While the classroom and technology have changed, the nature of the student has not. Students will act as students. They are children or teenagers, and they will work as such whether you are teaching them in-person or online.
How can you keep the order when your class is now online? Whether you are teaching college students or sixth graders, having a good strategy for moderation is key to keeping the learning experience great.
Students of any age will act up, and that means you have to moderate the behavior in order to make sure your classroom stays productive. Otherwise, you might have some of your students sending inappropriate messages, harassing the other students, undermining your teaching, or they could simply be lost.
Online etiquette is how you deal with this. It’s imperative to exercise formal etiquette when in a leadership role. This means that they are going to have to use correct spelling and choose their words purposefully. Just like in real, different online settings will require different nuances.
Most of the time, especially when it comes to younger students, it is best to avoid using even some of the most common acronyms, like LOL. Instead, it could be more appropriate to simply type out “laugh out loud” when you feel like expressing that feeling through text.
While students are very much familiar with communication through online text, these more literary or formal approaches to communication online are essential because they are very different from their normal actions. This distinction between the student and instructor is what helps to establish a formal and moderated online learning environment.
To that end, grammar and proper spelling are also important to use around your students. Exposure to that is vital for young students. In your work environment, like work-texts and email, this is how professionals communicate. Your online presence is a great chance to make an early impression of what professional looks like online.
This is your chance to be organized, professional, proper, formal, polite, and respectful. Knowing how to communicate professionally online is going to be of ever-increasing importance in their future, and that isn’t something that they can necessarily learn on their own without an example.
This job as an online moderate is a skill of perception. If you aren’t used to several layers of virtual communication, it can be difficult to spot what should be seen as disruptive. The first rule, though, is to read the rules.
That means the most obvious and clear negative behavior on the internet anywhere is to not read and abide by the posted rules. When a student has clearly disregarded a simple rule, it shows a failure in a discipline that needs to be moderated.
That doesn’t mean that every single negative behavior is a violation of the rules. Online community members often find creative ways not technically to violate the rules, but still manage to be disruptive with too much sarcasm or probing the limits of what you are going to tolerate.
Some students can purposefully talk loudly into their microphones when they are called on for voice-calls, or they may spam chat-boxes. They can also make honest mistakes, like asking a question that was already answered in the FAQ or had a different resource available to them.
What Can Be Done About Violations
The first thing that you need to do is start with a set of rules that you feel good about to make sure that everybody understands what the rules are. Beyond that, most types of organized online communication will come with moderation features built-in. On forums, posts can be locked or removed, chat-boxes can have times on them to fight a possible flood of deliberate chats, and voice chats can be silenced.
The most important you should do, though, is to make sure that the student who did something wrong knows what they did. If they do not take your warnings seriously, then you can bring parents or other types of punishments just like you would when they would act up in class.
You can come up with your own guidelines, but these are common guidelines that most people will follow in online classes.
- No Yelling
There is a time and place for everything, BUT MOST OF THE TIME, TYPING IN ALL CAPS IN UNCALLED FOR. The majority of people will perceive that as shouting and will have a hard time taking whatever it says seriously, no matter how well put together the thought is.
- Sarcasm will Backfire
Sarcasm has caused quite a few misguided arguments online, as it is hard to under the inflection of a person’s statement because it is typed. What can seem like an obvious joke to one could come across as rude to another. It is best to avoid sarcasm altogether in an online classroom. Instead, people should stay direct and polite when communicating.
- Don’t Overuse the Chat Box
A chatbox can be helpful, but it can also be distracting if overused. Make sure the students know that they should only use the chatbox to talk about class-related things, not just idle chit-chat.
Students, as well as the teacher, should always do their best to use proper grammar. Trying to figure out what a student is saying with a string of misspelled words and crazy punctuation is frustrating and distracts from the meaning. It’s also important to be reasonable about grammar mistakes. Nobody likes dealing with the grammar police. That means you need to make sure that other students don’t correct a student when they misspell something. You are the teacher, and you’re the only one who gets to do that.
- Submit Files On Time
They won’t have printed assignments to turn in anymore, so knowing how to submit their work online correctly is important for student success. This is why you will need to establish some ground rules for assignment submissions, such as how the files are named so that they are organized and in acceptable file formats. Ignoring those instructions would be bad netiquette.
- Read First
Your students should take time to read through all of the previous discussion posts responses before they respond with their own answer. If the first post asked a question, there is a good chance that somebody else has answered it. When you submit an answer that sounds a lot like a classmate would indicate that they didn’t pay attention to the conversation.
Discussions can move quickly, so the students must absorb all of the information before they come up with a reply. Building upon another student’s thoughts or trying to add something new to the conversation shows that they are paying attention. It’s no different than what they would do in a classroom discussion.
- Be Kind and Professional
With online communication, there is a level of anonymity that you don’t get when talk face-to-face. Sometimes this makes people act in a rude way when they disagree with a person. Online students don’t necessarily have the complete anonymity that comes with a screen name. However, they can still fall prey to mistreating somebody because they have distance between them and the other person. Make sure that everybody knows they are to be kind and respectful in their comments, even if they don’t agree with somebody.
Feel free to add your own guidelines to this list. Coming up with a way to handle a student who does not follow your rules is important and will vary depending on the situation.