Most people are familiar with the term etiquette and what it carries. From a young age, we are taught to behave properly and have good manners. Now, with many parts of our lives moving online, including even education, a need has arisen for a set of specific online etiquette guidelines that apply to cyber behavior.
Netiquette guidelines are a set of rules that dictate what tasteful and respectful online behavior is. How to speak respectfully without taking part in disrespect or bullying is among the main reasons why we need these rules.
These rules tend to change over time due to the changing nature of the online space. For online students, all of the communication takes place online which is why these rules are especially important to them. Here are a few ground netiquette rules for online classes that students should be aware of.
1. Be Careful With Your Tone
While an online conversation with friends doesn’t necessarily require much thought, the same doesn’t go for when you are having a conversation with professors. You should be careful with capitalization, as writing in ALL-CAPS can oftentimes be interpreted as YELLING! and will be viewed as impolite. Similarly, a joke can oftentimes be perceived as a rude remark. This is why you have to make sure that your point doesn’t get lost in translation.
Apart from texting, it is also advisable to be aware of your tone in online classes that use audio or video forms. However, this is where the rules of general etiquette apply more. For instance, not talking over someone, listening carefully, actively participating in class, etc.
2. Be Accurate and Factual
The internet is a vast place with information coming from all sorts of sources. This is why you should be careful when providing information. It’s important to fact-check everything you read and possibly include sources when giving advice or information.
When getting your degree online, you should be careful to include credible sources in all your papers and when you help your classmates by providing information on a subject. Likewise, you should be cautious about what you choose to believe on the internet and what you share with others. For instance, if you’re unsure how to go about it, stick to official sites that are known for credibility.
3. Search First, Then Ask
If you get stuck with a question on a certain assignment, it’s better to search for it before you ask your classmates or the professor. It’s possible that you might find your answer fast, and there will be no need to include third parties.
The same goes for questions regarding class structure. You may find your answers in the syllabus or the university website. Of course, if you fail to find your answer after some time spent searching, you should turn to your professors or peers for help.
4. Don’t Use Sarcasm Freely
While in-person, we communicate with the help of facial expressions and gestures. Conveying the same message online can prove more challenging. This is especially true when it comes to sarcastic humor, as it usually isn’t possible to transmit the tone of voice when using text.
A light-hearted joke can be viewed differently in text. You will need to be careful about making the intent behind your words as clear as possible, which is why sarcasm is off-limits most times.
5. Be as Polite as You Are In Person
Being polite on the internet should be as common as in real life. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many situations. A significant number of people tend to use the internet as a cover and their display as a shield, which leads to them writing what they would never say in public.
A key part of the netiquette is only typing what you would be comfortable with saying to someone’s face. Hence being respectful and polite to others should be part of your communications online.
6. Use Proper Grammar and Punctuation
Many people tend to forget the rules that apply to writing when communicating online. However, resorting to proper grammar and punctuation can make the message seem more professional and thought out. Not only does it make your text more readable, but it can also prepare you for professional writing that you might do in the future.
Think about what you would like to read yourself. It should be easy to read and comprehensible. That way, you will save precious time for someone reading your email, message, comment, or post.
7. Stay on Topic
When there is a discussion happening, it’s crucial that everyone stays on topic. It’s easy to stray off the initial conversation, especially when there are many people participating in it. Filling the conversation with unnecessary information can lose precious time, and make it hard for someone to understand what the discussion is really about.
So, make sure that you understand what the discussion is about and only reply with things relevant to it. This can prove helpful to both you and the others.
8. Remember That Nothing Is Private Online
Online privacy is something you should keep in mind when typing anything. Most things you post and share are probably going to be there for a long time. This means that you should stay away from anything considered inappropriate and rude.
Remember that we live in a day and age where many things take place online, and building an online presence is just as important as the real-life one. That being said, there is no ‘real privacy’ on the internet, and you should handle what you share wisely.
9. Make Clear and Brief Points
Unlike face-to-face interactions, taking too long to get to a point can result in the message getting lost in text. Hence it best to use short and clear sentences when trying to explain something. It gets the point across more effectively and leaves less room for misunderstandings.
Don’t let your point get lost in translation by typing too many unnecessary words. However, make sure that all the information you want to present is still there.
10. Respect People’s Privacy
Treat others’ privacy the same way you would want some to handle your private information. You shouldn’t give the personal information of your classmates and professors online to anyone.
This means being careful with passwords, whereabouts, private conversations, and pictures. The same goes for both yours and others’ information, as it can be dangerous to distribute any of it without caution.
11. Use Your Professors’ Proper Titles
Although using the proper title for your professor should be understood, many people tend to forget it once classes are online. As a result, a certain amount of formality is a vital part of netiquette guidelines for students. Unless, the professor states otherwise, you should always refer to them professionally.
Apart from using their proper title, you should always be careful to be respectful towards them in all forms of online communication. You should act the same as you would in a traditional classroom.
12. Respect Others’ Opinions
You should be aware that you’re not always going to agree with the opinions of your classmates or professors. However, keep in mind that you should always be respectful in discussions. You can disagree with someone and respect their opinions at the same time.
Although online learning carries a level of anonymity and distance which traditional classes don’t, that shouldn’t serve as a reason to not be kind to someone. Remember that an online classroom is still a classroom.
13. Don’t Overuse the Chat Box
Many online classes come with chat boxes to help students communicate. They serve as a way of letting students communicate with each other and ask questions related to what they are learning. However, if not used carefully they can turn into a distraction box.
You should know to only use the chatbox when your text is going to be relevant to the topic you’re discussing in class. It’s not advisable to use it as a tool for chatting with fellow students about irrelevant matters.
14. Submit Assignments Carefully
Being mindful of how to submit online assignments to professors should be something every student knows how to do. Since there is no face-to-face interaction, if you fail to put your name on it or mess up the subject line, your assignment can easily be lost in a pile of emails.
Another thing to be careful with when submitting assignments online is attachments. You shouldn’t attach files for which you are not sure if the other person will be able to open. Additionally, you should follow specific instructions your professor gives about assignments.
The online community has its own set of rules that are referred to as the netiquette. There are many things that online students should keep in mind, such as tone of voice, accuracy, proper grammar, privacy, etc. Being familiar with the unwritten rules of the internet and guidelines for interacting online can prove helpful with any online communication you have. For the most part, you should remember to be respectful and fact check your information.