How do we talk online

We want you to feel at home in your virtual learning environment. Talking to each other in this space is similar to talking in a face-to-face setting, except that we don’t have any visual clues. It may help to read these tips before you take part in online discussions.

  • Be careful with humour and tone in your postings.

  • Emoticons (smileys) can help to lighten the tone, but remember that your course includes a wide range of people from different age groups and cultural backgrounds.

  • Always show respect for others. When you disagree, do so politely and present your reasons. Never resort to insults.

  • Actively participate, and encourage participation from others. This will strengthen your learning.

  • Justify your responses. Don't just say 'Yes' or 'I think so, too' - explain why you agree or disagree.

  • Consider whether your message may be misinterpreted before posting (putting your message on to the forum). Because people can't see you, they can't judge your attitude from your non-verbal behaviour. This makes using humour - especially sarcasm - risky in online communication.

  • Make sure your post has a clear and relevant subject heading.

  • Try to keep your posts brief and to the point. If you must send a longer post, help your readers by using headings and clear paragraphs. (If it is a long post write it up in a text program like Notepad first, then copy it in. Otherwise you may lose it before you post.) Add attachments if you have a lot of information to share.

  • Spell it out - try to avoid acronyms.

  • Pay attention to where you post your message. Is there already a thread (a series of messages - sometimes called a discussion topic) that suits your message? If there is, reply to that thread. If not, you might need to start a new thread, rather than dropping it in anywhere. 'Off topic' posts can confuse or even kill a thread.

  • Do not make comments about your peers’ personalities or abilities.

  • Differences of opinion are an opportunity to learn. Acknowledge what you agree with before disagreeing.

  • Avoid putting words into capital letters – they are the equivalent of shouting.

  • Encourage feedback from others. Ask questions.

  • If you have a relevant web link, post the full address with ‘http:// ’ so that it is seen as a link.

  • Respecting copyright is essential. Always reference.

  • When responding to a posting, remember that the forum is read by all, so reply to the group and not to individuals.

Above all, enjoy these opportunities to share your learning.

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 November 2012, 12:00 PM