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Center for Innovation in Teaching & Research
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Section 4.5: Classroom Management Strategies

Horton (2006) asserts disruptive behavior is as common in the online classroom as it is in face-to-face classrooms; however, the “opportunities for bad behavior are magnified by the power of technology” (p. 488). The online instructor must plan responses and guidelines for how to handle behavioral misconduct should it be encountered in the online classroom. Standards for behavior must be clearly stated to the online student. Horton offers strategies for avoiding and handling conflict in the online classroom (p. 488):

  1. Plan responses. Anticipate problems and have a consistent, thought-out response ready.
  2. Publish a standard for behavior. Many learners may not know the conventions and expectations for online learning. Enforce policies consistently.
  3. Cool off first. Never respond in anger. Do not assume a learner’s behavior is baseless. Ask why. Perhaps the learner was ignorant of the rules or just unable to use the technology as expected.
  4. Progressively respond to bad behavior. Politely remind first-time violators. Privately counsel serious or repeat offenders.
  5. Distinguish intellectual disagreement from abusive behavior. Teach learners to disagree professionally and politely. And teach them to respond to legitimate criticism.

Solutions to common behavioral problems:  Potential obstacles to effective online discussions and classroom management are a few students dominating the discussion forums, frequent posts irrelevant to course content, too many messages to read, even bullying (Rovai, 2007). The following chart presents some common behavioral problems experienced in the online classroom and recommended solutions (Horton, p. 489-490; Ko and Rosson, 2004, pp. 225-238; Rovai, pp. 79-88):

The preceding examples should help you identify and handle potential problems. Of course, each student is unique, and the correction given must be individualized (Ko et al. ). Ko (2004) suggests to use a soft, not an accusatory tone in a disciplinary email. Words like “might” and “perhaps” can often diffuse a potential conflict (p. 238). As issues arise, keep a record of the correspondence and quickly respond to diffuse the situation. Keep your department head apprised of the situation in the unfortunate circumstance the situation escalates.

  • Academic Honesty and Authenticity of Student Work

Black, Greaser, and Dawson (2008) suggest “there is reason to believe that much of what is known about academic dishonesty in the brick and mortar classroom may also apply to online courses” (p. 23). This assumption is based on the “Media Equation” in which people behave in computer mediated situations in the same fashion as they do in “real world” situations (Black et al.). Upholding the academic honor code can be challenging in the online environment where tests are not proctored and the instructor cannot monitor the student as he or she progresses on a project.

The NACOL (2007) reports many online instructors can easily detect cheating “because teachers and students are in such close communication, teachers know when a student is not submitting his own work” (p. 17).  Implementing a wide range of assignments and assessments can deter cheating and make cheating easier to identify.

Other methods of detecting academic honor code infractions are:

  1. - a tool to detect plagiarism
  2. Respondus LockDown Browser - a tool within Blackboard which prevents a student from printing, copying, going to another URL, or accessing other applications during a Blackboard assessment.
    • Creating tests through Blackboard and Respondus give the instructor the ability to require a password to access the test, limit the time to take a test, and randomize test questions and answers (Blackboard for Faculty Support site).

Online instructors often assume students in an online environment do not collaborate face-to-face (Anderson, 2008). Although online students have agreed to the terms of ASU’s Academic Honor Code, it is a good idea to remind students that they may not collaborate on quizzes and exams. For any infraction to the Angelo State University Honor Code, follow the same procedures in the online classroom as you would in a face-to-face classroom.

Provide a description and guideline reminders for each quiz and exam in Blackboard.


  • This quiz covers chapters 1-4 and lectures 1-3.
  • Don’t ask or receive help from someone else
  • Don’t share your answers with your classmates
  • You may review books, handouts, and online tutorials
  • You may start the test anytime, but you should finish the test within assigned time period

(Note: If you do not allow use of books, handouts, and online tutorials, having the test proctored is the only way to ensure compliance at this time. Respondus Monitor is being piloted, but not yet in production.)