This is a classical question in the field of collaboration. How is collaboration different than cooperation? In the past I have presented my detailed view with models and examples to distinguish collaboration from coordination and cooperation. Of course, there are no complete agreement among the researchers and practitioners.
Recently I was talking with Dr. Gerry Stahl of Drexel and he presented a view that collaboration can only happen when the participants are able to do equal and/or similar amount of work. His example was students doing a group assignment together. That’s collaboration. I argued that the difference between cooperation and collaboration is more a function of the roles of the participants than the nature of the task. For instance, a student collecting a list of references for his advisor’s article is an act of coordination. The student doesn’t have the same stake as the advisor in the final product (the article). However, when the advisor and the student write that article together as co-authors, they are in the same/similar roles, and thus, doing collaboration. Such a collaboration may involve some parts of cooperation (see my earlier posts on this topic).