Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Higher Ed/Community College Ed

Major Professor

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tom Miller, Ed.D.


incivility, classroom, misconduct, distance education


Limited research and literature address online student disruptive behavior and the effectiveness of conflict management strategies to address these inappropriate behaviors. Through expanded offerings of online education, higher education institutions need to prepare strategically and intentionally for increased instances of online student disruptive behavior. This research study developed and administered an online survey to obtain quantitative and qualitative data. Utilizing the Qualtrics Research Suite and the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for quantitative data analysis and MAXQDA for coding the qualitative data this research study examined five research questions identifying online student disruptive behaviors, observed frequencies, and effective strategies used by faculty participants. This quantitative study with qualitative components adds to the limited body of knowledge of online student disruptive behavior by examining faculty perceptions of online student disruption and the effectiveness of conflict management strategies.

The research study population consisted of online faculty (N=564) from a regionally accredited, not for profit institution located in the southeast United States. Approximately 279 (49%) of surveyed participants accessed the survey, and 226 (81%) of those participants completed the survey. Although survey participants were limited to one institution, due to the online nature of their employment responsibilities, there was a broad geographical representation of the sample population.

One hundred and forty-one faculty participants (54.02%) experienced online student disruptive behaviors and only 27 participants (11.95%) reported that online student disruption is not a problem. The study examined five research questions and faculty responses were similar in identifying online student disruptive behaviors. Conflict management strategies were also studied, and faculty participants identified “addressing the student(s) outside of online class activity through private electronic correspondence” as both the most used (85.97%) and most effective strategy.

This study should serve as a foundation for future research on the topic and be a catalyst for exploring and comparing student perceptions of online student disruption. The study also revealed the importance and opportunities for higher education institutions to offer faculty development workshops on effective ways to deal with online student disruption. One hundred and twenty-three (56.95%) faculty participants indicated a lack of training to handle student disruption, and 124 (57.41%) stated that they would probably or absolutely would attend a faculty development workshop on online student incivility. Therefore, there are significant opportunities for higher education institutions to provide faculty members training to improve classroom management skills/techniques while proactively dealing with online student disruption.