Digital Etiquette (netiquette) – Discussion Boards

As a follow up to my previous post Making discussion boards work, I have put together some guidance aimed at students that covers netiquette in relation to using discussion boards in a educational setting. These guidelines will be re-purposed into a student guide about Digital Citizenship with further topics such as email and use of virtual classrooms.

Three women and one man dressed in business attire holding up giant speech bubbles.

The vast majority of online interactions are in written form. Your comfort level with expressing ideas and feelings in writing should not only be thought of as a study skill but also a general life skill.

Discussion boards

  • Before posting a thread to a discussion board, check to see if there are already discussions regarding the topic. If it is a question then it might already have been answered. If you are posting about a topic or posting a link for instance, it is normally better to join a conversation that is already happening, than start a new one about the same thing.
  • When you start a thread make sure that your thread title is representative and descriptive of the content of your post.
  • Generally you should aim for brevity keeping your contributions brief and to the point. The aim in most instances will be to take part in a conversation, not to give a speech.
  • Please self-edit before you post. Thoroughly read your posts before you submit and don’t post in a hurry. This includes checking your spelling, punctuation and grammar. One of the advantages of communicating asynchronously is being able to craft a considered response.
  • Stay on topic. Don’t post irrelevant links, comments, thoughts or pictures.
  • Asynchronous communication generally lacks tone of voice and body language, so it’s normally best to avoid sarcasm when posting. Many online forums use the convention “/s” to represent “end of sarcasm” however this is not widely understood outside of internet culture and can be easily misunderstood.
  • Do not use internet slang, abbreviations or text speak such as LOL, TBH, or AFAIK. Not only do many people not understand them, it is unprofessional and can suggests a lack of maturity in your writing.
  • When responding to others constructively criticise the idea, not the person.
  • Acknowledgement of valid points in someone else’s point of view, whilst disagreeing with other points can indicate that you are approaching the conversation with an open mind but respectively disagreeing. In the interest of healthy discourse ensure that you remain civil and polite.
  • If you reply to a question ensure your response is accurate. If you aren’t sure either make that clear in your response or don’t respond at all.
  • If your response is referring to an earlier post in the thread, use the quote feature. Quoting the lines that you are responding to, gives your the post context. It means readers won’t have to scroll up the page trying to work out which post you’re referring to.
  • If you are responding to an earlier post, check what has come after it. The conversation may have moved on by that point and going over old ground normally doesn’t add to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Remember that the other learners will vary in experience and that you are all trying to learn together, this isn’t a competition.
  • Explain any acronyms you use and avoid jargon if inappropriate for the audience.
  • Use the language of the discipline that you are studying. Discussion boards are a great chance for you to practice using the language of professionals in your field.
  • Be careful with your use of capital letters. Posting a message in capital letters will come across to readers as shouting.
  • Ultimately be respectful of others and treat them as you would expect to be treated yourself.

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