Author Shawn Orr. Adrian College
I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of motivated and enthusiastic online students. I have also encountered frustration with online students who display “non-learning behavior.” These include: dominating the discussion board with irrelevant comments; lurking in background but rarely participating; overestimating one’s/her ability to use technology (or being afraid to do so); constantly challenging the course content, peers and/or me; obsessing about grades.
What to do about non-learning behaviors
In my twenty-years of experience as a college professor, two things have struck me about these non-learning behavior: they negatively impact learning and online classroom environments for all students, and that most negative behavior is the result anxiety and low self-esteem.
How can I help students develop the “learning habits” that will lead to their success and improve the online classroom environment?
Three ways to encourage positive online learning behavior
Establish clear procedures and rules. You’ve heard the old saying, “An ounce prevention is worth a thousand cures.” Create a syllabus that clearly outlines your expectations for classroom behavior, participation, and etiquette. Fair consequences should be given and rules should be followed.
You can create an online community and establish good relationships with your students. Use educational, topical, or social icebreakers weekly (just like in a traditional class). Participate actively in the class, answer questions on the discussion boards, create new threads from students’ posts, and be a presence. You should model the behavior you want for your students and offer lots of opportunities for them to work together.
Engaging lessons encourage students to be active participants in learning. Vary your lesson plans utilizing:group projects
Discussion boards

There are many ways to make an online classroom active for your students.
In the end, I have found that learning is more important than good behavior. Students learn when they are active, informed, valued, and engaged.

Challenge to Champion: Working with difficult online students