E-Learning: Homework chat rooms
A unit president calls the Counselling and Member Services department for advice about an online math homework website being promoted as a school board initiative. The website features Ontario certified teachers who provide one-on-one online help and interact in online chat rooms to help students with their specific math questions. The unit president has concerns about the potential pitfalls for teachers who decide to take on this type of work. Will the Association cover teachers who find themselves accused of inappropriate online behaviour?
Several school boards have initiated the online tutoring program, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Education through the Independent Learning Centre. Tutoring is in addition to the teacher’s regular classroom duties, and participating teachers are compensated at an hourly rate. This work is voluntary, but this is teacher work and the local unit should make it a bargaining issue to define workload, expectations, compensation and availability. Some school boards have hired a full-time itinerant teacher to provide the online tutoring homework help.
Subject to OECTA’s legal support policy for members, the Association will provide assistance to a teacher who is accused of inappropriate behaviour while employed as an online tutor with a school board.
Many teachers use internet technology to support their own teaching and self-directed learning, but some teachers have stepped on digital landmines in the online world. Even though this program offers students and teachers complete anonymity, this can be a double-edged sword if teachers are not careful. The anonymity is designed to protect both the students and the teachers, however it is not complete protection. There are countless examples of teachers who have been disciplined or dismissed by their employer or the College of Teachers for inappropriate online behavior. OECTA advises all members to maintain the highest professional standards at all times, especially when the communication is online.
Electronic communications create a permanent record; therefore, you must keep the communication strictly academic in nature. Failure to communicate appropriately can put teachers at risk with the employer, College of Teachers, Children’s Aid Society, and police. Never email or post comments that could be considered libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist, threatening, or obscene, which could be used as evidence of unprofessional conduct. Teachers are advised to familiarize themselves with OECTA’s resource Be Wary, Be Wise, and to review the College’s recent professional advisory on "Electronic Communications and the Use of Social Media."