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Strategies: Netiquette

Darren Sudlow —

Netiquette is the term used to refer to etiquette, or rules of acceptable behavior, on the Internet.

When preparing students to learn, teachers in regular classrooms frequently communicate expectations such as rules for the classroom, how and when assignments are to be completed and turned in, and appropriate ways of interacting, such as raising your hand to talk. Online teachers also have to
establish the cultures of their online classrooms. One of the keys to creating the desired learning environment is to use online tools in ways that foster your unique classroom culture and climate. 

Netiquette is the term used to refer to etiquette, or rules of acceptable behavior, on the Internet. The practice of netiquette should extend to email, chat, and discussion boards and even into the synchronous environment. As an online teacher, you should educate yourself and your students about using good manners on the Internet.

One of benefits of using the Internet for learning is being able to use social and peer-based interactions to promote powerful and deep learning. Teens, especially, can crave interaction with their peers. Online teachers can draw on this natural desire and tendency by providing a classroom climate, expectations,and norms that allow learners to interact and collaborate in positive ways while simultaneously supporting their learning (Dawley, 2007).

The key elements of netiquette are similar to the behaviors you would expect in any well-managed classroom. Virginia Shea (1994), author of the classic book Netiquette, outlined 10 easy-to-remember rules for online communications that are still applicable today (pp. 32–45 ):

  1. Remember the human. Never forget that your email, discussion post, or feedback is being read by someone who has feelings and that those feelings can get hurt. Never post anything online that you would not say to someone’s face.
  2. Follow the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life . Put simply, be ethical and do not break the law. Two examples for consideration are laws about privacy and copyright.
  3. Know where you are in cyberspace. Netiquette varies from domain to domain. For example, the use of Internet lingo or acronyms in an online game may be unacceptable in an instructional discussion forum. If you are unsure, spend some time “lurking” in a particular domain to get a better understanding of acceptable behaviors.
  4. Respect other people’s time and bandwidth. The Internet does not revolve around you. You may be operating in emergency mode, but do not expect others to feel the same way or to respond immediately to your requests. The same general guideline also applies to discussion forums and other activities in online classrooms. There is life outside the classroom, and you shouldrespect the boundaries of participants. Be reasonable in your expectations of timeliness, in your approach to copying others on communications, and in how you provide attachments.
  5. Make yourself look good online. You will be judged by your writing, so make sure you write well. Know what you are talking about and make sense when doing so. Also, be pleasant and polite, and do not use offensive language.
  6. Share expert knowledge. The participatory Web is an amazing place, because everyone gets to have a say in something. Share what you know with others.
  7. Help diffuse highly charged emotional situations that may include derogatory comments ( flaming ). Netiquette forbids the perpetuation of flame wars. Remember that capitalizing every letter in a word constitutes shouting and so should be avoided.
  8. Respect other people’s privacy. Private communications should remain private. Today, this applies to texts on mobile devices, as well as email communications and private chat discussions.
  9. Do not abuse your power. Some people are experts at using various technologies or hold positions of power (e.g., technical support personnel, IT administrators). Do not take advantage of others who are not as well versed in these areas.
  10. Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes. Be kind when you see spelling errors, absurd questions, and unnecessarily long answers. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and think twice before calling out errors or responding negatively with feedback. If you do inform someone of a mistake, do it privately.