online studying

Learning with others: Study group strategies

Studying with other students can be a great way to support your academic success, establish a regular study schedule and stay motivated.  Here are some helpful tips for creating and organizing study groups. 

Strategies for organizing a study group

Sometimes you already know a few students in your courses that you can arrange a study group with.  Other times, it may take a little more effort to connect with others. Here are some suggestions for finding other students for your study group:

  • Put a message out through an existing course-based communication channel such as Discord or WhatsApp (see tips for using these tools effectively).  
  • Check out clubs within your department or faculty to ask about opportunities to post a study group invitation using their communication channels.


Once you have some study group members, here are some tips for setting your group up to work well together.

  1. Set up the logistics

    • Define how frequently group members should meet and share schedules and availability to make meeting scheduling easy.
    • Share contact information so that everyone is easily reachable.
    • Discuss how you will communicate and which communication methods/platforms the group will use. (Find out more about communication platforms).
    • Communicate with your course instructor to ensure you understand guidelines for maintaining academic integrity while collaborating with peers. (Find out more about potential academic integrity issues)


    Tip: Establish a regular, weekly meeting time and prearrange the details. Not only will this help your study group maintain momentum, setting up study routines is a key strategy for maintaining motivation and keeping on top of reviewing course material.


    Attribution statement: This section is an adaptation of The Student Guide to Group Work by Learning Commons, York University and is used under a  CC-BY-SA 4.0 International license. 

  2. Establish study group guidelines

    Establishing group guidelines can help ensure your study group creates and maintains a positive learning environment. Here are some suggestions for maintaining positive relationships that your group might want to consider establishing:


    • Learn and use group members preferred names and pronouns
    • Provide opportunities for each member to speak
    • Engage in active and respectful listening
    • Be prepared to give and receive respectful and constructive feedback
    • Be open to diverse points of view
    • Discuss how your group will avoid academic integrity concerns (Find out more about potential academic integrity issues)


    Tip: To help to ensure everyone is part of establishing your guidelines, take some time in your first session to collectively identify some standards that everyone can agree on. Alternatively, you can present the guidelines above and discuss as a group how to modify them to fit all members’ needs.

Here some activities that you can do together in your study group.

  • Discuss assigned readings
  • Quiz each other on class material
  • Work through practice problems
  • Reteach” aspects of the material team participants are unsure of
  • Brainstorm possible test questions and responses
  • Review quiz and test results and correct misunderstandings
  • Critique each other’s ideas for paper themes and approaches
  • Define questions to ask the instructor

Attribution statement: This section is an adaptation of University Success (2nd Edition) by the University of Saskatchewan and is used under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 International license. 

Helpful tools for group study

Video conferencing can be a convenient way to connect with group members in real time. While there are many video conferencing tools out there, Zoom is a platform that is available to you as a student through the University of Calgary. Zoom allows you to create share screens with each, work on a shared whiteboard and break out into smaller groups within your study group.  

Learn how to create a meeting and invite your peers using Zoom with these resources from the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning 

Chat platforms such as Discord, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp or Slack, typically allow instant messaging and content sharing. Some platforms also provide video conferencing as well. While these tools can help your study group stay connected, chat platforms are often used in casual settings outside of academics and can allow for anonymity. This can sometimes make it more difficult to maintain a positive learning environment or avoid issues with academic integrity. For these reasons, your study group might want to consider the recommendations below.

Recommendations for using chat platforms 

  • If possible, allocate an administrator(s) who is responsible for verifying group members
  • Verify group members by requesting that students join using their UCalgary email
  • Consider limiting the number of group study members to ensure that group members get to know each other
  • Post group guidelines for communicating and working together on the channel (see above Establishing study group guidelines)
  • Talk to your instructor to be sure you understand what collaborative learning activities are permitted to avoid academic integrity concerns and include this information in your posting guidelines
  • Consider using a chat platform that allows you to block posts during the exam period (e.g. Discord) to prevent any potential issues with academic misconduct

File sharing platforms can provide your study group with a digital location to store content and work collaboratively on documents. All students have access to Office 365, and its full suite of apps including One Drive, which allows you to access files from anywhere and also share them with study group members. You may also come across commercial file sharing platforms such as Chegg, Course Hero, OneClass or Thinkswap. These sites tend to share course materials that are submitted by students. While file sharing platforms are a great tool for collaborative learning, copyright and academic integrity issues can arise when students share materials that are owned by the university (instructor material such as course outlines, course resources and exam questions). Below is some helpful information for what to consider when posting or accessing course related materials.


