A key distinguishing feature of an online course 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 consideration both when contributing messages to a discussion and when reading them. Keep in mind the following points:
- Respect others and their opinions. In online learning students from various backgrounds come together to learn. It is important to respect their feelings and opinions though they may differ from your own.
- Consider others’ privacy. Ask for permission if you want to forward someone’s email messages to third parties. Keep in mind that all private email mail is considered copyrighted by the original author.
- Pick the right tone. Since we depend on the written word in online learning, it is especially important to choose the right words to get your meaning across. For example, sarcasm is harder to detect when you read the words rather than hearing them.
- Avoid inappropriate material. Distribution of pornographic material will result in disciplinary action.
- Be forgiving. If someone states something that you find offensive, mention this directly to the instructor. Remember that the person contributing to the discussion might be new to this form of communication. What you find offensive may quite possibly have been unintended and can best be cleared up by the instructor.
- Think before you hit the send button. Think carefully about the content of your message before contributing it. Once sent to the group there is no taking it back. Grammar and spelling errors reflect on you and your audience might not be able to decode misspelled words or poorly constructed sentences.
- Brevity is best. Be as concise as possible when contributing to a discussion. Your points might me missed if hidden in a flood of text.
- Stick to the point. Contributions to a discussion should stick to the subject. Don’t waste others’ time by going off on irrelevant tangents.
- Do not type in all caps. Typing in caps is considered shouting or screaming online. Various studies on the topic reflect that it is more difficult and takes longer to read text that is typed in all caps.
- Frivolous email. Don’t forward jokes, “chain letter’s” or unimportant email to other students without their permission. Not only does it fill up their mailboxes but may offend people who do not share the same sense of humor or who are tired of these types of email.