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Code of Conduct: Rules for Digital Coursework at Freie Universität Berlin

Even during times when on-site teaching is limited or not possible at all, Freie Universität Berlin is dedicated to being a place of research and teaching. The 2020 summer semester has shown us that our university is capable of organizing a creative and vigorous semester using remote teaching tools to limit physical contact while still offering a variety of digital courses. This code of conduct is meant to serve as a framework to help all university members support the implementation of digital coursework and raise awareness of these new formats.

The code of conduct includes rules and regulations that are already a part of our academic standards, as well as elements derived from relevant legal documents and guidelines that deal with classroom teaching on the one hand and digital education on the other. In order to contribute to the success of digital education at Freie Universität Berlin, it is crucial that we are all aware of this code and do our best to follow it.

1. Instructors and students should treat each other with respect. That means:

  • We allow people to speak without interrupting them.
  • We listen to each other carefully.
  • We make sure the microphone is off when we join a digital event or space.
  • We turn on our microphones when it is our turn to speak and turn them off once we are finished.

It also means in particular:

  • We do not post or otherwise distribute inappropriate content, involving, for example, inappropriate language or behavior, discriminatory comments, hate speech, etc.[i]
  • We do not tolerate disruptive or discriminatory behavior, for example, spamming, misuse of online chats, impersonating another user, stalking, cyberbullying, etc.[ii]

2. At the beginning, course participants will receive information on the technical details telling them how the digital course will be conducted.[iii] All users are asked to do their part to make sure that the course runs smoothly by paying attention to the information they receive.

3. No personal information can be collected during a digital course that is not immediately related to the course objectives or that does not otherwise serve the educational purposes of the course.[iii] [iv] [v] Students’ personal information cannot be recorded, and no audio or video recordings are allowed. Students should be given time to adjust their settings for the course.[ii] [iii] [v]

  • In order to give students the opportunity to review course content or engage with it in more depth, recordings of classes can be shared online.[ii] [iv] [v]

4. Presentations and course materials may not be shared or made public on personal websites, social media accounts, etc., or on those belonging to others. There are legal consequences for making unauthorized recordings as well as for the unauthorized distribution or publication of recordings. Copyright laws must be observed when using works protected by copyright.[vi] [vii]

Users who do not follow these rules or who otherwise behave inappropriately or disruptively can be removed from the course and reported to the dean’s office. Severe violations of this code can lead to legal action.

If you have witnessed a violation of these rules or are the victim of an infraction, please contact the instructor, the head of the institute, or the dean’s office immediately. In cases of sexualized harassment, discrimination, or violence, including cases of cyberstalking in the context of digital education, please contact the appropriate service office.[viii]

[i] Berlin Higher Education Act (Berliner Hochschulgesetz § 44 [1]); General Act on Equal Treatment (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz)

[ii] Terms of use for Cisco Webex telephone and video conference software (in German): https://www.zedat.fu-berlin.de/pub/ZEDAT/Telefonie/Konferenzen/Nutzungsbedingungen-Webex.pdf

[iii] Information on processing personal information within the context of teaching and recording online courses as well as other university events (in German): https://www.zedat.fu-berlin.de/pub/ZEDAT/Telefonie/Konferenzen/Dokument-zu-Informationspflichten-DSGVO.pdf

[iv] Guidelines on making and using audio-visual recordings of courses at Freie Universität Berlin (in German): https://www.fu-berlin.de/sites/it-sicherheit/downloads/Richtlinie-zur-Aufzeichnung-von-Lehrveranstaltungen---1_04.pdf

[v] Wiki for instructors about recording courses (in German): https://wikis.fu-berlin.de/x/ZJKaPQ

[vi] Wiki about data protection and copyright regulations (in German): https://wikis.fu-berlin.de/x/xS64Jg

[vii] Office of the General Counsel’s wiki addressing legal questions (in German): https://wikis.fu-berlin.de/x/X5KaPQ

[viii] Service and support at Freie Universität for victims of sexualized harassment, discrimination, or violence: https://www.fu-berlin.de/en/sites/nein-heisst-nein/NEU_Anlaufstellen/index.html