26 January 2021

How Online Students Learn to Become Digital Citizens

When you start your first online class you are usually not introduced to the concept of digital citizenship. You are expected to follow a code of conduct and your instructor may provide the rules of Netiquette, which describe acceptable behaviors in the class. However, becoming a responsible digital citizen means more than following the rules. You need to manage your online presence and reputation, while becoming responsible and ethical. The approach you take to interacting with others in a virtual classroom can influence how you create all online posts, including social media.

Ethics and Morals

The first determination that needs to be made is your personal code of ethical behavior. Ethics are a set of standards that guides our behavior and interactions with others. For example, your school has a code of conduct that must be followed and that establishes a set of ethical principles for all students. You then decide to either act in an ethical or unethical manner by following or disregarding the code. This is different than morals, which are used to make a determination of right and wrong, based upon your personal belief system. Your morals may have been influenced by what you have been taught by society, religious affiliations, and your parents.

An ethical issue that frequently occurs is plagiarism, which means that a student has used the words of an existing source without making any attempt to acknowledge the source of those words. This includes copying and pasting information from a website, article, or other source such as an essay website. Becoming highly ethical as an online students means that you take responsibility for the work you’ve submitted and you learn to utilize sources correctly. A student who does not act ethically and is charged with an incident of intentional plagiarism may receive a zero for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, or other academic sanctions that can include suspension from school.

Interactions with Others

The purpose of having a student code of conduct and implementation of the rules of Netiquette is to create a classroom environment where appropriate communication occurs and students maintain respect as they interact with each other and their instructors. The online classroom typically consists of a diverse student population; however, diversity involves more than cultural or location-related differences. A diverse class may include students with physical disabilities, generational differences, and learning disabilities, along with religious and educational differences.

There are other classroom actions that can prompt further consequences. The first is cyberbullying and it means that a student has harassed someone else through the use of technology. Cyberbullying typically occurs when the potential victim is perceived as being different. There are numerous states that have enacted anti-bullying laws that include cyberbullying. The second action that has stern consequences is sexting or sending photos of a sexual nature via a cell phone. There have been no known incidents involving online students; however, that is not to say it isn’t a possibility and that why your privacy as an online student must be protected.


There are steps you can take as a student to protect your privacy within the online classroom. First, don’t include personal information such as your phone number in email signatures or classroom posts. Second, if you want to stay in contact with other students be sure to use your school email address. Be careful about sharing your personal information with others and let your instructor know if you believe that your privacy has been compromised in any way.

You may also want to consider your social media privacy settings. If your profiles and posts are publicly viewable, consider how other students, your instructor, or a potential employer might view that information. All of this electronic information leaves a digital footprint and it represents who you are to those who do not know you. Recruiters and human resources employees frequently check social media websites as part of the online hiring process and that means you need to monitor what you post.

Be Responsible

Becoming a digital citizen means that you are managing your activities and interactions in the online classroom. What you post establishes your reputation and some behaviors may have consequences. As a digital citizen you need to adapt your personal set of ethics to an electronic form of communication and be responsible for your reputation. Your posts leave a digital footprint so be mindful of the content of your posts and the manner that you interact with others.

Source by Dr. Bruce A. Johnson

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