Online Discussion Etiquette Guide

Online communications guide for students.

One of the most commonly used tools for online and hybrid courses is an online discussion board. If you’re not used to online course discussions, there are some common pitfalls you can fall into. Here are some things to remember to get the best grade and get the most benefit from the discussion. They are also apply to other forms of online communications. 

  1. Be careful of tone. In an Internet discussion or online communications, you can’t rely on facial expressions and tone of voice to convey what you mean. It’s easy to be misunderstood. Avoid sarcasm, offensive topics, and humor in your posts or messages, as these can be misinterpreted and cause offense.
  2. Read first. Read the earlier posts in a discussion thread before responding to avoid jumping in the middle of discussion.
  3. Proofread. Before you hit post, submit or send, read your message aloud to check for clarity and catch any errors. Many discussion boards won’t allow you to edit what you write after you post it, so be sure to catch any mistakes beforehand.
  4. Keep if brief. It’s easy for other users to feel overwhelmed by the length of posts to read. Use enough words to make your point, but focus on quality over quantity.
  5. Use academic language. Don’t use net-speak abbreviations (“u” for “you”), emoticons, or acronyms. Use standard spelling and grammar.
  6. Be substantive. Don’t just post “I agree” or “me too.” These type of posts only take up space and don’t contribute to the discussion. Be sure to say something on the topic.
  7. Keep it civil. Debate ideas, but don’t attack people, and remember to be respectful. If someone posts something inappropriate, don’t call them out. Alert the instructor, who can take care of any problems.
  8. Use citation. If using others’ ideas or quotes, cite your references just as you would in an academic paper.

Learn more by checking out these resources on online etiquette: Online Course Etiquette, Online Learning Etiquette, Discussion Board Etiquette