Pedagogy in a Potentially Hostile Online Environment

Pedagogy in a Potentially Hostile Online Environment

Lynne Williams, Tamara Phillips Fudge
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3583-7.ch003
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Student-on-student bullying in brick and mortar schools is unfortunately commonplace and has been the subject of research for many years. Alongside the growth of online learning, there has been a corresponding growth in cyberbullying, not only in the student-on-student category, but also student-on-teacher. This new form of bullying can be devastating for the target because, unlike the traditional form of bullying where interactions take place face to face, cyberbullying incorporates email, social media, and texts, which allows the aggression to spread rapidly across a potentially vast range of communication outlets, thus magnifying the effect. Given the potential for significant harm to instructors who are at risk of being targeted by an aggrieved or angry student, more research needs to be done concerning student to teacher cyberbullying. This chapter will examine various cases of student to teacher cyberbullying as well as the role that gender plays in online bullying and end with recommendations for prevention or recourse on the part of the targeted instructor.
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Institutions offering online learning have embraced a variety of techniques such as webcam use and social media to better engage with their students. Farhan, Aslam, Jabbar, and Khalid (2018) make the case that visual technologies aid students in elevating their thinking skills to higher levels both in understanding of the material as well as engagement with the overall course. Using quantitative methods, Farhan et al. (2018) states that visual tools significantly increased overall student attention paid to learning activities. Uhomoibhi and Ross (2013) advocate the use of webcams and virtual worlds such as Second Life to create a more immersive online learning environment, stating that these technologies present information in a non-linear style that “supports active learning processes. Students play an active role in the learning process and acquire knowledge and skills in a more interesting and meaningful way” (p. 29).

There is, however, a darker side to the use of this type of technology originally aimed at making distance education more engaging. As the internet has become more widely adopted, a trend toward using online technologies to mortify and disgrace various individuals by a host of technical means, usually by anonymous attackers, has emerged. Given the current trend among Western universities to treat students more like consumers than scholars, a growing number of students feel aggrieved if they do not receive the grade for which they assume they have paid. Many online instructors are reasonably familiar with typical online information security but may not be aware of the type of attacks that can be perpetrated in order to shame and humiliate them.

Because modern distance learning takes place over the internet, teachers engaged in providing distance learning are no less exposed to the risk of revenge or punishment meted out to any other entity that appears in this type of public forum. An aggrieved student can use the same methods employed through any other online attack which can range from cyberbullying via abusive email, text, or social media posts using non-consensual, fabricated pornography featuring the instructor.

As Li (2018) points out, anyone who uses the internet can be subject to harassment, and part of the problem is that the First Amendment was written long before the internet was conceived. Regulation is difficult and protection for individuals is needed.

There are various types of online attacks that are increasingly used for seeking revenge; terminology and the methods used in those attacks are worthy of definition and description here. The gender dynamics that may provide some impetus for these types of attacks to be perpetuated predominantly against female faculty are significant and must also be examined, as well as possible prevention and recourse available to victims should an attack already have occurred.

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