and ideas in order to gain deeper understanding and, perhaps, resolution of some thorny problem.

Most instructors will encourage some level of collaboration in their courses, perhaps as a formal group project or simply as a study strategy.  Most instructors will react negatively and harshly to collusion and those who conspire to commit acts of academic dishonesty.  When in doubt, it is incumbent upon the student to seek clarification from the instructor on the amount and kind of interaction she or he is willing to allow.

As reported in Inside Higher Education, the University of Virginia suffered through a major collusion scandal when a graduate student in an economics class was able to uncover online a set of answer-keys for their standardized course exams.  The student illicitly shared the answer-keys with other students in the first-year class.  Ultimately, nearly thirty students were implicated in the embarrassing episode (Epstein, 2005).