June 5, 2008

Online Disadvantage

Posted in student stories tagged , , , , , at 11:21 pm by profart

When I am teaching a live course, and I have a problematic student, I just head over to the department chair, consult the student’s advisor, and address the problem. Rude students are so rare that this process is also rare, but it works quickly to the advantage of student, who is given guidance about proper behavior. 

Online, I am at a disadvantage. The college I am working with does not have clear lines of command; the students are from all over the place, and departments are loosely organized and run. trying to track down a student with no clear idea of what department they belong to means tracking down an advisor- IF they have one- is complicated. Add to this the fact that these students have a greater incidence of rude behavior, and you have another reason for blood pressure medication. 

Because online students rarely, if ever, see me face-to-face, they seem to think that the rules of etiquette and appropriate behavior do not apply. They have no qualms in emailing me nasty notes, rude emails, and statements of exactly what they think of me. Even when you try to send them helpful information, they can “take it wrong” and reply in nasty, inappropriate ways. Who’s to stop them? Especially if they are sending these emails after already dropping your class? Worse yet, what if they don’t? 

So another clue for the clueless: rules of appropriate behavior still apply in online classes. Back-talking your professor is still a big no-no. Copping an attitude is still inappropriate. And I still have the dean of instruction to consult, complete with copies of all correspondence- so that what normally would be a he said/she said debate is in writing, in black and white for all to see. Don’t go there. Watch your language. 

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1 Comment »

  1. Casey Kelly said,

    I never thought of this aspect of Distance Learning before. I have only taken a couple online courses, as part of the Master’s program I am currently pursuing, and really, this is the last thing I think of. But it makes total sense. I think your frustrations stem from the recent MySpace phenomenon. (I teach high school, and my students love it.)
    On MySpace, users have the freedom of saying the things traditional social settings and etiquettes normally would inhibit. Simply put, if gone unchecked, it is all Id, and no Superego!
    Whenever I ask questions or simply interact with my online professors, I try to be very aware of the potential for mistaken meaning and emphasis. It is easy to forget that there is hardly any room for inflection in written communication, which is extremely problematic now that people are replacing verbal more and more with texting. There is almost a Larry David-esque neurotic nature that needs to be applied to ensure proper reception of online messages.
    Again, this post caught me off guard, because I always naively assumed that one of the perks of online education would be less frustration from students acting, or writing, out.
    As a fellow educator, I sympathize with your situation, and I for one am going to try and make sure I keep positive relationships going.


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