Misbehavior Online in Higher Education: Volume 5

Cover of Misbehavior Online in Higher Education

Table of contents

(25 chapters)

Universities are increasing hubs of digital activity; much commendable, some reprehensible. It is dismaying that in some learners' minds the divide between them is murky rather than clear. Today's students are largely digital natives born into computing and its venues. In many colleges, during orientation the preponderance of incoming students use their new college e-mail accounts to enable in Facebook, etc., easy online communication with others in the institution. Unlike past decades when a student might be handed flyers or read postings on poles and walls, today's students are in a maelstrom of social media, and other new technologies that students are socially pressed to use. In her book Ruling the Waves, Debora Spar suggested that cyberspace is like a frontier town, a place where there are “not a lot of rules or marshals in town” (Spar, 2001). People online often feel relatively unconstrained, creative, and innovative. At the same time, chaos, disorder, nefariousness, and just plain “bad behavior” are rife. New technologies foster the sense of a new normality. Yet just because it is now possible to act in new ways through new technologies does not make those ways acceptable.

While there has been extensive commentary and research on issues relating to student academic integrity, the behavior (or misbehavior) of faculty has been less explored. Research misconduct and misbehavior is shaped by environmental forces acting at four distinct levels: individual, organizational, educational system, and social (Anderson, 2011; see also Bertram Gallant & Kalichman, 2011). This chapter explores the current climate in higher education whereby academics are under increasing pressure to publish, and how this pressure impacts standards of ethical conduct in academic publishing in the online environment. The chapter argues that to maintain integrity in online publishing environments, there needs to be a multi-stakeholder approach that encompasses each of the environmental levels, from educational policy makers, to senior managers, to teaching academics and advisors, to editors and finally to individual researchers/authors. In addition to recognizing the value of including standard protocols in online journals' instructions to authors, this chapter makes the case for a politicized response to the seemingly limitless pressure on academics to prove their worth by measuring their intellectual outputs.

This chapter suggests that traditional views of gender and other social categories existing in a face-to-face environment are reproduced and even exacerbated online (Allen, 2000; Barak, 2005; Bell & de La Rue, 1995; Cooper, Safir, & Rosenmann, 2006; Hargittai, 2008; McGerty, 2000; Soukup, 1999; Sussman & Tyson, 2000). Further, characteristics of the online environment such as anonymity, acceptability, and aloneness allow for the perpetuation of prejudicial attitudes and accompanying misbehavior. This chapter will focus on the characteristics of the online environment that perpetuate misbehavior, especially with regard to harassment based on social demographic categories. In addition, this chapter will explore how social and experiential learning theories can help us understand the increased propensity of misbehavior online and will suggest how universities and organizations can use these principles to decrease misbehavior.

Teacher misbehaviors disrupt learning (Kearney, Plax, Hays, & Ivey, 1991), and academic entitlement (AE) is on the rise (Greenberger, Lessard, Chen, & Farruggia, 2008). To better understand the online learning context, this study measures AE, perceptions of teacher misbehaviors, and online students' expectations for a variety of common student–teacher interactions. 318 online graduate students report their expectations, and these vary with a student's level of AE. Given these findings, we offer strategies for teachers in online classrooms whose goals are to avoid teacher misbehaviors and foster productive student–teacher communicative relationships that contribute to, rather than work against, learning.

A social and cultural expectation that Information Communication Technologies (ICT) should be ubiquitous within peoples' daily lives is apparent. Connecting generational groups with a specific set of technological attributes also assumes the ways that particular groups of students should be able/do “naturally” use emergent mobile and social technologies. Moreover, the use of social networking technologies is evident in a number of ways within higher education (HE) pedagogies. As part of the suite of possibilities in Web 2.0, Facebook is used in a number of ways to support communications within and between institutions and their students as well as a mechanism for teaching and learning within specific units of study.

The chapter commences with a broad discussion about social sharing software of Web 2.0, specifically Facebook, as a potential teaching and learning tool in HE contexts. We traverse recent exemplars and discourses surrounding the use of social technologies for the purposes of HE. It is clear from the literature that while there is much excitement at the possibilities that such technologies offer, there are increasing anxieties across institutional and individual practitioners, in regard to possible consequences of their use.

