Q&A: Can Online Students Be Punished for Misconduct?

Q&A: How Do Online Schools Handle Misconduct?

Answer: Most online colleges and universities are held to the same standards as "traditional" schools. This means, there are expectations and boundaries for student behavior and conduct. If these expectations are not met or boundaries are crossed, the result may be a disciplinary consequence. Let's address some scenarios of when this may happen.

1. The first scenario is attendance and/or participation. Students are required to be in their online classroom a specific amount of days per week. Students are also required to participate in the classroom, submit assignments on time and communicate with peers. If a student has a history of low performance or poor attendance, the school may set restrictions. An example may be limiting the student to one class at a time until they are able to bring up their grades and/or attendance.

2. The second scenario is inappropriate communication with another student. Students are required to communicate with one another in discussion forums and, often, in small groups. Sometimes, students disagree about a topic or belief. In groups, there may be conflict about the assignment responsibilities, etc. During these times, it's important to communicate in a respectful manner, even when a disagreement exists. If a situation arises and students are having difficulty coming to a resolution, they should contact the instructor for assistance. Communicating disrespectfully may result in disciplinary warning or action.

3. The third scenario is similar to scenario #2, except it is inappropriate communication from student to teacher. Students are often passionate about their grades and beliefs. Even when a student disagrees with their grade or a teacher, it's important they express themselves in a respectful manner. An example follows: "Hi Ms. Smith. I missed 20 points on my last assignment and I've worked really hard on my research and writing my paper. Can you please call me or e-mail me to help me understand why I missed so many points?" I often encourage students to ask instructors if they can redo their assignments for more points (if they disagree with their grades). Please be in mind, these situations are at the discretion of the instructor, meaning they may deny the request. However, students are encouraged to communicate with their instructors whenever they have questions about the course and, more specifically, their grades.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!

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