Recommendations for file sharing platforms

  • If you are considering posting an instructor’s course materials, you must have instructor permission to do so. Posting these materials without instructor permission is a violation of the Copyright policy.
  • Posting or retrieving assignment or exam solutions is considered an academic misconduct violation.
  • Commercial websites such as Chegg, do have honour codes and can work closely with universities to identify students who have violated these guidelines.

Maintaining academic integrity while working in study groups

Collaborative work allows students to explore concepts in much greater depth than what would be possible individually. Studying collaboratively differs from unauthorized assistance. Unauthorized Assistance is defined by the UCalgary Student Academic Misconduct Policy as cooperating, collaborating, or otherwise giving or receiving assistance in completing Academic Activities without the Instructor’s permission.

This policy ensures that students’ submitted academic work demonstrates their own academic ability. This section provides some recommendations and additional information to support your study group in maintaining academic integrity and distinguishing group study from unauthorized assistance

Only the instructor can determine what (if any) level of collaboration for assessments is permitted within a course. Remember that this may be different for each assessment in the same course and across the different faculties. If you are unsure, always ask the instructor for clarification.

Understanding how to avoid issues of unauthorized assistance while working in study groups is essential for your group to maintain academic integrity. Below are some examples of unauthorized assistance that can occur in study groups.

Borrowing a study group member’s assignment to see how they structured it or showing another study group member your essay before the assignment is due.

If you view another study group members assignment is very likely that you will be influenced by what they wrote and may accidently incorporate elements of their structure, ideas, wording, etc. into your own work. Your instructor will be able to spot pieces of work that are similar. Remember that helping another student to commit an offence by letting them see your work is also an academic misconduct violation.

Working with a study group to complete an individual assignment.

It is useful to discuss the assignment requirements with your study group but take care if ideas are being swapped and content of the assignment being discussed. This could accidently result in the whole study group submitting a similar assignment with the same ideas, writing style etc. Your instructor will be able to spot this.

Using a file sharing website to access completed assessments.

When assignments are being discussed in your study group it is tempting to look up ideas online. In some cases, you will be able to find completed assignments from previous years or solutions to problems online. This is classed as unauthorized assistance. Have clear guidelines in place for your study group to stop members from sharing the content from these file sharing websites (such as Chegg or CourseHero).

Using Word's track changes in a study group members essay to rewrite sentences and explain ideas.

While it can be useful to have another study group member check your assignment for spelling mistakes and grammar, remember that any additional contribution by them, such as amending your paragraphs, making additions and deletions or rewriting sections of your work, is considered unauthorized assistance. Be clear when asking someone to peer assess your work and check with your instructor that such practice is allowed.

Unauthorized assistance is frequently the result of good intentions and trying to help a friend in need. Sometimes simple conversation while writing your assignments could lead to accidental idea sharing. The best way to avoid accidental unauthorized assistance and help those in your study group is to:

  • Help them to understand the material by discussing the concepts in general. The is an ideal goal of study groups, to cover material in the lecture that other members are struggling with. That was content is review and understood soon after the lecture and any group member can then decide to speak with the instructor and not leave it until the assignment is due.
  • Encourage others to get help from the Instructor or TA if they are having difficulty with an assignment as soon as possible.
  • Avoid sitting next to or chatting online with your study group members and discussing ideas when you are all working on the same assignment. This is how ideas get swapped too freely and the owner of the idea is difficult to establish. This usually results in the group members producing very similar work that the instructor will notice.
  • Compare feedback after the assessment has been marked. Looking at each other's assignments after they have been marked is a valuable strategy for identifying areas of good practice in order to improve your own work. Consider bringing along your marked work, sharing your positive feedback and the areas you need to improve. For those courses where assignments build on each other, this strategy could lead to ideas being swapped and submitted. Check with your instructor if you are unsure.
  • Tell your study group about the supports and resources available at the Student Success Centre. Perhaps the study group could attend together, or one member could attend a workshop and report back to the group. Encourage each other to visit writing support or attend one of the writing communities.