Through autoethnographic methodology, this chapter showcases potentials and challenges of Facebook in HE. Through the use of constructed scenarios, the authors describe occurrences that necessitate increasing professional development and vigilance online. Some of the issues highlighted within this chapter include blurring of professional and personal life world boundaries, issues of identity theft and vandalism, cyberstalking and bullying, working in the public domain, and questions of virtual integrity.

Education scholars have recognized the current cohort of university students as the “always-connected generation” (Bull, 2010). As a result, selecting appropriate and yet targeted teaching tools for this generation is both “challenging our notion of a teaching environment” (p. 634) and raising questions about how to best “mitigate the negative impact of new technologies on learning” (Billsberry & Rollag, 2010, p. 635). One of the negative impacts that arise from the intersection of technology and education is cyberbullying. It is this extremely important and often difficult to predict element of online-based communications – cyberbullying – that serves as the focus of this chapter. The chapter is divided into three main sections. First, we present research regarding the prevalence, forms, and associated consequences of the mobile and online technologies being used by young people today. Second, we provide a definition of cyberbullying as well as a discussion of its pervasiveness and ways to address it. Finally, as a tool for moving forward with respect to the issue of addressing cyberbullying in university environments, we describe a university-based service-learning project aimed at increasing students' understanding of the variety of forms and the severe consequences of cyberbullying.

This study presents findings leading to the conclusion that cyberbullying in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games can be conceptualized, measured and at least partially explained as a normative phenomenon, similar to Latane & Darley's (1970) bystander inaction hypothesis. An overall sample of N=372 respondents to an online survey provided information on their daily amount of Internet use and daily amount of time engaged in playing in MMO games. Scales for the assessment of both cyberbullying victimization and bullying itself were developed. Victims of cyberbullying appear more sensitive to bullying incidents albeit no more likely than game players who have engaged in bullying to intervene in preventing it. Perpetrators of cyberbullying, however, also appear to be heavily invested in both Internet use and MMO game play and that could amplify an individual's aggressiveness as a player in turn making it more likely they will engage in cyberbullying. The study concludes with a qualitative examination of MMO game player narrative self-explanations for nonintervention in cyberbullying that parallels Latane and Darley's explanation of bystander nonintervention in face-to-face threatening or emergency contexts.

In order to gain a rich understanding of the phenomenon of cyberbullying among college students, we conducted a series of focus groups on the campus of a large southwestern university. Employing a grounded theory approach to the data analysis, major themes emerged. The roles of sender, receiver, and audience member are very fluid in the cyber-environment. Misinterpretation and miscommunication can result in unintentional cyberbullying; audience comments can easily escalate a benign comment into a major incident. Focus group participants generally believed that the receiver's interpretation rather than the intent of the sender determines whether a communication constitutes cyberbullying. Because of the potential for misinterpretation of messages, anyone can be a (perhaps unintentional) cyberbully. Participants believed that the anonymity of the Internet encouraged cyberbullying, as did the desire for instant gratification and impulsivity. Students who are different in some way (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and appearance) are perceived as being more vulnerable to being victimized in cyberspace, and students with high profiles (e.g., athletes and student government officers) were also noted as likely targets. Despite being able to describe the dynamics of cyberbullying in detail and provide numerous examples of it happening in the campus community, members of the focus groups were reluctant to characterize cyberbullying as a problem at their university and uncertain whether the university should intervene. They did, however, offer many suggestions that will be useful to universities seeking to develop policies, educational programs, and intervention strategies for their campuses.

In this chapter, we explore an actual incident of cyberbullying that occurred at a large Canadian university. In our analysis, we frame cyberbullying as part of the more general phenomena of classroom incivility. We focus on the sociocultural context and demonstrate how the structures and processes within the classroom environment can enable incivility as well as cyberbullying.

With the rise of social networking and the immediacy of electronic communication, the potential for harassment, threats, cyberbullying, perceived defamation, and general incivility is greater than ever before. First Amendment issues create legal, philosophical and practical problems for administrators. In this chapter, the authors examine the intersection of First Amendment protections and student Internet conduct and provide practical information that student conduct administrators can readily apply in their daily work. Included are First Amendment definitions and concepts, an overview of policy considerations to protect the rights of both the individuals involved and the institution, a discussion of the distinctions between public and private institutions, investigation strategies, and a case study to walk readers through an examination of the issues and decision-making best practices for student conduct administrators.

