Today more students are attending college than at any other time. However, today’s universities look far different from the ivy covered walls of the past. Universities of today are now in your living room, dining room, kitchen or your very own bedroom. You can matriculate in the public library, in the coffee shop, in the park or on the bus. To attend school today you do not have to change out of your pajamas or get out of your bed. This is true not only for college students kindergarteners through twelfth graders are also being educated through schooling online.
Socialization is an important part of education. You attended kindergarten to learn how to get along with others. You practiced how to be polite, take your turn and make friends. You learned how to communicate in a safe and comforting environment. Is this piece of the curriculum being sacrificed by online education?
Actually, the online classroom allows you the opportunity to grow in the area of communication. You have a greater chance for interacting with individuals from not only your area or country but from around the world. Online learning provides a possibility to mingle with students of differing ideas and cultures. Differing customs and cultures however may cause misunderstandings. To be effective the online classroom must be a safe place where you feel respected and valued and it must be bully free. Here are some strategies to make sure your online environment is safe and welcoming.
- Make sure your messages are as clear as possible. Refrain from using slang, jargon, colloquialisms or sarcasm. Remember you may be interacting with people from different cultures and nations who may not understand your jokes.
- Ask what your classmates would like to be called and refer to them by name. This allows everyone to know to whom the message is directed. In addition, people like to hear and see their name. It acknowledges their individuality and recognizes them as a person.
- If you are communicating your personal opinion be sure to say that. Do not indicate your opinion as if it were fact. Be sure to explain where you took your information. Cite your source.
- Do not write a response to a message if you are upset and angry. Take some time to think about what you want to say. Ask questions if you are unsure. Often we read incorrectly or we misunderstand. Wait until you calm down. If you can sleep on it before you respond that would be great. Things often look brighter in the morning. Avoid using all caps they indicate anger or shouting.
- Be sure to report any instances of bullying or inappropriate messages or pictures to the monitor or the host of the site.
- Most importantly, reread and proofread your message carefully to make sure your message is clear and supported with facts.
Follow these tips to an effective online classroom and you are on your way to having your voice heard in a safe and welcoming online environment.