Q&A: Learning to get along online

Question: What if I'm having an issue with a classmate in my online course?

Answer: Being in an online classroom doesn't eliminate some of the same academic and social issues that arise in a "ground" or traditional class setting. Since we are all humans with different: personalities; perceptions; ways of learning; and life experiences, we'll have moments of differing opinions. Unfortunately, not everyone is respectful of others' differences and therefore, this may result in an online conflict between students.

In the online environment, students may communicate through a discussion board or forum. In the discussion board or forum, students are usually responding to questions posted by the instructor and then engaging with other students regarding the same topic. Sometimes, students become passionate about an issue or topic, especially if they've had the same or similar class before or a personal experience within the topic area.

For example, if you are in a communication class and the topic is "how to properly give a presentation". A student who's had speech class before may feel more experienced in the area and agree or disagree with others' comments.

The purpose of the discussion board/forum is to get students communicating and debating about the topic, as expected in a "ground" or traditional classroom. However, it's the way students present their points that often results in miscommunication; hurt feelings and conflict. Again, if the student is being respectful and provides supportive resources for their opinion, that's acceptable.

Regardless of the reason conflict arises, the best thing for the student to do is assess the situation. If you can continue engaging in the classroom, having limited communication with the other student, without affecting your grade, this may be an option. If it's a situation that's affecting your interaction in the classroom, then contact your instructor for further guidance.

The goal is for all students to learn the material, be able to apply the material and complete the course successfully. If a barrier develops to keep students from doing so, it's the students' responsibility to alert the instructor.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning has been consulting in the areas of grant writing, contract bid responses, and organizational development for nearly four decades. Her clients have included chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, units of local and county municipal governments, state and federal government agencies, school districts and colleges, social and human service agencies, hospitals, fire departments, service associations, and Fortune 500 corporations. Dr. Browning has assisted clients and workshop participants throughout the United States in receiving awards of more than $250 million. Dr. Browning is the author of over 37 grants-related publications, including Grant Writing For Dummies", Grant Writing for Educators, How to Become a Grant Writing Consultant, Faith-Based Grants: Aligning Your Church to Receive Abundance, and Perfect Phrases for Writing Grant Proposals. She holds degrees in Organizational Development, Public Administration, and Business Administration. Dr. Browning is a grant writing course developer and online facilitator for Ed2Go.com; former faculty member at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management and a current member of the American Association of Grant Professionals. She is CEO of Bev Browning & Associates (BBA, Inc.); Founder and Director of the Grant Writing Training, and most recently, the new Vice President for Grants Professional Services at eCivis Inc. (www.ecivis.com)