In a safe online learning environment students feel accepted and respected by peers and the instructor. Guidelines on proper online communication (netiquette) should be provided and modelled by faculty. This strategy promotes collaborative learning through scholarly discussions and constructive feedback by minimizing malicious discourse (Hu & Potter, 2012).
In addition, faculty promotes a supportive online learning environment by being flexible with workload and deadlines by recognizing that students, especially adult learners, have personal and professional commitments that may conflict with their studies. To minimize attrition, instructors need to actively support their students, especially when participation and work submitted are below expectations. An e-mail or phone call, for example, offering guidance and support would help struggling learners realize that they are not alone, and the instructor genuinely cares about their well-being and academic success (Hu & Potter, 2012).
Through respectful, caring, and scholarly communication, the instructor can better reflect upon and assess learners’s prior knowledge and needs so that the course content and learning outcomes can be modified to be more relevant and applicable to the students’s personal and professional experiences. As a result, students will be more motivated and engaged in their courses and supportive of their peers, and feel like they are in control of their own learning. Hence, psychological as well as content-related support from instructors and peers can help ensure a safe and supportive online learning environment, and dissuade students from discontinuing their studies (Hu & Potter, 2012).
A secure online learning environment protects the technologies and people involved in the learning process so that learners can succeed in their studies, and the academic institution can maintain the integrity and validity of course content and the credentials conferred upon its students. Consequently, the online learning community, consisting of students, faculty, and support staff, needs to work together to prevent the following:
• Compromised user accounts and identity theft;
• Computing devices infected with viruses, spyware, malware, or other malicious code;
• Corruption or lost of data and programs, including the learning management system (LMS) itself; and
• Academic dishonesty such as plagiarism and cheating, which adversely affects the credibility of the learning process and the credentials conferred upon graduates.
(E-Learning Faculty Modules, 2011)
The security measures employed must be dynamic by adapting to new and existing threats, and reliable by allowing the LMS to be readily recovered to a useable state. Therefore, it is in the best interests of all participants in the online learning environment to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes sound security practices and academic integrity (E-Learning Faculty Modules, 2011).
E-Learning Faculty Modules. (2011). Secure Learning Online. Retrieved from http://elearningfacultymodules.org/index.php/Secure_Learning_Online
Hu, D., & Potter, K. (2012, April). Designing an effective online learning environment. SEEN Magazine, 14(1), 33-35. Retrieved from http://www.seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/2000/designing-an-effective-online-learning-environment.aspx
Enriquez, J. G. (2010). Email worm threatens computer network security. Seer Press News. Retrieved from http://seerpress.com/email-worm-threatens-computer-network-security/6707/