Online Etiquette

Just as Class Policies and Expectations ensure an understanding as to what is expected in the classroom (online or not) it is also important to be explicit about issues regarding privacy and respect (particularly in an online classroom).


Considering the content of many of the Social Science classes, it is expected that some students may describe situations, events in their lives, etc. that are germane to the content of the class but should be considered private. If a student, or faculty, describes anything it is expected that ALL students and faculty will consider this communication private (excepting under circumstances where the safety or well being of the student, faculty, or others may be in question).

Keep in mind that "privacy" is not the same as "confidential". Administrative members of the college community do have the right to see course content including discussion board postings within the online class. Although these communications are considered private they are "public" to the classroom. Students should be mindful that all content they post to discussion boards is "public" to all the students in the classroom, the faculty member, the Chair of the Social Science Department, and to various administrators. Granted, looking at postings within a classroom is on an as-needed basis so it is rare, but do understand that it does happen.


All of us are learners at various places along the path to knowledge. Some have strong opinions and some are indecisive about their opinions on subjects. Still others may just be beginning to find their voice and struggle with connecting what they are learning with what they already know with what they are saying.

It is vital that all communication be respectful and free of ridicule, condescending comments, or any other disrespectful communication. Failure to comply with this mandate can result in disciplinary action.

Your language should also be appropriate for the setting. This is not a night club nor is it an online chat room. Language use must be professional, grammatical, spelled correctly and direct. There is a lot of room for misunderstanding in the online world so it is very important to be clear in your writing. Without the aid of tone of voice and other cues as to what a speaker may be saying the "listener" (or in this case, the reader) is left to their imagination.

That said it is important that readers do not jump to conclusions about what others have said. If something bothers you or confuses you about what someone has written, write to them and not ASSUME that you understand what they are actually saying.

This is a new set of skills to patient with one another.

How to Behave Online

Taking an online course and corresponding via the World Wide Web presents communicators with the task of overcoming the lack of nonverbals (body, posture, tone-of-voice, facial expressions) in communication. When taking a course online, it is important to remember several points of etiquette that will smooth communication between the students and their instructors.

1. Avoid language that may come across as strong or offensive.
Language can be easily misinterpreted in written communication. If a point must be stressed, review the statement to make sure that an outsider reading it would not be offended, then post the statement. Humor and sarcasm may easily be misinterpreted as well, so try to be as matter-of-fact and professional as possible.

2. Keep writing to a point and stay on topic.
Online courses require a lot of reading. When writing, keep sentences poignant and brief so that readers do not get lost in wordy paragraphs and miss the point of the statement. Also, do not introduce new topics; it may just confuse the readers.

3. Read first, write later.
It is important to read all posts or comments of students and instructors within the course discussion before personally commenting to prevent repeating commentary or asking questions that have already been answered.

4. Review, review, then send.
There’s no taking back a comment that has already been sent, so it is important to double-check all writing to make sure that it clearly conveys the exact intended message.

5. An online classroom is still a classroom.
Though the courses may be online, appropriate classroom behavior is still mandatory. Respect for fellow classmates and the instructors is as important as ever.

6. The language of the Internet.
Though still a fairly young type of communication, certain aspects of this form of communication are becoming conventional. For example, do not write using all capital letters, because it will appear as shouting. Also, the use of emoticons can be helpful when used to convey nonverbal feelings (example: :-) or :-( ), but avoid overusing them.

7. Consider the privacy of others'.
Ask permission prior to giving out a classmate's email address or other information.

8. If possible, keep attachments small.
If it is necessary to send pictures, change the size to an acceptable 100k.

9. No inappropriate material.
Do not forward virus warnings, chain letters, jokes, etc. to classmates or instructors. The sharing of pornographic material is forbidden.