Dealing with Unanticipated or Difficult Situations
Occasionally, what feels like a bit of a problem can arise. It may be a misunderstanding or a disagreement. It may be a student with a problem. It may be a group of students or a team with a problem. Or it may be you with a problem or issue. In all cases, know that there is support. Of course, we should all take steps to ensure clear and supportive communication to try to avoid misunderstandings. Being clear about participation and contribution expectations, what students should do if they are going to be unable to participate during a few days due to an unforeseen circumstance such as illness or death in the family, how late assignments will be handled, etc. can go along way toward preventing problems. Check with your program office to learn about program policies that will help you be consistent with what other instructors expect and are communicating to students.
There may be times that you’ll have to deal with conflict in your online class. Here are a few resources that might help.
- Three tips for handling disruptive online students from Faculty Focus
- Mitigating Conflict in Online Student Teams by Richard Dool. This article is from 2007 but still has relevant information for handling online teamwork.
If a particular student is causing you stress, a quick chat with them can reinforce appropriate behaviours and discourage inappropriate ones. Communicating directly with the student (rather than making a broadcast-type announcement to all students) is often the best course of action if the problem is not widespread. Never hesitate to ask the Program Head/Intellectual Lead for advice.
Student Servicesoffers support to students as well as suggestions for instructors. Check out the helpful PDF briefs at the bottom of their Resources for Faculty and Staff page. Students may also be referred to their Academic Support page, the Student Health & Wellness page, the Policies & Procedures page, and others on that site.