To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate, That is the Question

In August, I read the following Bloomberg article — Harvard Cheating Probe Under Way for About 125.  I was mildly unsettled. I posted the link to my Google+ account with the following comment, “ Why give a take home exam to students for whom collaboration, “crowd sourcing” and “citizen science” are considered to be appropriate avenues to answer questions? Are they cheating or showing their ability to solve problems in a new context? Perhaps the exam could have asked the 279 students to generate a few papers through crowd sourcing… go Harvard.”

This morning, I read the following post by Dr. Oliver Dreon is the director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Millersville University — Promoting Student Success Through Collaboration.

Clearly, I am biased here. I favor collaboration and appreciate Dr. Dreon’s take on this. A brief excerpt highlights the confusing nature of today’s educational spaces as we become comfortable with a new way of thinking about learning:

“As the person who started the collaborative document, would she somehow be to ‘blame’ for the class’s success? I tried to calm Mary’s fears. I explained that I was proud of her since she was implementing the concepts we had discussed in our class. In our Instructional Technology class, we had talked about 21st century skills like collaboration and communication and Mary was actually applying the concepts to help her peers learn and succeed. I really didn’t believe that her actions would lead to disciplinary actions but I offered to speak to the professor to alleviate any concerns. Mary left my office relieved and encouraged. Despite her reassured departure, Mary’s situation has been on my mind for the last few days. As educators, I believe we’re motivated to help all of our students learn. We want to provide them with the tools to help them succeed and hope that they’ll meet the high standards we set for them. As a student, Mary had created a collaborative learning environment for her peers but worried that if everyone was successful that the success could be misinterpreted or worse, devalued. In a somewhat ironic twist, success for everyone was undermining the very concept of success.”