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Cyber-bullying of Faculty in the Online Classroom

Michael Eskey (Park University, USA)
Hank Roehrich (Park University, USA)
Cathy L. Taylor (Park University, USA)
Session Information
November 21, 2013 - 2:00pm
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 1
Session Duration: 
35 Minutes
Information Session 10
Virtual Session

Increase of online learning has had a subsequent increase on cyber-bullying of faculty members by students. The presentation will include a plan for the problem.

Extended Abstract

The number of students enrolled in online courses in increasing on an annual basis. With the growth, online learning is experiencing an increase in cyber-assaults, written & verbal assaults, and cyber-bullying. There is an increasing amount of student and faculty data on the topic. Additionally, there are a number of related definitions and strategies in the process of development to combat this growing problem.

In the fall of 2011, of the 17.7 million college students, only 15 percent were attending traditional 4-year colleges and living on campus. Experiences with Online learning have noted increases in verbal assaults and cyber bullying (and online learning increases the potential for cyber-bullying). This changes many "classroom" philosophies. Students are becoming the "customer" and higher education is increasing expressing a shifting of focus on the student, more-so as a customer than traditional student.

There is an increased reliance on adjunct faculty, often working in isolation, without as much structured supervision. Informality of text message-type interactions and the expectation of expectation of immediate response, and the distribution effects of the high-speed internet process have contributed to an isolated, albeit high speed communication method of learning.

Much current research has focused on workplace bullying; student to student bullying; and face-to-face student on faculty bullying; and. Students now have the capability to spread their personal disgust and disdain, whether warranted or not (whether factual or not) to any number of recipients at multi-gigahertz speed. There is an expectation of a reward for reward based on expectation vs. product. Failure is not an expectation or option and often results in cyber-retaliation, often resulting in false accusations, name-calling, un-based high-speed rumors, and unabashed cyber-speed hate. Personal attacks and slander are common. These are directed to peers, other instructors, and college administrators. Based on today's college communications, social media, and personal e-mails, hundreds, even thousands of recipients can be reached in a short period of time. As noted by a number of researchers), e-mails, text-messaging, chat rooms, cellular phones, camera phones, websites, blogs, and the like, contribute to the spread of derogatory and ostracizing comments about other students, teachers, and other individuals. Researchers have noted such formatting for bullying as messaging and blogs containing defamatory bullying, harassment transmitted through offensive, vulgar, and derogatory comments. Likewise, the use of intimidation, malicious, and insulting comments and messages are utilized.

Current Law & Policy:
Currently forty-six states have Department of Education (DOE) harassment polices (which is normally how bullying is handled). Thirty-six states include cyber-bullying in their policies. Most colleges have student conduct policies and faculty human resources policies. Enforcement is sometimes problematic and coverage can often take on protection of the student first. There are three issues that lead to a concern of perceived faculty bullying, especially by adjunct faculty members. They are often encouraged to take on a "thick skin" strategy, an "ignore it" philosophy, or a "pacify and acquiesce" approach. This certainly does not solve the problems and often contributes to making the problem worse.

The paper/presentation will address:
1. Scope of Problem - survey of adjunct faculty to determine how many are actually victims, type, and extent of student bullying, particularly cyber-bullying
2. A baseline of policies will be provided concerning bullying, to include policies and protections to prevent faculty and student cyber-bullying - to include sanctions and safeguards
3. Presentation will address a plan for professional development in this area to train faculty (full and part-time) in recognition and responding to cyber-bullying to control it, and stop the growth.

Research to be addressed will ask online adjunct faculty questions related to bullying by students online. Questions will include perceptions frequencies, comparisons, and reactions. Results will address the scope the problem and future professional development needs.