Online Etiquette

Welcome to the world of online courses. This may be your first experience taking web-based courses, you may have some experience, or you may have taken a number of courses previously. Online learning is a form of social interaction, and as such, it has its own rules for interacting with others. This guide is intended to be an overview of appropriate etiquette for interaction in this online environment.

Disembodied Discussions

A key distinguishing feature of online courses is that communication occurs solely via the written word. Because of this, the body language, voice tone, and instantaneous listener feedback of the traditional classroom are all absent. These facts need to be taken into account both when contributing messages to a discussion and when reading them. Keep in mind the following points:

Tone Down Your Language

Given the absence of face-to-face clues, written text can easily be misinterpreted. Avoid the use of strong or offensive language and the excessive use of exclamation points. If you feel particularly strongly about a point, it may be best to write it first as a draft and then to review it, before posting our statement. 

In general, avoid humor and sarcasm. These frequently depend either on facial or tone of voice cues absent in text communication or on familiarity with the reader. 

If someone states something you find offensive, mention it directly to the instructor. Remember the person may be new to online learning. What you find offensive may be an unintended and can be corrected by the instructor.

Test For Clarity

Messages may often appear perfectly clear to you as the writer but turn out to be confusing by another reader. One way to test for clarity is to read your message aloud to see if it flows smoothly. 

Be concise when possible when contributing to a discussion. If you have several points you want to make, it may be a good idea to post them individually in more focused messages rather than a single, all-encompassing message.

Think carefully about the content of your message before contributing to the discussion. Once sent to the group, there is no taking it back. Although grammar and spelling may not be graded, they do reflect on you, and your audience might not be able to decode misspelled words or poorly constructed sentences. Acronyms and Emoticons are popular to use. Remember that online courses require professional writing. Be discerning with your use of “texting” writing.

Citations and Other Etiquette Sources

Many of the points made here were taken from The Core Rules of Netiquette excerpted from the book Netiquette, by Virginia Shea.

Further information was taken from Arlene H. Rinaldi’s The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette .