As THE NEW YORK TIMES reports, the instructions on the final exam on Congress at Harvard explicitly forbade collaboration. An investigation by the Harvard powers that be, including outside consultants, turned up evidence of collaboration. As a result about 60 students have to withdraw from school for two to four terms.
However, a good lawyer might be able to have his clients re-admitted now, their records wiped clean, and damages granted them for emotional trauma. The strategy could involve defining the concept "collaboration." Some students had already conferred with the teaching assistants about the exam. Surely, that's a form of collaboration. Also, when students pool their ideas and then organize that thinking into the language used in the exam does that represent a natural learning process, which education is all about, or a form of "cheating?" Indeed, would the professor have structured a more powerful learning experience if the mandate were to collaborate? Were the students who didn't collaborate, as the concept is generally understood, short-changed? Evan Rosen, author of the book "The Culture of Collaboration," raises this sort of question about the educational system.
Macro thinkers who are experts in how people work together could also argue that a fine educational institution like Harvard should be training students to do just that: collaborate. After all, technology is turning so many routine tasks into group efforts. Just consider the email sent to multiple recipients, Google chats, Skype, wikis, interactive webinars, social networks, tweeting, and even the old-fashioned conference call. In addition, the push for cost-efficiency and increased productivity, along with global supply chains, has made collaboration or partnering necessary. Given this real-life workplace trend, is Harvard remiss in banning collaboration on any classroom project?