I'm an international student pursing master's degree in computer science in the US. This semester I was doing a course not even an elective to my program. I chose it because it seemed very interested to me in terms of plausible experience that I can get by working on some external project. Such projects were provided by external "clients". I've been assigned to a project with three undergrads. The project that we got was pretty simple: build a website with a specific purpose. Our team chose programming languages and frameworks that I've not been familiar with but I have enough experience in coding at all. We separated in two subteams. Two person were working on a one half (frontend), me and another team member on the second half (backend).

From the very beginning I tried to be into the project as much as I can but, unfortunately, very soon I found that my other team members were struggling not just in these specific programming languages but in coding at all. "That's ok", - I told myself and tried many times to engage them in the learning process. During my studies of these technologies I tried to share experience with my team members many times. Quickly I realized that they were not just not familiar with technologies but didn't show any interested in learning at all. I had a conversation with our client about it and he agreed that all undergrads don't seem doing anything useful. Client noticed me that he's planning to have a talk about that with the class' instructor (who is responsible for technical questions) or professor (who is responsible for organizational questions).

After the spring recess the instructor asked me about a face-to-face meeting with me. At the meeting he asked what is happening with the project and what problems do we have? I explained that all my team members are not interested neither in the project, not in a learning process at all. Instructor acknowledged that and mentioned that undergrads usually start to work before the end of the semester (before grading). I asked him if I can take just the project on my own so we'll able to deliver our project to a client but he insisted to keep me working on my part (backend).

3 weeks before the end of the semester, my team members, for real, started to do something. They even started to ask a piece of advice from me sometimes. Unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge and experience it was useless. I decided that I'd like to finish at least the second part of the project (backend) so client will have at least some foundation of the future project. I emailed to my instructor that I'd like solely to work on the backend and let another team member who used to work on the second part with me (backend) help others on the first part (frontend). As a result, three of them and I'm alone.

Since to that moment the second part was a mess of just copied pieces of information from the internet, I decided to start that part from scratch and spent many nights during last weeks on working with that. Fortunately, I finished my part in time. Polished, tested and ready for production. Unfortunately, the first part (frontend) wasn't done. There were small pieces of something. In the end of the semester, instructor asked the class to provide common information about what we did and what we didn't.

In time of grading for semester I found out that my grade was not what I expected. I came to instructor for a clarification about the grade and he said that I got reduced grade since the project (website) doesn't work. And, by the way, that he learned about the problems in the team from me at our meeting but not from our client I expected earlier. I replied to the instructor that the second part is done and it's possible to check it apart. He acknowledged that he checked it and it seems as the best work (code) in the class but, anyway, the project is not done and we (the team) didn't delivered what hasn't been done before grading. Since the syllabus says that 20% of the grade is shared between all team members, I got the reduced grade.

My question is: Since the instructor knew about the problems in our team and I delivered alone solid foundation of the project, is it appropriate to get a reduced grade? Because it seems that I wasn't able to get a higher grade from the very beginning because of my team members.

I tried to cover all the details of the story but, probably, some small details are missing since the post is already too long

  • This seems to be basically about which deliverables you focused on : those for the customer (ie back end) and those for grades...
    – Solar Mike
    May 17, 2019 at 6:37
  • Did the syllabus or the instructor explain beforehand how the team assignment would be graded, in particular whether there would be a single grade for the whole project or different grades for individually assigned parts of the project?
    – henning
    May 17, 2019 at 7:01
  • Solar Mike, thank you! I agree that I was more focused on the deliverables for the customer rather than for grades. In my opinion it was like: happy client means good grades. I knew he wouldn't be happy for 100% but he knew about problems very well. After my decision in the end to work solely he agreed that now he has at least solid foundation for future work.
    – user344605
    May 17, 2019 at 13:05
  • Henning, thank you for the question! The only information that we got is that grades are all about the code and tests. It's quality, cleanness, readability etc. I didn't hear anything about "splitting" the grade except mention in the syllabus teamwork deliverables 20% (5% - mid term team presentation, 10% - final team presentation and 5% - partner evaluation)
    – user344605
    May 17, 2019 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


Your syllabus clearly said that 20% will be shared, so, yes, it is appropriate.

Every teamwork exercise is also an exercise in organization, leadership etc. The way you present your story, your team has failed in that. (I also get the impression that you did not work well together with your team from your story.)

Projects in the so-called real life are similar: if the team has failed, then everyone failed.

PS: If the project really was "pretty simple" but the students would have needed more "knowledge and experience", something is broken with this university system as a whole.

  • Thank you for your comments!
    – user344605
    May 17, 2019 at 12:44
  • In my understanding if it has to be close to real-life, then in real-life there is a chance to do something about it. If an employee doesn't work: find a replacement, fire him etc. At least, your supervisor (or a person who has more responsibilities) will do something about it: control the project and try to get rid of the problems in the beginning of it. In academic it doesn't work in this way since it's a choice of my team members (do not work on the project) not mine. How we can compare "real-life" and "academic" in this way?
    – user344605
    May 17, 2019 at 12:54
  • About "pretty simple". It seems that this course is elective for everyone (at least for me) and there is an interviewing process (checking knowledge in the field) with an instructor before a student will be accepted to the course.
    – user344605
    May 17, 2019 at 13:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .