Netiquette Guidelines Online Students Need to Know

by Dr. Marlon J Gomez, Dean of Students

Netiquette (net + etiquette) is a code of good behavior one must adhere to while on the internet. We all grew up with our parents always telling us to mind our manners. The digital age, and now social media have unwritten online “rules” that most people find mysterious or obscure. This leads to poor behavior online.  As most schools, like Trinity, created virtual online spaces to address the needs of its students, it is imperative that good behavior in these virtual spaces is maintained.

Learning, after all, is a social activity, whether it is done face to face or virtually,   students and teachers still need a “social presence”. It is the ability to identify with a community, communicate purposely in an environment that is respectful where collaboration and diversity are celebrated (Lithgow, 2011).  Understanding and adhering to these rule will help the teaching and learning process become more engaging and enjoyable.

On Discussion forums and Chat box

Discussion forums and chat boxes are included in most online classes as a venue for students and their teachers to exchange ideas and ask questions related to the lesson. Dealing with other people online comes with a level of insensitivity because of the physical distance between the two. In the implementation of our Flexible learning in Trinity, online courses in our Learning Management System employ discussion forums and chat boxes. The suggested rules are as follows:

  1. Make it a point in your comments, to be polite and respectful. Typing in all CAPS does not help. No name-calling. Say “please” and “thank you” when asking for help from others.
  2. Avoid sarcasm, even as a joke, the use of sarcasm has been the go to method for argumentation online. It, however, does not add to the value of the academic discourse. Do not forget that the online classroom is still a classroom, what makes it worst is that it becomes a digital record and stay on the internet forever.
  3. Respect other people’s opinion. A differing opinion does not make it wrong. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
  4. Practice using correct grammar – Make an effort to use proper grammar, spelling and even punctuation marks. Even abbreviated expression must also be avoided. Be mindful of your other classmates who do not share the same cultural context used in communicating the same.
  5. Always be on topic – Treat it as a tool for learning and not as a distraction to the class, Be sure to post question or post topics that are relevant to the discussions and lesson topic. Off topic discussions snowball into unproductive argumentation if not managed. Do not post irrelevant links.
  6. Check the most recent comments first before responding to an older comment. It may be counterproductive when you respond to older messages deemed obsolete or irrelevant already by recent comments.
  7. Be brief in your response. It is unlikely that people will read a long winding response against a simple and concise answer.
  8. Read First. Before presenting your question on the discussion forum, check in the event that anybody has asked it already and got an answer.
  9. If you post a question, ensure that those who respond to it will receive a feedback from you. If many respond to it, provide a summary or synthesis of the responses.
  10. If you will build or refer on your classmate’s response, be sure to quote a few lines first so that readers will have a better perspective on your response.

In summary, these guidelines, if practiced, will make the online discussions very rewarding and enlightening. Remember that learning is not a spectator sport, it is a shared responsibility between students and their teacher and among themselves.