The Only Thing More Exhausting Than Group Work Is This Story

, , , , | Learning | November 22, 2020

I am doing a computer science degree at university. We have a group work project which is set out in two stages. Part A involves making an application and writing a report about it. For Part B, we get feedback from Part A and have to improve upon it.

There is a group contribution report at the end where each student puts in how much they think each member of the group has done.

I am in a randomly selected group with four others. We each pick a part of the work that we want to do.

I am apparently the group’s most confident coder, so I assign myself about half of the code. I finish up my work in about the first three weeks and work on other projects I have for other modules.

Then, soon after I finish my work, the others ask me if I can do their parts of the code, too. I initially protest, as I have my other coursework due, but eventually, I say fine, so long as it is noted in the group contribution report that they all agreed to this. I sweat it out over the next three weeks or so alongside my other coursework.

I contact my module organiser, explaining that I have done half the work.

Module Organiser: “If people in your group aren’t pulling their weight, I suggest you leave the group, take your code with you, and do the report.”

That would mean I would need to work flat-out to produce the report and probably would mess it up. I don’t want that. The deadline is in about a week. And I honestly can’t be a**ed.

Then, I get asked to do some of the report, too, because they don’t understand how the code worked. By this point, I feel pretty used by them, but I don’t really mind so long as I get the marks.

All in all, I work out that I have done the workload of three people. There is talk amongst the others of all writing that we each contributed 20% of the workload to “make us look better as a team.” I flatly refuse. They explode, calling me every name under the sun, swearing at me, telling me to “f*** off.”

I send off my contribution report with 60% listed for myself and 10% each for the rest. And I think that is that.

My module organiser then emails me.

Module Organiser: “Do you have any proof of your contribution to this project? Your fellow group members have put you down for 0% and given themselves 25% each.”

I email him back linking him to the program I used to share the code with the team, which shows who made changes to the code, proving that I did all of it. And thankfully, we did the whole report on Google Drive, so I can also see the history on that document and send him screenshots of all the alterations that I personally made, proving that I wrote about 20% of the report.

He adds it all up and makes a special exception for my group, saying he will give me the most credit for the work.

I think I end up with a 65% and they all get 11% for the whole coursework Part A. They would need 69% to even pass the module.

It turns out that I f***ed up a bit on the code, only getting about 50% of the marks with a massive issue in it, but my report sections were near perfect — just spelling mistakes, formatting, etc. There were a few glaring mistakes from the report that my groupmates had written, but other than that, it was not bad.

When the other members of my group find out their marks, they start calling me up and emailing me and messaging me almost for about three hours. Apparently, my module organiser had sent an email explaining that they had lied, and he had proof of it, so he had corrected the marks accordingly.

When I get back to my phone, I screenshot all the messages they sent and record all the voicemails, including the ones they had sent previously, featuring multiple occasions where everyone in the group told me to “f*** off.”

And f*** off I do. I send all these voicemails and screenshots to my module organiser via email.

Me: “I would like to leave my group. I understand that it is more work for me, but I’d rather not deal with that.”

The organiser agrees and escalates the messages to someone higher up.

Me: “I would like to take all of my code with me and remove their access to it. Is that allowed?”

Module Organiser: “That’s fine. It’s your work, and since you are no longer in their group, the others cannot submit it.”

I fix the error in the code in about two weeks. Then, I do the whole report from scratch almost.

I then get messages from the group during the last few days of the assignment.

Group Member #1: “Please come back! We really need you.”

Group Member #2: “We will literally pay you to come back and help us.”

I screenshot the messages and send them to the module organiser, just to let him know what is happening, and then I just ignore them.

I end up submitting two weeks early for the deadline and get 100% on the whole of Part B, which is basically unheard at university, especially by yourself for group work.

Later that day, I get an email from a plagiarism and collusion officer — not someone you ever want to get an email from. Basically, it says that I’m being summoned to a hearing, as an external body looked at both the coursework I did by myself and the coursework my old group did, and they thought it was very similar. I get the whole project that my group handed in and my own back as evidence so I can look and prepare my answers to their questions.

I email my module organiser to ask if he supports me in this, because basically, in these situations they can punish all parties involved or one party — never nobody. He says that, yes, he supports me in this. Perfect.

I prepare for this meeting by going through the hundreds of commits I have made while they had access to find the one that is most similar. I find a perfect match — zero differences, not even a single character — through the thousands of lines of code.

And then, I go to the meeting, which is held over video chat. The VP of computing is there — a guy who could basically do whatever the h*** he wants to us. My old group is asked to explain why this has happened, and they go on about how they did all of the work by themselves, blah, blah, blah. You get the point. This goes on for about ten minutes.

Then, I am asked to present my argument.

Me: “Can I share my screen?”

VP: *Puzzled* “Yeah… Okay…”

Apparently, some of the people in the meeting weren’t aware that I’d worked with the group before. I show all the screenshots I took, including them basically begging for me to come back, and offering money. And as if this wasn’t enough to convince them, I then download a fresh version of what they submitted, and a fresh version of one of my commits on the sharing program, and I run it through a trusted comparison software. I narrate this to explain what I am doing just to be clear. It takes a while, but it comes up, as I knew it would, with zero differences.

Everyone is stunned. One of the group members utters, “But…”

I just laugh. And I am quickly asked to hang up as I am no longer involved.

It turned out that they had cloned one of my commits and still had a copy on their laptop when I blocked their access. They were not able to fix it at all, so they just submitted it and hoped for the best.

I found out through a mutual friend that they failed the whole module; they got a zero for Part B, giving them just 5.5% overall for the module. You need 40% to pass. Therefore, they would have to retake the module over the summer, costing everyone in the group their placement year jobs. After all, who wants someone who failed a module so badly and who was intellectually dishonest working for them? This meant that they all lost out on being paid around 20k each for the year’s work, which goes a long way for a uni student.

I happily got mine.

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