I’ve always hated group projects.
In my experience, there’s always one member that ends up doing all of the work, and at least one that has never seen the inside of the classroom.
I’ve never enjoyed collaborative work, but I understood its value: group work prepares students for professional environments where they need to collaborate with others to be successful. Group projects reduce the in-class time spent sharing presentations or projects with peers and limit the number of projects a professor has to grade, leaving more time for other material.
But come the first day of the semester, I still scan my syllabi for group assignments. If I find one, I make every effort to drop the class and replace it with another.
This practice may seem drastic, but it’s the result of my overwhelmingly bad experiences with group projects. If it wasn’t for my cynicism and well-established hatred of group work, I would’ve fallen victim to the actions of a fellow group member who used ChatGPT and tried to pass it off as their own effort.
The assignment was a 15-page paper split among three group members. Initially, I took comfort in having a friend enrolled in the class. But once we were randomly assigned our other group member, that familiar anxiety set in. We soon discovered our third member never came to class and would take numerous days to respond to our messages.
The guidelines for our paper were vague, but the professor made one thing clear: if you have an issue with your group, it is your responsibility to sort it out.
And so, we suffered through the research and writing process with virtually no communication from our other group member. The night before the paper was due, we waited in anticipation for them to add their portion of writing, but that moment didn’t come until the next morning.
At first, I was impressed with their writing, and admittedly a little intimidated by how professional it sounded.
Upon a second read, I noticed that the sentences were a bit repetitive and that the tone was painfully robotic. I decided to run our paper through AI detection software. Several portions, all submitted by our third member, were identified as a 100% match for ChatGPT generated text.
Had we submitted our paper without revision, we could’ve faced a written warning or grade reduction on our final class paper. If more serious consequences were issued, we could risk course failure, dismissal from our programs or expulsion from the university.
Fearing these consequences and knowing our professor’s stance on group intervention, my friend and I skipped our morning classes and frantically rewrote the AI-written sections before the 2 p.m. deadline.
Rather than enhance my understanding of class material, this project siphoned off the enthusiasm I had for our paper topic. In class, I felt withdrawn and anxious. My focus was no longer on learning, but instead on trying to compensate for a lack of effort and communication from a classmate.
Group projects sound great on paper. They’re a way for students to learn to work with others while simultaneously expediting a course. In practice, group work can detract from the real mission of a project: to impassion and provide a deeper understanding of a subject.
Alex Olen is an opinion editor and be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org