Q&A: Why Did My Online Teacher Seem Rude?

Answer: First of all, I'm sorry that happened. As far as why it happened, some of it is just how people are: there are rude desk clerks, rude doctors and yes, rude online faculty members.

But there are also two major reasons why an online teacher might seem rude online when he/she wouldn't be in person. In person, you and the people you're talking to are continually monitoring each other's body language, expressions and so on. Any conversation that happens in person is also part of a long chain of conversations stretching back to asking your parents for milk. There are established expectations for how you should act in a conversation. Online, those don't exist. You are relatively anonymous, and studies have shown that when you are out of your normal context, or in a situation without established social norms, you're more likely to be rude.

The other reason is related: the instructor may have mistaken your friend for someone else. When you write a message online, you know who you are, the same as if you're speaking. But the person reading it doesn't. As an online instructor, I know I've gotten countless unsigned messages, or messages signed with just a first name…which was the same as the first name of six other students (as in "This is Bob…"). These two factors can work together: remove context and send someone a baffling message, and they are more likely to get irritated, and yes, be rude. The best online programs realize that tone can be an issue, and train their instructors in striking the right tone.

If you have other questions about how online school works, explore the countless resources on our site to discover valuable information that can help you become more informed about a variety of hybrid and online schools and college programs and whether they're a fit for you.

Greg BeattyGreg Beatty has a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and over twenty years experience in higher education. He’s taught everything from standardized test prep courses and freshman orientation and composition courses on up to serving on doctoral committees. He’s taught in the traditional classroom, correspondence courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. He’s developed curriculum for several colleges (sometimes as sole author, sometimes working collaboratively), and served as a textbook manuscript reviewer for Longman. He’s won grants for course development, and awards for his teaching. Greg has mentored new teachers and co-taught workshops on teaching excellence. He’s also served on a range of committees and college advisory boards, and has served as an area chair for humanities.