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Netiquette in Collaborative Online Learning Communities

Netiquette, a shortened form of network/internet etiquette, is a set of rules of courtesy and norms within a collaborative online learning environment.

The following is a netiquette list that participants of online learning communities should keep in mind when contributing to the forums and/or sending messages to others.

Participants should:

  • Remember that the whole community will read the messages posted in the forum (conference). This means that participants:
    • Should not say anything that they would not say in public.
    • Should not address comments to specific individuals unless they want everyone to know what they are telling that person.
    • Should not share confidential information.
    • Should not send a message without reviewing it.
  • Make messages short, concise and to the point. If the participant is citing or quoting long pieces of text, it is convenient to attach it, instead of adding to the body of the message. Messages should be one or two screens long.
  • Access and check e-mail accounts and forum regularly, to avoid being behind in the discussion.
  • Use short sentences and simple language.
  • Avoid using upper case, as it is interpreted as shouting.
  • Read all the messages posted since the last time they logged on. This prevents responding to discussions that have become stale or taken another direction, as well as repeating a comment that someone else has already made.
  • Note that in text-based communication smiles and frowns are not shown; this means that humor and sarcasm can be misunderstood. To avoid this, participants should be careful and employ good word choices so the meaning will not be misinterpreted. They can also use smiley faces at the end of the ‘non-serious’ sentences.
  • Use complete sentences, no abbreviations, and check for typos before sending the message.
  • Avoid correcting other participants.
  • Identify themselves in all messages.
  • Use a meaningful title line in the message. This will help readers to have a clear idea of the content of the message.
  • Avoid insulting or assaulting messages (also called flames). It is important to focus on the content and not on the person who wrote it.
  • Respect the opinions and ideas of others. Remember that online courses probably have people from different places around the world that have diverse points of view and culture. Respect diversity.
  • Be careful not to get too personal too fast. Online learning environments can quickly get the warmth and friendship feeling, and people tell their life story to someone that they barely know.
  • Ask for permission if they want to forward messages written by other participants.
  • Keep in mind compatibility problems when transferring files to others. If computer systems are not compatible, the attachments will not be able to be opened.
  • Before sending an attachment, make sure it is virus free.
  • Follow the guidelines and rules of their own learning community.
  • Be aware of copyright materials. Most articles and resources are under copyright law and participants should ask for permission before using them.

Following the rules of netiquette will create a positive learning environment that can decrease the anxiety generated by participating in an online community.