The range of students in an online class is typically much like the range you would have in a face-to-face class. There are quiet ones, noisy ones, take-charge types and those needing hand-holding. You can have class clowns and disruptors, as well as procrastinators. In other words, typical students!
Much like their traditional counterpart, noisy online students expend a lot of energy raising issues that are only tangentially related to the topics under discussion. The nice thing is that in asynchronous situations online, this is not as disruptive as face-to-face. Other students learn and just ignore threads from this individual. But in synchronous web conferences, this can be disruptive. The key is to respectfully channel this conversation offline. You can give this person the attention they desire by email, and you can control the flow of conversation in a web conference by disenabling all microphones and then controlling who can speak.
These are sometimes even more problematic, in that you may not notice the lack of participation. This suggest that it is a good idea to actively use Course Statistics to keep track of course hits and postings, and to use private emails to contact a student if they are not participating.
On rare occasions, a student will display behavior online that is offensive to you or others in the class. It helps to provide a policy in your class on behavior, such as a Netiquette guide, like the one below. If this occurs, deal with it immediately and professionally. Make their posting in the discussion board unavailable to the public until you discuss the situation with this student. In many cases, you can turn around negative behavior into a positive teaching moment.
What is Netiquette?
It is important to use the Internet and email responsibly. Respectful communication with others and a cooperative attitude when taking advantage of the many resources available on the Internet are indispensable. This is why the essential practice of Netiquette (net etiquette) has developed over time.
Netiquette is a set of behaviors that should be adhered to when you travel down the Information super-highway. It is also termed as a professional code of behavior for electronic communication. Generally speaking, there are very few actual “Net Laws”, and the Internet community itself generally devises those that exist. Therefore, the job of policing the Net is up to those who use it.
In her book Netiquette, Virginia Shea listed ten rules:
The written word is a powerful tool in terms of communication, so caution should be taken in how it is used on the Internet. Remember: the email message or tweet will almost always be taken at face value. Keep sarcasm to a minimum or delete it altogether.