Online Student Incivility: What It Is and How to Manage It

Online Student Incivility: What It Is and How to Manage It

Renate W. Prescott
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0206-9.ch006
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Student incivility in the online classroom has remained largely unaddressed because many administrators believe that its causes and solutions can be managed the same way in the classroom. Online incivility, however, is uniquely different and therefore presents a different set of challenges and solutions. This chapter defines online incivility (unintentional and intentional) and offers strategies for instructors who find themselves having to contend with uncivil students when there are no explicit guidelines available at their institutions.
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The Kent State University Regional Campus System

More than 42 percent of students at the seven regional campuses of Kent State University are nontraditional or place bound (Fact Book, 2011). It would be difficult to pursue higher education if it were not for the regional campuses in their communities. Because five of the seven regional campuses are located in rural areas or small towns, distance learning courses and degree programs are economical ways to provide student access to higher education. As Table 1 indicates, headcount and FTE enrollments in all courses have increased dramatically for the Kent and Regional Campuses over the last year.

Table 1.
Headcount and FTE enrollments 2010-2011 (Kent State University Research, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness)
Spring 2010
Spring 2011
Spring 2010
Spring 2011
East Liverpool1,3371,4468.26596975.8

As Table 2 demonstrates, during the same period online enrollment has also risen. The availability of online courses has contributed significantly to student access to coursework and degree programs that otherwise may not have been available to them. Although it is most likely that students who take online courses also enroll in face-to-face courses, access to distance learning logically contributes to the University’s rising enrollment patterns.

Table 2.
Headcount online enrollment 2010-2011 (Kent State University Research, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness)
Regionals (combined)4,4242,7025,2386,3233,96922,656

*An individual student could be counted more than once in a given term.

The Regional Campus System was originally intended make available a Kent Education throughout Ohio and to be feeder campuses for students to move to the Kent Campus to complete their degrees, but that has never been fully realized because most students at most regional campus are place bound, which means they are not able to leave their local area to attend an educational institution. However, with a mandate from the Ohio Board of Regents’ Strategic Plan for Higher Education (2008), all the regional campuses now have evolved from offering Certificate programs and Associates degrees to include offering the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in major disciplines. Unlike the Kent Campus, the Regional Campus System serves commuter students exclusively, and so its campuses recognized the value of distance learning earlier. Regional Campus students found online learning more accessible and convenient, and they quickly embraced this opportunity.

As Figure 1 demonstrates, the number of online courses taught increased dramatically between 2009 and 2011, and the head count enrollment has followed a similar trend, growing more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Figure 1.

Distance learning course offerings (Kent State University Research, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness)


The dramatic rise in student preference for online courses makes good sense for both the students and the University. Instead of going to the “main” Kent Campus, students can save money by living at home and attending one of the seven regional campuses; nontraditional students who are already in the work force and raising families find online courses not only less expensive than driving to a campus, but also much more convenient. Distance learning also benefits the University because it reduces the facility costs.

The Kent Campus and Regional Campuses serve different student needs. Students who prefer a traditional education and social interaction (clubs, sports, sororities and fraternities, etc.) attend the Kent campus. Most Kent Campus students are residential with a small population of commuters, whereas Regional Campus students are exclusively commuters. Although the courses at the Kent Campus are mostly face-to-face, even that is changing as instructors move to a more blended mode, which combines face-to-face with online educational resources. For example, one of the learning goals of freshman composition in the Department of English is for students to become proficient in blending technologies with writing, so these courses incorporate a learning management system,Vista Blackboard. Instructors are trained how to incorporate this educational resource into their teaching.

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