Ethics on Working as a Team, Collaborating, and Alone ECE400F13

A letter of advice for incoming ECE students addressing something related to ethics in college.


Hello future incoming ECE students,


   Throughout high school, teachers always seem to encourage study groups. Once you enter college, there are different standards in which working together becomes unethical. A combination of different professors’ philosophies and the rules of academic dishonesty that Purdue regulates in every course decide on a syllabus where one needs to work as a team, collaboration, or alone. It is important to know when it is appropriate to do each one for each of the assignments given by your professor.
   During your college career, some courses will offer office hours and TA office/open-lab hours where you need to take advantage of these help sessions. Attending help sessions provided by the teacher assistants becomes a great place to meet other students that are willing to collaborate and discuss with others on homework and practice exams. It will also create great homework and study habits.
   During your upper level courses, professors assign what is called mini- and team projects. Usually in a mini-project, one has to work alone and not share any of their work with any other student. Working on mini-projects will become frustrating and stressful to finish it on time, so making a schedule of what you need to do and attending open-lab or office hours can help relieve some of that stress. Reading ahead and asking questions to grasp a full understanding can also help you prepare when starting on your mini-projects. Learning how to work on your own will help you work better with a team. When working with a team, every member of the group has to take a fair amount of work. Slacking off does not only put stress on your teammates but it is also considered unethical. Claiming to be part of a team and contributing when in reality most of the work is done by your teammates is academic dishonesty and unfair to the rest of your team. It is consider the same unethical action as taking credit for something you have not done. Potential employees also look at your main projects and take interests in the design and ideas that your team has established. This is also unethical because companies interested assume that it was a team effort and each member contributed the same amount of work meaning that you have full knowledge about your team project. At this point, you are not only lying to the professors, your team, and yourself, but the company that wants to potentially hire you because of the project you have contributed to.
   Therefore, when students ignore the difficulty of such projects, you resort yourself to taking unethical actions. The students who choose to approach this path will eventually suffer in the real world. When working in your internship or cooperative, your supervisors like independence as much as teamwork. However, knowing when to actually take advantage of a team and be a follower or be independent and be a leader are important soft skills that you need to have and strengthen throughout your college career. Many companies have their employees create a standardize yearlong work goals, If one does not learn how to work alone as much as work as a team, it can create stress and cause you, not meet these work goals which can eventually lead to unemployment. Therefore, learning when it is all right to work as a team, collaborating, or alone is there to help you prepare for what is expected of you when starting your future career.


  • Very useful advice! I would like to add that one remembers for the rest of their life which of their colleagues were honest people one could depend on, and which were not. Having a successful career depends, in large parts, to having a good network of supporting colleagues. So while always behaving ethically may seem like it is putting you at a disadvantage in the short term, in the long term it will definitely be an advantage. -pm
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Alumni Liaison

Correspondence Chess Grandmaster and Purdue Alumni

Prof. Dan Fleetwood