Collusion is defined as "a secret agreement, esp. for fraudulent or treacherous purposes". [].

Collaboration is defined as "work[ing] together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.". [].

The Computer Science Department encourages students to work together to solve a problem, such as the problems they are set as coursework assignments. This would be collaboration. In fact, second year students are obliged to collaborate on a project during their second year. However, there comes a point at which collaboration becomes collusion, which as the definition above suggests is a serious offence. Try taking the test below to ensure that you fully understand the difference between collaboration and collusion.

A lecturer sets the following task. "Write a program which reads in strings from a file, stores the strings in a suitable data structure, asks the user to type in a string and then searches the data structure to find the word." Where, if anywhere, do the students who do the following, step over the boundary from collaboration to collusion?

  1. Three friends agree to collaborate.
  2. One looks up how to read data from a file, one researches into suitable data structures, one looks for a good search algorithm
  3. They each write in broad terms what they have found, in English (or any common language), possibly including fragments of code.
  4. They read one another's notes and discuss the merits and demerits of each idea.
  5. Having agreed on file reading, data structures and a search algorithm they each write code for one element.
  6. The best programmer puts all the work together and makes sure it compiles.
  7. They each get a copy of the program and test it.
  8. They each submit the finished work as their own.

This test is an adaptation of an idea of Jude Carroll's. [J, Carroll, A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, 2nd ed. 2007]