Digital citizenship involves the use of appropriate and responsible technology use. It is a way to behave and respect one another. In my syllabi I outline Discussion Board expectations and provide examples of past Discussion Board posts. I also include a statement of conduct and diversity: Students are expected to participate in dialogue with the instructor and fellow students in a prideful and respectful manner. This includes polite conversation and consideration of viewpoints and perspectives that are perhaps different from our own. Deviations from these, including taunting, derogatory slurs, personal attacks, physical outbursts or aggression and other forms of blatant disrespect towards a person’s race, cultural/ethnic group, gender, physical/learning disabilities, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal from the class.
Today two of my students started a heated argument on the Discussion Board. The original DB prompt was about checking the reliability and validity of sources for their upcoming research essay, but two students splintered the topic and got into a debate about politics. The conversation turned into an angry disagreement regarding who is the most qualified candidate running for President of the United States.
Student #1 (posting a picture of Donald Trump with a quote from People Magazine, 1998): “If I were to run I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They love anything on Fox news. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.” Know the source, right?
Student #2: Yes, this is a class about checking sources. People Magazine is trash and so is Trump. You are a loser if you vote for this guy.
Student #1: Are you calling me a loser?
Student #2: If the name fits . . .
Student #1: At least I don’t have a mental disorder voting for dip*****.
Student #3: Stop trying to reason with him. You can’t reason with a die hard Republican because according to Trump. . . .
Student #4: Are we basically playing eeeny-meeny-miney-moe in choosing a president? If Trump gets the nomination, I will vote for him. I read People!
Student #5: I’m still holding out hope for Hillary. You’re all crazy.
I immediately flagged the Discussion Board posts and called both Student #1 and Student #2 to review the expectations and guidelines for an appropriate Discussion Board exchange. They both admitted to getting caught up in the argument and apologized. I removed their posts from the discussion.
In the online environment, discussions enter a new dimension. Responses can be spontaneous and sometimes unfiltered. When an instructor posts a question on an asynchronous discussion board, every student in the class is expected to respond, respond intelligently, and respond several times. Many online students have indicated that this is the first time they have ever “spoken up” in class and that they enjoy the opportunity, but there must be respect for one another. There is no dignity or anonymity in name calling or bullying and it is not tolerated in my classes.