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Respect in Online Courses

DaycareI’m sure college students wouldn’t really appreciate the comparison I’m about to make but it fits too well on this topic to not use it. If you have ever visited a daycare you will often notice they post rules on their walls. These rules may not necessarily be the same rules the kids follow at home and that is exactly why they are there. If they do not alert the children to the rules of the current location, not all children will behave appropriately. Sure, there are always the well-behaved ones that will be quiet and well-mannered no matter where they are but typically a child will mold themselves to the rules of their current location. Not much changes when we grow up.

Just like you are given codes of conduct at your workplace so you know for sure what is and is not okay, students need to be given the codes of conduct for each online course they attend. What you may feel is a lack of respect may be perfectly acceptable for another instructor. The key here is: Everyone is different. We shouldn’t expect a student to know exactly what we expect of them without telling them. For example, you have no problem with students calling you by your first name. I only want to be referred to as ma’am (this is COMPLETELY fictionally, btw). A semester after taking your course, they take my course. If I haven’t informed them that I want to be referred to as ma’am, should I be upset when they call me Sue? Given the circumstances, no. Given the circumstances, I would actually expect them to call me Sue. But many instructors do get upset (down-right angry actually) if this situation were to happen to them (because they don’t know the circumstances). And far too often, they would go on about how disrespectful the students are no-a-days. When, in this situation, it had nothing to do with respect. It had to do with conditioning. The student had been taught by a former teacher that it is okay to call an instructor by their first name. If they are not told otherwise, they will continue to think this is true. It is basic human nature.

So basically, if you want to be respected, the first step is to tell the students what respect means to you.

Now, it isn’t just that easy. You also have to be willing to give some respect to get some. If you treat your students as lowly, undeserving delinquents then it doesn’t matter how many times you lay down the law, they aren’t going to listen to you. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be their friend. It doesn’t even mean you have to like them. Simply treat them as deserving participants in your course and you should be fine. I also suggest you tell them they will receive respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege and you expect the same from them. This helps level the playing field and gives them an idea of what to expect.

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