What’s also a stark reality is that since the online environment provides anonymity to some degree, students are much more likely to have extensive excuses about why work isn’t in on time, why they haven’t participated, and why they are struggling.
Plagiarism can be a problem as well since it’s easy for students to copy and paste from the internet, or turn in a paper that has information taken directly from Wikipedia and Ask.com.
What can instructors do?
The first thing they can do is make sure that the syllabus is so clear about policies, procedures, and expectations.
Next, the instructor can open the course a week in advance to give students time to acclimate themselves. If the instructor provides an email with basic information about what’s expected, and asks students to log in early, introduce themselves, and ask questions, then students might be less intimidated and surprised by getting more than what they bargained for.
Another possibility is to provide contact information for the student help desk and access to OnCourse tutorials for students. It’s also nice to record a video/screencast of the course to explain key components of the class and how it will run. Included in these tutorials should be one on plagiarism –what it is, why it’s wrong, and how to avoid it.
Finally, provide a virtual office in Forums where students can ask questions. Instructors should monitor this every day to answer questions that are course related.
Overall, even students who are ill prepared can succeed in an online course. Instructors need to provide a supportive atmosphere for them with all of the tools necessary to prepare them quickly and effectively before the course even begins.