On September 22, 2010, a young man stood in distress on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge not far from his home in Ridgewood, New Jersey, looking 600ft below at the Hudson River. He was ready to act on the decision he had announced just minutes before on Facebook. His first semester at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, located 27 miles southwest of New York City, had brought an unexpected challenge: his roommate had streamed two live Internet videos of his intimate encounters with another man. These were very private moments, and it was simply too much to bear. Tyler Clementi jumped to his death, leaving behind broken-hearted friends and family members, and shocking an entire nation with his tragic story (Kolowich, 2010; Foderaro, 2010).

Tyler probably had no idea how his death would shed light on a serious college issue – cyberbullying. In this chapter, the authors address this issue in detail. This is done first by providing a review of relevant literature that defines cyberbullying, explaining its presence in higher education, and describing various factors that should be considered when dealing with it. The literature review includes discussion regarding key electronic resources that college students use to cyber bully, as well as various legal and judicial issues that relate to this cultural phenomenon. Following the literature review, cyberbullying is examined through a research study at Ohio University, a large public institution located in southeastern Ohio. This is accomplished by setting forth research questions and hypotheses, describing the research instrument and design, and explaining the findings from an Ohio University undergraduate student survey. The chapter concludes with suggestions that practitioners might consider implementing on campus, as well as recommendations for future research on this topic.

Online testing offers many advantages for classroom management and learning: ease of grading, immediate feedback, robust question types, integration of technology such as graphing utilities or specialized applets, and multimedia integration (e.g., questions based on detailed images or video files). It also offers many opportunities for misbehavior, such as misrepresentation (e.g., taking a test for someone else), sharing information between testing sessions, or inappropriate access of online resources during the test. We consider potential tools available in course management systems that can help, and also mention other available resources. With online testing, it is easier for students to save copies of testing materials, which find their way to social web sites. Fortunately, many course management systems allow the possibility of randomization, either by choosing one of several alternate questions on a given topic, or preparing calculated questions in which a parameter is allowed to vary over a specified range of values.

Digital cameras and social networking have made photo-taking and photo-sharing more ubiquitous than ever before. In recent years, scholars and the popular press have raised concerns over the practice of posting photographs on social networking sites, especially when the images contain problematic or incriminating content. These concerns are often directed toward college students, who are among the most active users of social media. To that end, this chapter offers a comprehensive overview of the extent and emerging research pertaining to college students' photo-sharing habits on social networking sites. Much of our attention focuses on Facebook, which has emerged as the largest and fastest growing photo-sharing Web site in the world. While research on text-based disclosure will be addressed, a greater emphasis is placed on college students' photo-related behaviors, including uploading, viewing, tagging, and untagging photos. Further, this chapter discusses research on problematic or damaging content in college students' photos posted on Facebook, including depictions of alcohol use, drug use, and sexual promiscuity. This chapter provides a glimpse of some recent data (collected by the author) from a national sample of U.S. college students, which further shed light on their experiences and attitudes regarding their photo-related Facebook behaviors, the types of incriminating photos they report posting, and the consequences they have experienced due to visual images shared by themselves or others on Facebook. Finally, this chapter concludes with a discussion of the strategies utilized by college administrators, faculty, athletic coaches, and others within higher education to address the concerns and consequences often associated with college students and the photographs they share on Facebook and other social networking sites.

Although media and research accounts of cyber bullying suggest this misbehavior is localized primarily among middle school students, and that its frequency decreases with age, this chapter presents empirical data showing that cyber bullying occurs with considerable frequency among college students across multiple domains of life, specifically school and work. In Study 1, 28 male and 82 female undergraduate students completed a survey examining their online activities as well as their experiences with cyber bullying. Over 30% of the participants indicated that their first experience with cyber bullying was in college. No gender differences were observed with regard to victimization or perpetration, except with online gaming where males reported a higher rate of victimization than females. With regard to personality differences among victims and perpetrators, victims were lower in agreeableness than non-victims. Study 2 examined the prevalence of cyber bullying among 107 college students at work, as well as the negative outcomes linked to the experience of workplace cyber bullying. Nearly a third of the college student sample reported having been the target of cyber bullying within the past six months. Individuals in jobs in which the Internet is essential and racial minorities reported higher rates of cyber bullying at work. Additionally, cyber bullying was positively linked to several negative emotions, as well as burnout and job search effort. These findings have important implications not only for potential negative outcomes that college students may be facing at school and at work but also for organizational justice issues, as differential treatment at work can lead to lawsuits and other negative work outcomes.

