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Online course etiquette


Time and time again it has been proven that you only get out of an online course what you put in. To fully realize the benefits of your learning experience, don’t sit by passively reading only what other people contribute. Get involved in the class.

Abs O.K. iff evry1 nos thm

Abbreviations are fine, if everyone reading your message speaks the language. Try to limit your shorthand to commonly used abbreviations or standards used in your industry. Saving typing time won’t accomplish anything if people can’t understand what you wrote.

As a matter of fact, spelling and punctuation do matter

Take time to check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Poorly written messages are not only hard to read (and therefore might not be read), but also open the door to misinterpretation. Take time to proofread what you wrote. If you find spelling and grammar difficult, compose your message in a word processing application that has spelling and grammar checking. Then, cut and paste your composition into e-mail or D2L.


Do not “flame” other members of the class. Remember that online exchanges are meant to remain constructive. Treat others as you would want them to treat you.


Using UPPER CASE text in an e-mail or discussion posting is the same as yelling at someone. YELLING is rude and accomplishes nothing constructive when talking face to face. It will accomplish even less online. Your message will simply get trashed.

Save a tree

One of the ideas behind computers is that they can be environmentally friendly, at least to the extent that we don’t need to shuffle as much paper (in theory). Having said that, the intention is only as good as the execution. Statistics indicate that we might as well build computers out of wood for all the trees we are saving. Instead of printing off every message, organize yourself by setting up directories and storing digital copies. Remember to spring-clean every so often to rid yourself of old files.

Discussion Area

Understand what you are doing

Make sure you read the instructions posted in the course. Your instructor may wish you to use a discussion forum for a specific purpose, or establish other guidelines for use. If you are constantly posting to the wrong forum, or are not following the purpose of the discussion, you will start to get on the nerves of the other members of the class. Knowing how the technology works is also critical. Don’t waste everyone’s time. Learn the technology, read the instructions, think before you post. Your contributions may be for marks.

Consider your classmates

Read the profiles posted by your classmates. Understand that you may be participating in class with learners from many countries, cultures, or backgrounds. Not everyone will understand references to TV, movies, pop culture, or current events in your country. If you must use this type of reference, please explain it. Don’t assume that everyone will understand geographical or political references that are local or national.

Stay focused

Keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of the discussion forum and make sure that you are posting to the right forum. If another person posts a comment or question that is off the subject do not reply. A reply will keep the off-subject conversation going.

To simply reply or quote, that is the question

Using the Quote function includes the full body of the original message in your reply to an e-mail or posting. This is not always appropriate. If you do need to reference the original in some way, copy the necessary bits, or quote the original using the Quote function and cut out unnecessary parts. The idea here is to keep the messages as concise as possible. Consider file size and readability issues.


Patience is a virtue

Unlike telephone or a face-to-face conversation, e-mail does not provide instant feedback. Although computer technologies do set us up with higher expectations for response times, it is important to remember that there is a person at the other end of your e-mail. They’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Hey buddy, ya wanna buy…

Formality in communication has a tendency to be lost in the fast-paced virtual world of e-mail. This is fine if you are dropping a note to a friend, but if you are asking for a raise, making a business proposal, or stating your case for a higher mark, try to use the appropriate “voice” when drafting your message. In the case of important correspondence, it is always a good idea to save your draft and come back to it the next day. It is amazing how different a note reads the next day. You may find yourself saying, “I can’t believe I was going to say that!”

Who sent me this thing?

Not all e-mails include your full name. Many company e-mail and ISP e-mail addresses use short forms of names. So, unless Anna-Lee Smith-Robins signs her note, we might not know who is. Many users like to include a signature line or quirky phrase at the end of their notes. The personal touch in e-mail goes a long way towards making sure proper attention is paid to your message.

If you want privacy, lock yourself in a room somewhere

Although most e-mail systems are secured with passwords, don’t assume that everything you write will be viewed only by your intended recipient. This is the digital age and accidents can, and do, happen. Your note may be misdirected, read by someone else in the office, opened by a systems or e-mail administrator, etc. If it needs to be said in private, use the appropriate technology—the phone.

A picture’s worth…???

Generally speaking, the attention span of our society is decreasing. If you want your mail to be read, master the art of economy of words. Use the attachment feature of e-mail to send larger documents, and the e-mail message itself only to introduce the file you are sending or entice the reader to open it.