Day 13: Dealing with Challenging Students

Occasionally online students will present special problems. Some challenges you may experience include:

  • Discussion domination
  • Student may seem to be completely unprepared f
    Photo by Microsoft and iStockphoto
    Photo by Microsoft and iStockphoto

    or the level of work required

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Disappearing group members
  • Belligerent and opinionated students
  • Additional scenarios of difficult online students


  • Be clear and explicit in your expectations in the syllabus.
  • Model expected online behavior.
  • Be clear and concise on how students are graded (rubrics, final grade, etc.).


  • Address issues individually with the student. Document conversations and explanations via email; use the phone when appropriate.
  • Set a tolerant tone in the class: explain that all opinions will be respected in the forums.
  • Withdraw the student from the discussion forum and do individual journals if necessary
  • Intervene quickly and supportively


Several options are in place to assist you with serving challenging students.

  • Your department chair and dean
  • The School of Distance Education Director of Student Services
  • The Student Success department
  • The associate dean for online higher education
  • University instructional designer

Additional resources and strategies can be found at these two websites:

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you deal with difficult students in your face-to-face teaching? What principles and strategies can guide you in your work in online teaching?

This post is Day 13 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

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