Classroom Management of Non-Academic Misconduct in the Remote Environment
Transitioning Student Conduct to a Remote Environment
While our teaching, learning, and student engagement methods have changed to facilitate remote instruction, our policies governing these interactions remain the same. The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive experience for all our students, faculty, and staff. The Undergraduate Calendar and non-academic misconduct policy already address many behaviors that might become an issue remotely. This document highlights some common inappropriate behaviors, observed particularly during synchronous sessions, and how instructors might successfully manage and remediate these.
What constitutes non-academic misconduct?
The University of Guelph’s policy on non-academic misconduct sets expectations regarding student conduct as members of the University of Guelph community. The policy applies to all student non-academic behaviour on campus and to students who are engaged in University programs off campus, with the exceptions stated in the policy. The policy covers behaviour related to diversity, integrity, learning inside and outside the classroom and safety. It does not include plagiarism and other types of academic misconduct.
Like any other class, students in remote classes are bound by this policy. Common examples of non-academic misconduct associated with remote instruction include, but are not limited to, harassment, disruption, and intimidation. It should be noted that obstruction and interference is also covered by the academic misconduct policy. The primary responsibility for managing the classroom environment rests with individual instructors. Students who engage in any prohibited or unlawful behaviour that results in disruption of a class or other supervised academic activity may be directed by the instructor to immediately leave the instructional area until the incident can be satisfactorily resolved. Persistent disruptive behaviour may result in a formal allegation of non-academic misconduct under Student Judicial Policy.
Non-academic misconduct in the remote environment
The remote environment can present unique classroom management challenges due to the nature of engagements and learning. Human interactions are tricky, and they are even more so in remote environments. When people cannot see or hear one another, and they are constrained by the time lag between messages, it is easy to be misunderstood. Students may feel more disconnected, confused, and anonymous in the remote environment, which can lead to difficult or inappropriate behaviours. Students may be familiar with engaging and conversing in online environments, but their online communication preferences may not be appropriate in your course. Students may make unintentional mistakes due to navigating the different expectations, norms, and approaches of each of their courses. The approach of instructors in these situations should be to educate and pre-emptively remediate these behaviours.
Strategies to Prevent Classroom Management Challenges
The following strategies can help to create a classroom learning environment that encourages active and respectful interactions. When students know what is expected and what steps they need to take, they experience less frustration and anxiety - these emotions are common causes of difficult behaviours. When students feel connected to their peers and instructor, and feel supported, they are less likely to initiate or participate in disrespectful or inappropriate behaviours.
Ideas, Approaches, and Additional Resource
Inform and Educate: Communicate clear expectations for behaviour and participation
Provide a list of expectations, or involve students in creating class norms or ground rules. Think about what is negotiable vs. non-negotiable. Consider drafting expectations around:
Be clear about how violations will be dealt with and consequences, including following UofG's Policy on Non-Academic Misconduct. Communicate expectations in multiple formats: on Courselink (e.g. announcements), in the syllabus, and during any synchronous sessions.
Provide structure and routine
Cultivate community and build positive relationships
|Be present and provide support
|Use synchronous platform settings (e.g. Zoom) to manage interactions
- 5 Ways to Connect With Online Students, Darby, F. (2020). The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Effective Online Communication, Learning and Teaching Office, Ryerson University
- How Important is Instructor Presence in Online Classes?, Spielmaker, A. (2018)
- Building Community and Managing the Classroom, Yale Poorvu Centre for Teaching & Learning
- The Core Rules of Netiquette -- Excerpted from Netiquette by Virginia Shea
- Etiquette & Expectations: OpenEd, University of Guelph
Managing Difficult Situations or Behaviours
Offensive remarks and disruptive behaviour
(e.g., inappropriate comments, inappropriate screen names, bullying)
Challenging the instructor’s authority or credibility
(e.g., they answer questions addressed to you, contradict you, stage a "mutiny" among the students, publicly question aspects of your course or pedagogical approach)
(e.g., ignoring the general direction of the discussion, raising issues that are only tangentially related to the topics under discussion)
General guidelines for responding:
- Deal with difficult situations immediately and without exceptions. Be consistent in your response.
- Emotion and intent can be difficult to discern. If something is unclear, ask for clarity.
- Whenever possible, give students the benefit of the doubt. Be respectful and patient. Many students do not realize that they are being rude or inappropriate.
- Rely on formality. Formality in online communications signifies seriousness, clarity and firmness to students.
- Consult with your Chair or Dean when appropriate.
Campus contacts and additional resources:
- Office of Teaching and Learning – Martin Williams, Director: email@example.com
- University Secretariat – Kristin Ingoldsby, Judicial and Privacy Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Student Housing – Kristin Lennan, Residence Behaviour and Wellness Manager: email@example.com
- Managing Difficult Behaviours in the Online Classroom, University of Victoria
- Managing "Difficult" Students In the Online Classroom, Ko, S.
- Difficult Online Students, Zellner, A. (2014)