Executive Summary

Here, we define “student collaboration” as peer-peer collaboration on course administered graded assignments (i.e. homework, labs, projects, etc.). Policies regarding the academic integrity of student collaboration are not standardized across departments and courses leading to discrepancies in treating academic integrity violations. Professors should explicitly state a well-defined collaboration policy in their syllabi for each course, and punishments for infractions should be standardized across all departments to make the consequences of violations clearer.


Engineering as a discipline in the real world tends to be a collaborative field, generally involving a great deal of interdisciplinary teamwork. While pedagogically every school and professor views collaboration between students differently, it is important to consider whether the Penn Engineering curriculum for students of different departments accurately teaches them the skills necessary to collaborate within teams after graduation. To discuss this, we reviewed some of the collaboration policies of prominent classes within each of the departments.

Department-Level Policies

BE policies

The BE department tends to be fairly lenient with collaboration and actively encourages it in many cases. Students expressed that most professors were clear when assignments needed to be completed individually, needed to be done in teams, or could be done collaboratively as long as the names of collaborators were disclosed to the grader.

CBE, MEAM policies

Many classes in the CBE and MEAM curriculum emphasize problem sets. For these classes, the collaboration policy is lenient and students may work together to complete the problem sets. Students within these departments mentioned that some classes do not specify a collaboration policy, and that it is generally understood that students are allowed to work together, especially for longer and more difficult problem sets. Students felt that classes should be more explicit about collaboration policies.  

CIS policies

CIS classes tend to have a wide variety of collaboration policies. Introductory CIS classes tend to have a strict-no collaboration policy, and according to the Office of Academic Integrity, CIS110 and CIS120  generates the largest volume of student cheating reports. Among higher-level CIS classes, collaboration policies become more lenient, but are different between classes and even between different offerings of the same class, causing uncertainty.

ESE policies

The ESE department has a very diverse array of classes, each with different collaboration policies. Students expressed confusion because many classes do not make the collaboration policy clear in the syllabus.

MSE policies

Very few MSE students had complaints about the MSE collaboration policies. They felt that the department was small enough that it was well-known what was allowed and disallowed in the various required classes.


  1. Require professors to clearly outline a collaboration policy in the syllabus. Students felt that a clearly stated policy outlining expectations regarding collaboration was necessary.  They felt that classes would be less stressful and students would be more careful if they knew exactly what to expect.

  2. Standardize the punishment for collaboration policy violations. Some students expressed frustration at the lack of reporting and punishment standardization for collaboration-related infractions. Some professors specify they will report infractions to the Office of Student Conduct, while others tell students it will be handled internally. Moreover, some professors specify that the student will fail an assignment if they are caught collaborating, whereas others specify different consequences.