Troubleshooting group study issues

Despite clear guidelines for the study group there might be times where another group member suggests something that goes against those guidelines. In some instances, the suggestion may ask group members to participate in a practice that would be considered academic misconduct.

This could include: asking a group member to see their work, sharing their work with the group, asking to divide up an individual assignment between the group or asking another member to complete their work for them. These conversations can be uncomfortable to have, especially when the group member is stressed or anxious having left the assignment to the last minute.

Look for suggestions on how to address these particular situations in the Scenarios section.

If you are the target of or witness disrespectful behaviour in a study group – whether in person or online - there are multiple ways you can address the concerning behaviour. Here are some approaches that you can take:  

  • Call them in: Depending on your relationship with the person, you could speak with them privately and explain your concern. It might even sound like, “I know you want our group to succeed, but when you get angry during meetings, it makes it harder for everyone to focus.”   Let them know that their behaviour is distracting, hurtful or inappropriate, and ask them to stop. Sometimes a conversation with a peer is all it takes for someone to realize it’s not okay.  

  • Set boundaries: You should feel comfortable and safe among your peers at university. Set boundaries for what kinds of behaviour you are comfortable with, and what you’re not. Communicate those boundaries to others using the WIN model - “When you...I feel...I need”.  

  • Check-in with the affected person: If the problematic behaviour is directed at one of your peers, check to see whether they’re ok. If you feel comfortable, let them know about options for reporting and/or getting help.  

  • Document the incident: If the behaviour is ongoing, unknown to the instructor and/or would require evidence to prove, take screenshots and/or make a note about what you witnessed.  

  • Report the incident: If you feel that the behaviour of others has violated the University’s policies, report the incident (including screenshots) to the Student Conduct Office. 

To learn more about addressing problematic behaviour and conflict more broadly in a study group, please visit the “What should I do if our group experiences conflict?” section of this resource.

Conflict is a natural part of working with others. Sometimes group members may have different ideas for how to accomplish a goal. Research shows that groups that are able to engage in this type of conflict respectfully and constructively actually have better outcomes! However, when a conflict becomes personal, it can be destructive if not managed effectively.  

  • Have a conversation at the beginning of your work together about how you will resolve any conflicts that come up. Use your discussion on study group guidelines to clarify everyone’s expectations and preferences when it comes to conflict.  

  • If someone in your group is frustrating you, reflect on why this is, and try to understand where they’re coming from. Identity what you would like them to do differently. If you think it’s a reasonable request, approach them respectfully to talk about it.  

  • It might be tempting to speak to your other group members about your frustrations, but gossip and back-channeling can make even the best groups dysfunctional. If you need to talk to someone else about the conflict you’re experiencing, consider asking a neutral friend who is not in the group for some help, or talking to a staff member.  

  • Try to address issues early rather than letting them escalate over time, and whenever possible, speak with others directly and in-person (or on video) rather than in-writing.  

If you would like further guidance on how to address conflict or problematic behaviour in a study group, please visit the resources section of the Student Conduct Office website. The resources include tips on how to manage conflict online, call in, set boundaries, and apologize.   

The Student Conduct Office also regularly offers several workshops and one-on-one trainings, which students are welcome to register for. These initiatives include: 

  • One-on-One Conflict Coaching 

  • Bystander Intervention Training  

  • The Comments Section: Addressing Online Harassment  

  • Conflict Management 101  

  • Understanding Anger  

Learn more about Student Conduct training opportunities.


