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Module B ButtonTopic B5.3: Management Strategies - Students

Dealing with Problem Student Behaviors in an Online Course

Handling the “Sleeping” Student: This is the student who seems to be “snoozing” through classes, hiding behind an electronic screen. Find out from your administrator where the courseware statistics reside. Use the statistics to track students’ online activity individually to see who is participating and how much. You can then address the “sleeper” with concrete evidence of participation.

Handling the “Free Rider”: This is the student who tends to coast on the efforts of others, especially in group situations. Use a peer evaluation exercise that ask team members to rate each other’s performance. One such exercise is to have the members assign a monetary value to the performance.

Handling the “Disruptive” Student: The disruptive student is one who impedes the learning process. Disruptive behaviors include flaming (when someone writes/posts an abusive, demeaning, threatening, obscene or similarly offensive communication online) and disrupting the thread of learning (dominating the online discussion at the expense of others’ learning, refusing to stick to the topic or ignoring discussion threads). In any case of flaming, pick up the phone and call the student on it. Do NOT address this online because it creates an opportunity for the student to publicly flame you! When a student dominates an online discussion or fails to stick to the topic, first try nudging him/her back on track by injecting a simple reminder. If the behavior persists, be more assertive in your attempts to control the situation online, then call the student after the chat session to talk about the behavior. Correcting/addressing the behavior during the online discussion disrupts further learning, can embarrass or alienate the student and may lead to flaming. Addressing the problem via email or other asynchronous methods can also result in flaming.In dealing with problem behaviors in your online classes, ask yourself:

In what ways might I/the course design be contributing to the problem? For example, would disabling the “Allow Anonymous Posts” forum setting on a discussion board discourage some students from flaming?

In what ways might I be able to prevent such problems from occurring in future courses? For example, would developing, posting, and enforcing a clearly stated anti-flaming policy help? 



Learning Activity II

Reflect on a problem student behavior experienced by you or a colleague. Consider: what occurred, how you or your colleague did or did not address the problem, what the consequences were. How might the environment/situation have contributed to the behavior? How might the instructor have contributed to the problem behavior?

Now visualize the behavior in an online environment (e.g., a discussion board, a virtual chat session, e-mail, a particular learning or assessment activity online). Consider: How might the behavior manifest itself in an online environment? How might the online environment affect the behavior?

Now, briefly describe the problem behavior and suggest a strategy for effectively managing the behavior. Note why you chose this particular strategy. (For example, if a student continues flaming, I would telephone him/her to address the problem immediately RATHER than online, which could lead to him/her flaming ME.)

Then post your description and strategy to the forum entitled Behavior Management Strategy. Also, take a look at the problems and strategies described by other faculty participating in this training station. Consider ways in which you might incorporate their ideas in your own repertoire of strategies as well as how your own strategies might help them more effectively deal with the problems they've identified. Especially think about ways in which you might be able to deal with the problem(s) proactively.

For example, include in your policies (posted from the Master Course Site) that you will NOT tolerate flaming, identify what it is, how it WILL BE HANDLED, and stick to it! Also make certain that you have the backing of the appropriate authorities regarding your proposed strategy.


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