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Don’t cross the line when you’re working online: make sure you behave appropriately as you study from home

August 28, 2020

Dean of Students

The Office of the Dean of Students is an accessible, responsive, fair and impartial point of contact for students to provide feedback or express concerns about any aspect of their university experience.

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Who’s finding this year tough? Yep, we thought so – it’s pretty much a universal feeling right now. We know that studying remotely was not part of the plan for many students, and that dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and other pressures has been really hard. Please remember that the whole Deakin community is behind you and is here to help you succeed.

But while this unique situation is challenging for everyone, it’s really important to maintain the appropriate level of respect as you study online – towards your fellow students, your teachers and other staff.

Unfortunately, we’ve had some reports of disrespectful or abusive behaviour from a small number of students. This includes students becoming aggressive during online classes or when technical or administrative issues have not been resolved on the spot.

Some other students have made inappropriate comments, posted unsuitable images or behaved in unacceptable ways in online forums.

As we pass the halfway point of the trimester, now’s the time to take stock of how you’re coping and assess your behaviour online. Is there anything you’re doing that’s not above board?

Deakin’s values are more than words

Even in this stressful time, we expect all students to adhere to the respectful standards of behaviour outlined in the Deakin Values and Student Code of Conduct. Are you familiar with these policies? They underpin your enrolment at Deakin, so they need to be taken seriously.

Think about the concept of ‘boundaries’ – both setting them for yourself and respecting those of your peers. Boundaries are basically mental, emotional or physical limits established between you and someone else so that you can both be happy and comfortable. They apply equally in the physical and online world, and are vital in protecting and nurturing your health and wellbeing.

As you learn more about boundaries, remember that online study spaces are just that. Make sure you understand the privacy settings and other features of the platforms you use. A clear example of crossing boundaries is using private messaging functions to comment on things like another student’s appearance or personal situation – this is not OK.

Monitor your behaviour – and that of your peers

The eSafety Commissioner has some useful tips for how to both be respected and give respect as you study or socialise online. This includes:

  • Treating others how you want to be treated – avoid gossiping or putting someone down, even as a joke.
  • Listening to others’ views and respecting their choices – be interested and open to a different perspective. Get to know people before making a judgement about them.
  • Questioning other people’s opinions respectfully – challenge the ‘idea’, not the person. Acknowledge that their opinion is valid, ask questions about the topic, use ‘I’ statements to describe how you feel or think, and find common ground.
  • Standing up to online hate – having the courage to express a different point of view when you feel someone is being treated badly is how we can encourage a more positive online world.
  • Respecting the privacy of others – think about who might see the content and what the impact might be before you share photos or make comments about people online.
  • Thinking before you respond – don’t text or post while angry. You might say things you regret. Sleep on it or ask someone to read what you have written before you hit send.

Poor online behaviour will have consequences

Any Deakin student who behaves inappropriately in a live teaching and learning space will be cautioned. If the behaviour continues, the student will be asked to leave. Staff will report discriminatory or offensive language, bullying or harassment to the Student Conduct Team, which investigates allegations of poor student behaviour, conduct issues and policy breaches.

If you witness or experience poor online behaviour by a fellow student, or something that makes you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or threatened, we encourage you to report this behaviour immediately:

  • If you’re being seriously harassed or threatened by someone online, contact the Safer Community service – they’re the University’s central point of contact for reports of sexual harm and family violence, and also respond to reports of concerning behaviour.
  • You can also report this behaviour to the Student Conduct Team through a simple online form. Student Conduct will respect your privacy, and you can also report your concerns anonymously or on behalf of someone else if you wish.

Support is available if you’re struggling

If you’re finding online study challenging, or you have personal or emotional issues that are making it hard for you to study effectively, help is available at the touch of a button. From IT and study support to health and wellbeing assistance, find out how to access our support services.


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