Brian is struggling to make a start on is assignment. He knows that if he could just see how someone else has structured it, he will be able to start writing. Brian reaches out to his study group and asks the members if they would be willing to share their assignments. He assures them that he is not looking to copy the work, he just needs some ideas of where to start and then he will be ok on his own.

The issue: It is understandable to want to help a friend in need, however, students need to remember that we are all influenced by what we read, see and hear. This means that after Brian has read your paper, he will have been influenced by the writing and he may accidentally start to incorporate that into his own paper. He may accidentally copy your structure, parts of your introduction or conclusion. He may use your unique terminology, the way you have critiqued certain research or how you embed thoughts. This is likely to be noticed by your instructor.

The implications: As a student you must not knowingly or carelessly make your academic work available to other students so that they are able to use it to copy. Remember that helping another students to commit academic misconduct is also a violation of the Student Academic Misconduct Policy. This type of academic misconduct is termed unauthorized assistance. Despite wanting to help your friend you will also be complicit and also face sanctions.

What should happen: Encourage Brian to reach out to the instructor or T.A. as soon as possible. Ask him to make an appointment with a writing support tutor to brainstorm ideas which will help him get started. You could also point out useful content from your lectures. It is natural to want to help, but always stop short of handing over your written work.

Marc, Lindsey and Abdul are working together on a lab in Biology. They are assigned to work together all term and decide to set up a study group so that they can easily meet outside of class. The instructions indicate that they must work together to complete the experiments and then write and submit the lab reports individually. Marc suggests that they take turns writing up the report each week and share it with each other. Each partner could then reword the report a bit and submit it.

The Issue:  It would be impossible for the instructor to know what content belongs to each group member. The group is misleading the instructor by completing the report as a group. Each member of the group is not demonstrating their own academic ability. If another course builds on the knowledge gained from these lab reports, then the students will not have acquired the knowledge they need to be successful.

The implications: This is unauthorized assistance and is a violation of the Student Academic Misconduct Policy. Students who chose to complete individual assessments as part of a group risk the instructor noticing the similarities between the group members work, even if you try to make some changes to make the work appear different. In this situation all students in the study group may be found responsible for academic misconduct.

What should happen: The reports must be completed individually. Students can get help from the instructor or TA. For help with study strategies, the Student Success Centre offers appointments with academic strategists and study skills workshops

Jennifer has been incredibly busy and so doesn’t get a chance to even look at her calculus assessment until the weekend before. She realizes that there is more to this assessment than she first thought. Feeling desperate, she reaches out to her study group and asks for help. One of the study group members tells her about file sharing websites. Jennifer googles the title of the assessment and finds a site that offers her access to instructor material for her course. She pays the fee, accesses the site and finds all of the solutions to her assessment being made available for her. Jennifer copies all of the answers and submits the paper.

The Issue: Jennifer is not demonstrating her own academic ability by copying the answers. Jennifer is trusting people that she does not know to provide her with the correct answers. If a further paper builds on this one, Jennifer is missing vital knowledge. File sharing sites also violate the intellectual property rights of instructors. Jennifer should reach out to the instructor or TA for help in understanding and starting her assessment as soon as possible. If time management is a contributing factor, then the assignment tracker or Student Success Centre workshops would be very helpful.

The implications: Although Jennifer is feeling stressed, by accessing these solutions online through a file sharing website she is disadvantaging all those other students who have worked honestly to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in the assessment. This type of behaviour will be considered as Unauthorized Assistance. If Jennifer is found responsible for academic misconduct, she could face a sanction that risks her future with the university.

What should happen: If you are in Jennifer’s study group encourage her to reach out to the instructor or TA for help in understanding and starting her assessment as soon as possible. If time management is a contributing factor, then tell them about the assignment tracker or Student Success Centre workshops. It can be difficult to report other students, especially if they are your friends, when you become aware of behaviour that is violating the Student Academic Misconduct Policy. However, their behaviour is unfair and all other students that are working fairly are at a disadvantage. You are encouraged to report all cases of academic misconduct by reaching out to your instructor to make them aware of the situation and to allow them to take the necessary steps to investigate