A test is an investigation of knowledge, skills and insight of a student. A student has to deliver only his own and original work. If not, it will be considered as fraud or plagiarism. Also free-riding behaviour, that is benefiting from other people's efforts in group assignments while not putting in the same effort as the other group members, can be considered as fraud.
When an examiner detects fraud in a test or assignment he or she has to report this to the examination board. The board then investigates the case and determines whether sanctions will be applied and what they will be.
The Education and Examination Regulation contains a section with regulations in case of an academic offense (fraud or plagiarism). You will find that section here:
Within the faculty of BMS all programmes have several units of study and modules containing group work. The phenomenon of free-riding behaviour is one of the most negatively side effects of group work. Students finish their units of study or modules by benefiting from someone else’s efforts, in many cases other project group members or fellow students. This behaviour is not desirable and not accepted in an academic environment.
What is free-riding behaviour?
The definition of free-riding behaviour: a student benefits from someone else’s efforts and by doing that, delivers none or a minimal contribution to an assignment that has to be executed by the project group. This student will gain from the positive grading of the group assignment with a low contribution. The contribution in this matter can be knowledge, skills or effort.
Tips to prevent free-riding behaviour
The examiner can prevent this behaviour in several ways. For example:
- Providing transparent assignments (on complexity, interesting subjects and in challenging ways);
- Providing assignments where the desired achievements are stated (including the distribution of the tasks that have to be done);
- Providing an individual part within the assignment which will be graded individually (for example a peer assessment in which students judge each other on specific subjects or a reflection report);
- Warn students in advance that if there are reasons to deviate from a group result grading, individual grading will be possible;
- During the process the project groups should on a regular basis discuss the group process
You as a student can prevent free-riding behaviour too. For example by:
- At the beginning of the project clearly discussing and registering the distribution of tasks
- Having, on a regular basis, group meetings to discuss the progress (the distribution of tasks should always be a subject in this meetings) and making notes of this group meetings so points of discussion are visible
What are the possible consequences or sanctions of free-riding behaviour?
- You will not develop sufficient skills to be able to finish your individual assignments;
- You risk receiving a lower grade than your group members;
- The examiner can report the profiting as possible fraud to the Examination Board;
- The examiner can provide you with a new or complementary assignment, this can also be (part of) the sanction of the Examination Board.
If you notice free-riding within your project group, what can you do about it?
- Discuss this matter in a meeting of the project group and use you own skills and knowledge about giving and receiving feedback;
- Confront each other with the registered distribution of tasks and the possible lack of collaboration;
- If no improvement occurs please contact the examiner of the module part in time.
Free-riding also happens outside of your study activities. It is very important that you inform group or project members regarding this matter. This may not be easy, but it is a skill that you will need the rest of your working life.