Top 5 Etiquette Rules for Online Students

Online education enrollment numbers have been on the rise in recent years. Over 1 million more students enrolled in online college courses during the year 2009 than the year 2008, which has mostly been attributed to the current United States economic situation.

As online college enrollment statistics increase and our world increasingly turns to and engages in online, especially social media, communication, the rules of etiquette must change as well. This change becomes important when interacting on a professional level, as the rules are different between friendships and professional relationships.

Online College Etiquette

Let’s explore together some ideas for how to conduct yourself online, even if your only online education experience is posting responses to Blackboard posts. We’ll do so by looking at the most common “netiquette” faux-pas (French for “do-nots”), by focusing on the positive “a-faire” (to-do) ideas.

Rule #1: Respect other participants

Online interaction and in-person conversation both affect us personally. In online communication, it is easy to be misinterpreted and to come across to your fellow students in a way that you would not in person. Therefore we recommend that online students:

  • Be careful of informal tone
  • Avoid public ridicule of others
  • Allow others a voice
  • Only say online what you would also say in person

Rule #2: Write What You Mean

Because online interaction removes facial expressions and voice inflection, words and statements that would be understood as sarcastic or joking in person can be misconstrued as offensive and mean-spirited online. Try to avoid using sarcasm online by saying directly what you mean, which is also a good lesson to learn for all communication in life. If you must use sarcasm, or if the situation calls for it, try to use an emoticon (like a wink 😉 or a funny tag, such as a joke HTML tag , which means “close sarcasm”.

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Rule #3: Use proper punctuation and formatting

Capital letters online are the equivalent of shouting in person. If you want to build good rapport with other online students, use proper capitalization and correct grammar. Using these two simple tactics will increase your voice online by showing that you are educated, value what others think of you, and that you value professionalism.

Rule #4: Be honest and transparent

The Internet is not anonymous. I repeat, the Internet is not anonymous anymore. This is especially true for online education courses, where you are required to use your real name. If you choose to use real-life examples, make sure that they are real and check out under a bit of scrutiny, because people will check and sometimes ask. If you are not honest and open, people will sense this and will not trust you.

Rule #5: Contribute to the conversation

Whether on Facebook, Twitter, or an online college forum, you should contribute to the conversation with relevant replies that show that you have read, processed, and taken seriously the ideas of others. Replying with useful information will encourage increased participation by others, and you will also gain the reputation as someone who cares about others and the ideas that are important to the entire group.

Do you have other tips for online students and their online etiquette? Share them with us in the Comments section.

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