This chapter reports on the use of a computerized classroom system that managed practice problems, quizzes, and exams. In that the student interface was comprehensively intermediated by computerized Internet-based technology, it presents issues that would be similar to distance education. Various methods used by students to exploit the properties of the system to earn advantage and to purposefully bypass its controls are described. These include behaviors that are academically dishonorable, albeit not clearly infractions, and as well as those that are clear violations of academic integrity. This chapter uses examples from an introductory management accounting course taught at a large public university in the Southeastern United States, but could relate to coursework in any accounting subject. It is based on the many years of experience of one of the authors in trying to stay one step ahead of students through programming and system design.

Social media is increasingly used by institutions of higher education to connect with students, with the goal of establishing a link with students through technology that they are already using at a significant rate. However, guidelines and policies describing the institutions' strategy and expectations for the use of social media are being utilized at a much lower rate than the use of social media itself. This has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of social media by institutions of higher education, and to create a barrier in the use of social media before the benefits can even be fully realized. This chapter explores current research regarding existence of guidelines for the use of social media in higher education, details a number of current issues, which have resulted from the use of social media, and describes general guidelines, which can be used to help institutions avoid the issues that can result from the use of social media. The chapter describes specific sections that should be part of social media guidelines, defines who in the institution will be impacted by the guidelines, and provides examples of effective social media guidelines. Additionally, the chapter describes research that is needed to help administrators and educators understand the issues that can result from the use of social media by an institution and how to prevent issues from occurring through the use of appropriate guidelines, standards, and policies.

In an educational era focused on expectations related to program accreditation, academic integrity is paramount to program success and credibility. Because Internet-based learning is not limited to geographical or political lines drawn on a map, there is a certain amount of ambiguity regarding the application of regulations and laws governing online learning and how they are enforced. Managing the financial and accreditation needs of institutions with authentic and appropriate methods of teaching, learning, and assessment is a precarious balance – one in which the potential for misbehaving online can quickly tip the scales to the side of questioning the credibility of online learning and misusing power in terms of data privacy. Wendy Kraglund-Gauthier and David Young explore the issue of how online students misbehave when being tested at a distance, what technological challenges emerge when verifying the identity of online students, and issues of privacy. They also include a comparison of methods used to confirm the identity of online students. In light of the inherent challenges that emerge alongside the demand for more technology-based screening tools and devices, Kraglund-Gauthier and Young question whether solutions lie in competence-based assessment for learning, rather than a reliance on surveillance. They argue that in spite of stakeholders' best efforts and best intentions, legislation directed at ensuring online privacy is fraught with potential challenges.

This chapter explores the ever-growing problem of uncivil electronic discourse directed by students at faculty in higher education. After providing a definition of uncivil discourse, the authors explore potential influences on the rapid increase in uncivil digital communication, among them the nature of technology, different definitions of politeness, and the nature of higher education. The chapter next surveys the various factors (e.g., age, familiarity with technology, gender, mental state, personality, and professorial teaching style) that add to the likelihood that students may engage in uncivil electronic discourse before detailing the many effects of such communication, including stress, cynicism, lower standards, student suffering, and physical violence. The chapter concludes with possible remedies: proactive problem-focused coping strategies for faculty and administrators (e.g., detailed syllabi, published campus standards for student and employee behavior, and training for faculty, students, and staff on issues of incivility); reactive problem-focused coping strategies for faculty; and emotion-based coping strategies for faculty.

Angela Baldasare, Ph.D. currently serves as the divisional manager for assessment and research in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. Working in the public health sector over the past 8 years, she has overseen the evaluation of more than 150 programs, addressing issues of sexual health and teen pregnancy, domestic violence, child welfare, substance abuse, mental health, and disability.

Cover of Misbehavior Online in Higher Education
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Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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