1. Online Teaching and Discussion Tips
    1. Setting Expectations for the Online Classroom
    2. Discussion Forum Etiquette
    3. Sample Syllabus Language for Discussion Forums 
    4. Carleton Support Available Regarding Online Behaviour 
    5. Further Reading

Online Teaching and Discussion Tips

Carleton University is committed to providing a living and learning environment that promotes student success inside and outside of the classroom. We are committed to ensuring a respectful and engaging online community. 

As a Carleton University leader, you have the power to shape environments, both online and in the classroom. The Office of Student Affairs has put together some tips for guiding online discussion and how to mediate conflict. 

Setting Expectations for the Online Classroom

  • Be honest and open with students at the beginning of the semester about how the course will run, the best way to contact you and TAs, and what is to be expected from them and from you.  
  • Have an early ice-breaker session for students to brainstorm acceptable behaviours and create a set of expectations as a learning community. Tip: You may wish to discuss expectations in more than one class. 
  • Clearly state the best way to reach you with questions about midterms, exam and assignments to avoid any confusion. Tip: FAQ discussion forum can be an efficient way to answer students questions, so that the whole cohort can benefit. 
  • Be mindful that some students may be in different time zones. Have assignments and tests planned ahead of time, so students have time to plan their schedules. Tip: Survey your students early in the semester to identify issues or make clear to contact you if issues arise. 
  • Consider directing your students to our Netiquette for Student webpage

Discussion Forum Etiquette

  • Discussion forums work best when the instructors (not the TA) are heavily involved in the conversation, as it drives engagement from the students. Tip: Model appropriate behaviour and be upfront about what is professional conduct. 
  • When facilitating discussions, be sure to ask students to provide sources to back up any opinions they may have.  
  • Provide feedback about ongoing discussions and steer them in the right direction if the conversation is getting off track. Tip: Use a simple rubric for class participation (if scored) to clearly articulate the properties of ‘good’ contributions to class debates. 
  • If you do witness conflict, listen to both sides of the story and work with the students towards a resolution. Tip: To prevent escalation of issues, use an ‘expectations setting’ activity during the first class to encourage students to reflect on this, and to work together with the instructor to write out some basic expectations.  

Sample Syllabus Language for Discussion Forums 

“Professionalism is key to any learning environment, but it is crucial in an online environment since our main communication will be written. In your posts, do not write as if you were texting or instant messaging, and avoid slang, colloquialisms, and informal acronyms (e.g. “imo” for “in my opinion”). Write in complete sentences and observe English spelling, grammar, and syntax rules. 

Be aware not only that your written communication does not carry with it your tone and body language, but also that everyone you interact with has had different life experiences. Use your words carefully and observe proper online etiquette (or “netiquette,” if you prefer). When in doubt, ask yourself the following questions: “Could my comment be misinterpreted as degrading, insulting, rude, etc.? How would feel if such a comment were directed towards me? Is this something would say to a classmate face-to-face? [Note: Carleton University has a zero-tolerance policy for threatening and aggressive behaviour in the classroom; discrimination; and harassment, sexual or otherwise, both in and out of the university setting. Disruption of classroom activities can have serious consequences, see Academic Integrity Policy, Item 8, p. 5]” 

Carleton Support Available Regarding Online Behaviour 

  • If you are concerned for a student’s mental health and wellbeing, please direct them to Carleton’s wellness page for mental health resources.  
  • If you have concerns about a student who may be struggling with academic, financial, behavioural or mental health challenges, please fill out a care report.  
  • For more tips on addressing and mediating conflict, visit Empower Me (Password: Studentcare)  
  • The University’s Department of Equity and Inclusive Communities (EIC) fosters the development of an inclusive and transformational university culture, and can be contacted for support and advice.  

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like extra support for a student conflict, please contact the Manager of Student Conduct and Harm Reduction, Dillon Brady, at DillonBrady@cunet.carleton.ca.   

Further Reading

Bowles, K. (2020), “Some Safety Considerations for Online Community Building,” OneHE

Carleton Online (2020), “Netiquette: Expectations of Student Behaviour Online

Northwestern University (2020), “Guidelines for Recording Remote Class Content

Rigg, S. A. & K. E. Linder (2016), “Actively Engaging Students in Asynchronous Online Classes,” IDEA Paper no. 64

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