Communicating Online: Netiquette

Communicating OnlineNetiquette is all about the code of behavior established for communicating online. The rules for netiquette will vary, depending on the context (formal/informal); the people (known/unknown to each other) and the activity. A couple of questions will help set the context for the “rules” to follow.

Why do we want to communicate online?

Basically, online interaction (in the context of a course) is there to encourage:

  • Social interaction
  • Relationship/community building
  • A certain amount of trust between participants

What do we want to achieve?

There are a variety of reasons why online communication is important in the context of a course. Some of these reasons will be important to you, some to your instructor and hopefully a few to both.

Online communication can help you:

  • Collaborate on a project
  • Share information/ideas
  • Connect (socially) with other learners
  • Create a community of learning
  • Provide encouragement
  • Offer feedback
  • Show appreciation
  • Make sense of content

Here are some “rules” or guidelines to consider when communicating online. These have been adapted from the Core Rules of Netiquette by Virginia Shea.

Know Your Context

  • Introduce yourself
  • Remember that culture influences communication style and practices. Stay open and ask questions – avoid assumptions.
  • Instructors will usually set the tone and provide guidance/guidelines.
  • Familarize yourself with policies on Appropriate Use of Technology

Remember the Human

  • We all come with personalities. Remember there is a person behind the words. Ask for clarification before making judgement.
  • Check your tone before you publish.
  • Respond to people using their names.
  • Again, culture and even gender can play a part in how people communicate.
  • Remain authentic and respect the same of others.
  • People participate in different ways – some just by reading the communication rather than jumping into it.
  • Avoid jokes and sarcasm- they often don’t translate well to the online environment

Text has Permanence

  • What you say online is difficult to retract later – once in print. Be judicious.
  • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the learning environment.
  • If you are working collaboratively – agree on ground rules for text communication (formal or informal; seek clarification whenever needed, etc)

Flaming: Research Before You React

  • Accept and forgive mistakes.
  • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the learning environment.
  • Seek clarification before reacting.
  • Ask your instructor for guidance *

Respect Privacy and Original Ideas

  • Always quote if you are responding to a specific point made by someone else.
  • Ask the author of an email before forwarding it.

* Sometimes, online behavior can appear so disrespectful and even hostile that it requires attention and follow up. In this case, let your instructor know right away so that the right resources can be called upon to help.

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