Creating a safer online community

With more teaching, learning and working being conducted online than ever before, Swinburne has committed to creating and strengthening a safer and more inclusive environment for all. Swinburne has zero tolerance for any form of bullying, discrimination, or harassment, either on or offline. As we study and work from home, each of us deserves to safely bring our whole selves to learn and thrive.  

Our behaviour and conduct policies, such as the Swinburne Student Charter, still apply no matter whether you are studying online or on campus. 

Swinburne and the Safer Community team also support the Universities Australia and eSafety Commissioner collaboration encouraging safer online environments and have been reviewing processes and guidelines for students and staff with these in mind. 

Our new normal – remote and online 

We have all had to adjust to using new tools and systems to ensure we remain productive and connected online. When using new platforms, it’s crucial that we work together to maintain safe and inclusive spaces. 

It can be easy to slip into a more casual style of communication over instant messaging platforms, emails and video calls. However, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, Dr Belinda Barnet says it’s important to consider your manner and tone when communicating online. 

“Communicate online much in the same way as you do in real life. If it’s rude or offensive don’t say it; and if you’re feeling personally harassed or bullied by someone else leave the conversation and report. 

“This is a really difficult time for those spending more time online and it’s important to stay in touch with friends, more now than ever particular if you’re feeling alone,” she says.

Student volunteer from Swinburne’s ’Team Respect’, Brigitte Montalan, says establishing expectations between peers and within classes helps set the tone and create a safe space. 

“For teachers, simple actions such as discussing standard rules at the start, individually checking in with students throughout the session and clearly stating the tasks set for the day can help. It shows us that they are striving to give students the same support as we would in face to face classes,” she says.

“For students, breakout rooms are great to do group work in. They allow us to connect with our friends and socialise, even if it is for a short time. Little things like this make you feel comfortable. Which is a good indication that it is a safe place to learn in.” 

Tips for communicating online

Here are some tips to help you communicate effectively online. 

  • Pause before hitting send 

    Would you say or do this in person? Your words are permanent and it’s harder to detect intention online. Be aware of how your words or shared post might be interpreted and the potential consequences. 

  • Keep it clear and concise

    Make your message easy to understand. Leave out irrelevant details and avoid using jargon, slang or abbreviations. Don’t make people dig through paragraphs to work out what you are trying to say. 

  • Give others the benefit of the doubt 

    Online communication can be challenging and uncomfortable, and some may take longer to adjust to new tools and platforms. That’s okay! Check in on your peers and offer support if you notice anyone struggling. 

  • Maintain professional boundaries 

    Respect is a two-way street. It’s always important to model good professional practice. No matter where you’re studying from, our IT acceptable use guidelines, Social media guidelines and the Swinburne Student Charter (also known as our ‘good person guide’) still apply.  

  • Make your contributions positive 

    To get the most out of your peers and groups online, promote healthy and collaborative discussion. Remember that public online forums are public and your contribution will be there permanently.  

  • Be an active bystander 

    If you witness someone experiencing cyberbullying or unreasonable behaviour, you can help the situation as an active bystander. Try talking privately to the person being bullied and offer help by listening or helping them to report the incident. You can also bring the behaviour to the attention of your teacher or another trusted staff member.

Supporting our students

The Safer Community team has developed useful resources and information for students to help maintain our safe and respectful community online. 

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