TROPIC Microskill 1: Why is establishing expectations an effective management skill? It is important to have clear boundaries for social behaviour so that everyone is clear about what is, and is not, regarded as responsible and safe when participating in your online course. Students expect and want boundaries of behaviour set. Some rules are non-negotiable, such as expected participation, no cyber bullying, knowing when assessments are due, and how their submissions will be accepted online. It is important that teachers and students are clear on what these rules are, what the consequences are for breaking them, and the procedures for applying them. Apart from the non-negotiable rules, teachers need to establish clear expectations so that students can learn in a productive, harmonious environment.
1. As the facilitator, you need to define the rules for your group together with the members of the group: Discuss and question students about their expectations of themselves, the teacher and one another. Consider using the following questions as prompts: Is it safe? Is it respectful? Is it fair? Is it legal? Discuss these in relation to student’s RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES, RULES & CONSEQUENCES (both positive and negative), according to the Institute’s Student Handbook. This open discussion can be done in the chat room synchronously (in real time where everyone logs on at once) or in a Discussion forum or Wiki (where students log on whenever they wish and contribute to the discussion.)
Keep the rules short and simple. For example: Log in regularly. Arrive for chat sessions prepared. Know your way around the online course. Stay on task according to the lesson plan. Show respect for yourself, others and the e-environment .
3. Make the rules positive. They have more impact if they describe what students can do.
Refer to the rules frequently. You can do this as part of the welcome message in a chat session, or a regular reminder announcement. Being online provides a certain anonymity, and some people behave differently than in a face to face setting, so many need a gentle reminder from time to time.
Good facilitators model their own rules. Simply greeting students, using their names and encouraging all students to participate reinforces expectations that everyone will be valued and treated with respect in your class. In the online environment you can send an instant message to welcome a newcomer, phone your students regularly to provide voice contact, and encourage a sense of virtual community through group activities.