Jan. 13, 2021

Move to online learning highlights need for positive learning spaces

New resources help make virtual classrooms safe, respectful for everyone

As the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown approaches, the benefits and challenges of remote course delivery are becoming clear. For students, the shift to remote delivery meant that most learning and interaction with instructors and classmates would be experienced in front of a computer screen. For instructors and administrators, the transition meant finding ways to convey expectations for learning, classroom discussions and appropriate behaviour in online spaces.

In consultation with faculties and units across campus, the Student Conduct Office (SCO) has developed a resource guide to help instructors and students ensure virtual classrooms are safe and respectful spaces for everyone. Unlike social media or online gaming platforms that students use, there is an expectation that behaviour in an online university setting be professional and follow certain guidelines.

“While the vast majority of our students were able to acclimatize to the expectations of learning online, the rapid transition to remote learning demonstrated the need for clear guidelines for online behaviour,” says Jennifer Quin, senior director of Student Services.

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to visit the Student Conduct website for information about one-on-one conflict coaching and an up-to-date list of conduct-related workshops including Bystander Intervention Training, Addressing Harassment Online, and Conflict Management 101. There is also a list of specific behaviours that may violate the university’s non-academic misconduct policy — and the actions that staff and students can take if they experience or witness these behaviours.

If an incident takes place online that may violate university policy, the Student Conduct Office offers instructors and students a variety of options, from submitting a formal report to seeking advice from Student Conduct Office staff to requesting that SCO staff engage students in a more informal conversation about expectations. The SCO has also developed a simple one-page summary to help the community understand reporting options and the role of the office in supporting a safe and caring campus community.

“Expanding student and staff awareness of university policy and expectations is an important way to inform students of both their rights and their responsibilities,” says Andrew Barry, student conduct specialist. “Whether it’s through educational workshops, online resources or classroom discussions, it’s important that students learn the expectations for conduct online.”

Andrew Barry

Andrew Barry

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the information available on the Student Conduct in the Virtual Classroom webpage and to report incidents of inappropriate behavior to the Student Conduct Office.

Additionally, the Student Conduct Office is offering a new version of Bystander Intervention Training on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m., and UCalgary community members are encouraged to sign up. The workshop identifies potential virtual harms and equips participants to become active bystanders online. This is part of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Week.