Carleton University is committed to providing a living and learning environment that promotes student success inside and outside of the classroom. The Office of Student Affairs would like to remind all students that Carleton’s conduct policies and students’ rights and responsibilities also apply to online communication. We are committed to ensuring a respectful and engaging online community.

Appropriate Online Behaviour in Discussion Forums

Online discussion groups are most commonly used to develop critical thinking skills, foster innovation, and facilitate learning. To realize those benefits, everyone in the group must feel respected and safe.

  • Think before you post: Would you say this to someone if you were having this conversation face to face? How would you react if someone else posted this comment? Commenting online can give a false sense of security. If you wouldn’t say it in person, it’s best to reword, and rethink your comment.
  • Check your tone of voice: Read your comment out loud and be mindful of how it may sound to others who are reading it. If possible, get someone else to read it before you post it to ensure it comes across how you mean it to.
  • Stay on topic: Stick to the discussion topic and avoid going off on tangents.
  • Be mindful that others may have a difference of opinion: If you disagree with something that was posted, remember to be respectful in your reply. Think in terms of “my opinion vs. the issue,” and not “me vs them;” in other words, focus on the idea(s), not the person communicating the idea.

Other Useful Tips for Practicing Good Netiquette

  • Write in full sentences and avoid using slang that other students may not understand.
  • Avoid writing in all caps as it is often interpreted as yelling and may cause conflict.
  • If you’re planning on using emojis in your comments, stick to simple smiley faces and be sure to explain what you mean in words so that everybody understands.
  • Avoid using sarcasm in an online setting as it can easily be misinterpreted.
  • Be mindful that professors and students may be in different time zones, and that it may impact the length of time needed to respond to comments and questions.
  • Remember that everything you do online leaves a permanent record. In chats and discussion forums and synchronous sessions, don’t do/say anything you wouldn’t be comfortable saying/doing in front of your grandparents/parents and/or other family members.

Live-Stream Lecture Etiquette

  • Make sure you are in a quiet space for the live class, so that you and others can listen without being distracted by background noises.
  • Mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking to the class, so that others aren’t distracted by outside noises.
  • If comfortable, consider turning on your webcam for face-to-face interactions: so much of communication is seeing and responding to people’s faces.
  • Ensure that you don’t have any posters, drawings, or writing in the background of your screen that could be offensive to others.
  • If you are using a platform where you are asked to create a username, it is good practice to use your preferred name or the name you would use in a professional setting. Do not create a username that might be considered offensive.
  • For synchronous sessions, follow whatever ‘terms of engagement’ your instructor sets: some instructors will want you to use the chat feature to indicate that you want to get involved; others will use the hand raising feature, or ask you to raise your hand with your webcam on. Whatever process your instructor uses, follow it. It can be really disruptive and confusing for a moderator to have a participant free-for-all on this issue.
  • Lastly, behave as you would if you were taking the class on campus.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any online behaviour that is cruel, inappropriate or threatening. It includes any behaviour that is harassing or abusive. Carleton does not tolerate any form of racism, sexism, harassment or trolling behaviour that may take place electronically, on campus or surrounding areas. Note that the disruption of classroom activities can have serious consequences (see Academic Integrity Policy, Item 8, p. 7).

Remember: your online conduct applies to all platforms, not just ones controlled by Carleton. Be mindful of what you are posting on all platforms and social media.

What should I do if something online has upset me?

If you see something online that has offended or upset you, remember the three Rs:

  1. Reach out: Reach out to the person directly in a separate chat and respectfully explain why their comment offended you. Reaching out directly gives them a chance to explain what they mean and gives you both a chance to come to an understanding.
  2. Report: Report the incident to the moderator, or professor. Alternatively, you can report the comment using the software’s built-in reporting tools.
  3. Remove: Remove that person from your online network.


If you have any questions or concerns about online conduct, please contact the Manager of Student Conduct and Harm Reduction, Dillon Brady, at

Further Reading

Online Discussion Forum Tips for Students