Your Blackboard Course

Online Course Etiquette

Whether you’ve taken an online course before or are enrolled in your first one, you’ll soon discover that an online course has a unique culture and etiquette. Unlike popular social media, such as Facebook or Twitter that you may already be using in your daily life, online course etiquette more closely resembles that of a traditional, on-campus course. Here are some guidelines you can follow to help you be successful in your online course.

Interacting with People, not a Computer

In an online course, you may find fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction between you, your instructor, and your classmates. Since most of your interaction will be text-only, you won’t be able to pick up on “cues” such as body language, facial and vocal inflection, or the discussion’s changing pace. This has the potential for people to misunderstand one another’s writing.

Give your writing a respectful “tone,” whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with another person’s posting. When you read e-mail or online discussions, make sure you understand the other person’s message. A confrontational reply to a message you’ve misunderstood can drag a conversation down for everyone. If you don’t understand, ask the writer for clarification with language you’d use in the classroom. Think about how you’d react if someone wrote you the way you’re writing your message. If you think a posting is inappropriate, you should ask your instructor to look into it.

Read Before You Write

Spoken conversations are a continuous process of talking and listening. When you walk up to friends in a conversation, you listen awhile to pick up what’s being talked about before you join in. It’s good etiquette online, too.  Even if it’s a conversation you contributed to previously, new posts by others may have introduced new questions and taken the discussion in new directions.

Read Before You Submit

In general, discussion posts and e-mail should be as concise as possible while still making your message clear. Write a draft and before you click the submit button, read your message aloud, to yourself or to someone else. This can help you find awkward phrasing, correct mis-spelling, or maybe see a clearer way to compose your message.

Avoid language that is humorous, angry, sarcastic, or offensive. Remember that your readers won’t have those cues mentioned above and could misunderstand you. If you feel particularly strongly about a point, it may be best to write your message first as a draft and then review it before posting in order to remove any strong or ambiguous language.

Words are Forever

Once you submit your message, whether in e-mail or as a post to a blog or discussion group, it will be stored on servers “out there” for others to read. You won’t be able to easily take back your words. Even if you intended it to be private, your message may, in fact, be public. A search engine might find it. It can be forwarded to people you never wanted to read it, or copied and posted in a context you didn’t intend. You have no control over the way others might use it once it is public.

You do, however, have control over what you do – or don’t do – with other people’s messages. If someone writes you a private e-mail, respect that privacy.