What is discipline in the classroom? It is directly related to an agreement between the teachers and the students/clients regarding rules in order to make the learning process smooth and effective. However, you may be thinking: “What does that have to do with my reality as an online teacher?” The short answer is, a lot! Why? A virtual classroom setting also needs discipline.
In a nutshell, whether you are a brick-and-mortar teacher or an online teacher, you can share the rules and define the boundaries.
The logic of discipline
We might think that the students (in the role of clients) are always right. True. Your students are paying you to provide online teaching services. And this, of course, applies to all businesses, education included. However, virtual classroom discipline is also necessary because, without it, unexpected behaviors happen; rules are broken; boundaries are surpassed. Is this good for the teacher? Is this truly the best choice for the student? What I mean is: should the client himself establish the rules of discipline? Or does the teacher have something to say on the matter?
The role of a teacher
The role of an online teacher is: teach! In order to teach, a selection of rules needs to be defined. When I talk about rules, I’m not talking about the same rules that apply to a traditional classroom setting. Here lies a new paradigm that, in my opinion, needs to be considered in detail. For example, suppose you are a brick-and-mortar teacher, and one of your students shows up to the class wearing a baseball cap. Regular classroom “etiquette” determines that the student should remove his cap. What if this happens in a virtual classroom setting? Would you feel bothered with this? What’s your reaction? Another example: You are teaching an ESL class for adults in college, and all of a sudden, one of the students grabs a beer and starts drinking. What would you do? Were the rules clearly established before the beginning of the course? What are the rules that the school has established for this behavior? Now, let’s suppose you have an online class in the same situation. Do you think you should say something? Does it bother you? Please allow me to give you one more example; this one is only related to an online environment: the student is paying attention to class while multitasking.
Maybe some of you might be thinking: “It’s their money, so as long as I teach, it’s fine by me.” And you’re absolutely right! It’s up to the client! The client asked for your services, and you provided them with your services. Period.
The real question is: would it be beneficial for teachers and mainly for students to define some rules before their learning journey starts? If that’s the case, what kind of rules could be established?
Do you remember what the goal of classroom discipline mentioned in the first paragraph is? The goal is to get a better experience, resulting in the student’s progress. So, the established rules should be set and defined by yourself and the prospective student. When I say “student”, I’m focusing on the educational aspect rather than the commercial one. Because a “client” wants visible results, and the “student” wants to learn. So, after this consideration, what kind of rules should you define in a virtual classroom? The following are just suggestions and might not work with your students:
- Asking questions/Participate
- Some students are shy by nature. Could we facilitate the learning process by adjusting the topic(s) to them?
- Speaking Speed
- Teachers should always be aware of this, but I have seen classes where native speakers speak too fast, and the students feel lost in their learning process. If the student tells you that you are speaking too fast, then you should adjust your speaking pace
- Technical Issues
- I think it’s worth mentioning that technical issues are part of cyberspace. Define an alternative if things go south (technically speaking)
- Webcam On
- Advantages: you can mention that as a teacher, you can observe how a student articulates words and provide support and guidance regarding pronunciation
- Quiet space to learn:
- If your student wants to maximize the learning process, wouldn’t it be nice if he could be in a private space, away from distractions?
What now? Now, it’s up to you! Is ONLINE classroom discipline needed? Yes. Who shares the rules and sets the boundaries? The teacher. What rules and limits should we put into practice in a virtual classroom? This is between you and the student. The main goal of this is: everybody should win. You win a student who might encounter a very professional teacher who wants and likes things to be logical, methodical, and organized. The student gets more chances to progress and boost his progress through what’s been considered. I believe that there are no rules set in stone, but we also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. So, I expect that your view about online classroom discipline is now reinforced, and that could be used to the benefit of your students and yourself!
I wish you well in your endeavors!