Online participation guidelines
General politeness, characteristics of online discussions and hints for new users.
For many of you this will be your first experience of participating in tutorials and discussion groups using the Internet. To help you successfully use this new approach, here are some general guidelines—also known as "netiquette"—for participating in an online discussion group. Your tutor will also tell you about any other rules specifically relating to the way your sessions are conducted.
A computer-based discussion is similar to a normal face-to-face discussion session—it's a personal exchange of information. So it's important to observe the everyday courtesies you would employ in normal conversation. You should:
- be polite and avoid the use of bad language
- respect other's point of view
- be aware of cultural differences, and
- be careful with humour and sarcasm.
Characteristics of online discussions
In an online rather than a face-to-face discussion, you will notice some differences in interactions with your fellow students, and in the way you contribute to the discussion. If you are not taking part in a virtual classroom session, the discussion is usually conducted "asynchronously", that is, over an extended time—one or two days, a week or a semester. This allows participants either to respond immediately to discussion points or to take some extra time to give a more considered response.
Ideas and impressions are transmitted by text, so you will not have the advantage of body language to help you interpret meaning. Be careful to clearly convey your message and be aware that your classmates' views may change in the course of the discussion. Try not to be judgmental, and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Hints for new users
- Make a regular commitment to log on and check your messages and any discussions you're involved in, so that you can remain in touch with the group.
- Only use capital letters for specific purposes such as headings. Capitalised text can seem like SHOUTING.
- Read all the contributions before you reply. It can be annoying if the same ideas are repeated once the discussion has moved on to other topics.
- Re-read your message before you send it. If you inadvertently send the wrong message, you will need to the system administrator to have it erased.
- As a general rule, try to keep your messages reasonably short.
- When contributing to the discussion, try to move the conversation forward rather than making statements that could kill the conversation.
- The rules of copyright and plagiarism apply to electronic discussion groups just as they do elsewhere. If you use someone else's ideas, cite them appropriately.