Students are generally aware of the ground rules in a traditional, face-to-face classroom environment, but there is an additional code of conduct they should be aware of when interacting with others in an online environment: netiquette. Netiquette is the practical code of behaviour for working virtually on the internet.

The following are some general netiquette guidelines that you can include in your course syllabus to serve as a ‘code of conduct’ for the online elements of your course:

  • Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life and in a real classroom.
  • Know where you are in cyberspace, and understand that many people will view what you type.
  • Respect other people’s time and bandwidth – so contribute valuable comments rather than “noise.”
  • Express yourself clearly online and respect the views of others.
  • Share expert knowledge rather than “keeping it to yourself.” And share this knowledge with respect rather than using it to put others down.
  • Do not start “flame wars” (emotionally-charged opinions) and work to douse flaming whenever you see it.
  • Respect other people’s privacy by not sharing or spreading inappropriate information. If someone posts information that you think may have been posted accidentally, let them know about it privately.
  • Do not worry too much about typing errors and spelling, as long as you can be understood. But be sure to spend time reviewing your messages before posting to be sure that they are written clearly.
  • Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes, and cheerfully acknowledge your own mistakes if you make them. Do not correct insignificant problems in front of the entire class.
  • Use proper and respectful language and refrain from any off-colour jokes, insults, or threats.
  • Challenge ideas rather than the students who offer the ideas. When you challenge an idea, do so respectfully and with the goal of increasing everyone’s knowledge.
  • Remember that your colleagues cannot see you wink or smile when you type. You may want to use “emoticons” (emotion icons) to indicate your feelings, such as the ubiquitous smiley face :) or frowning face :( Only use those emoticons that will be understood by others, or explain its meaning when you first use it.

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