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Online Learning: Establishing a Student Code of Conduct and Expectations for Participation 

03-23-2020 13:18

When I first joined the faculty at Michigan State University (MSU) as an Assistant Professor in the online Master of Public Health (MPH) program, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of creating an engaging virtual learning space grounded in the principles of constructivism learning theory. As my peers have shared in their postings on this forum, there is a wide array of tools and techniques to adopt an active learning approach and cultivate a collaborative and culturally responsive and respectful online learning community.

While I am still learning best practices for online teaching and learning, I would like to share a few tips that I have found helpful. I plan to upload several posts to this forum in the coming days that address different topics and wanted to start by sharing some guidance on establishing a student code of conduct and expectations for participation. If you teach in-person courses, you likely already have this information in your syllabus. In migrating to an online learning space, it will be important to adapt this information accordingly so that everyone is clear on expectations for attendance, participation, and academic integrity. Here is an example excerpt that my colleagues and I include in our syllabi:


Code of Conduct:
All students enrolled in MPH courses are responsible for their conduct in the online classroom. Students are entitled to an environment free from disruption and are expected to behave in a manner conducive to teaching and learning. Students are expected to abide by the following expectations:

  • Interact respectfully and courteously (virtually, in-person, or over the phone) with others (students, faculty, staff, etc.)

  • Respect the diversity of opinions among instructors and fellow students

  • Respect the privacy of others

  • No use of threatening, harassing, sexually explicit or discriminatory language, or conduct that violates state or federal law or MSU policy on sexual harassment will be tolerated. See the MSU Anti-Discrimination Policy at https://www.hr.msu.edu/policies-procedures/university-wide/ADP_policy.html

  • Refrain from threatening behavior (physical, verbal, and emotional)

  • Abide by local, state, and federal laws

Students whose names do not appear on the official class list for this course may not participate in this class.

In compliance with federal regulations, the University requires all instructors to report the non-attendance of students enrolled in their course. Attendance is defined as “physical attendance or participation in an academically-related activity, including but not limited to the submission of an assignment, an examination, participation in a study group or an online discussion.” https://reg.msu.edu/ROInfo/Notices/Attendance.aspx

Students who fail to log-in and participate during the first fifteen business days will be dropped from enrollment in the course. 

Through the middle of the semester, students who miss more than three consecutive weeks of class (i.e., who do not participate actively in class assignments or activities and who have not communicated with faculty to be excused from class) will be reported to the Office of the Registrar for non-attendance and will risk being dropped from the course.

After the middle of the semester, students who miss more than three consecutive weeks of class without receiving prior approval from the course instructor, will receive a failing grade of 0.0 in the course.

All assignments for this course will be submitted electronically unless otherwise instructed. Assignments must be submitted by the given deadline or special permission must be requested from the instructor before the due date. Extensions will not be given beyond the next assignment except under extreme circumstances.

Consistent with MSU’s efforts to enhance student learning, foster honesty, and maintain integrity in our academic processes, instructors will use a tool called Turnitin to compare a student’s work with multiple sources. The tool compares each student’s work with an extensive database of prior publications and papers, providing links to possible matches and a “similarity score.” The tool does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred. Instead, the instructor must make a complete assessment and judge the originality of the student’s work. All submissions to the course may be checked using this tool.

I also recommend checking out the following MSU website, which is updated daily based on requests from faculty: Keep Teaching: A Guide to Remote Teaching at MSU Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I look forward to connecting!

Note: I gratefully acknowledge feedback from my MSU colleagues (in particular, Lydia Merritt) in preparing this posting.


Robey B. Champine, PhD, MS, MPH
Assistant Professor

Division of Public Health
Michigan State University | College of Human Medicine



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03-23-2020 14:52

Thanks for posting this Robey. This will be really useful for people creating/updating syllabi for online courses. I am going to cross post to the teaching tips community as well.

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