Good Communication Practices

Attending school online takes classroom correspondence to a whole new level. It’s important to follow the guidelines of proper online etiquette to ensure good communication between you, your classmates and your teachers.

Watch these short videos on netiquette in the classroom:

Netiquette Guidelines for the Online Classroom

Netiquette: Tips for Online College Students   (Transcription can be found here.)

Online Netiquette (Transcription can be found here.)

  • Respect: Whether the class is online or on-site, respect is essential. It allows all involved parties to focus on the objective and prevents distracting disagreements. Be sure to use a polite tone, read before responding and be constructive with your criticism. It’s important to treat all online interactions the same as face-to-face interactions.
  • Use Proper Formatting, Punctuation and Grammar: Though online communication is still new, the same rules of English apply in a classroom setting. Capitalize letters when necessary, use appropriate punctuation and avoid using slang and abbreviations. You’ll not only make your posts easier to read; you’ll demonstrate your professionalism and personal value.
  • Be Honest: Because tone is difficult to convey online, sarcasm or humor can easily be misinterpreted. Though you may be tempted to joke around with your classmates, something written for a laugh may offend others. If you are unsure whether your message will be misconstrued, consider using an emoticon to lighten the tone.
  • Go to Your Teacher First: If you have a disagreement or issue with a fellow classmate, go to your teacher before the situation escalates. It’s best to make your teacher aware of the situation before it affects the classroom dynamics or the way you engage with your peers.
  • Stay on Topic and Keep it Brief: Online classes often require a lot of reading, and when responding, it may be difficult to decide where to start. Focus your comments into short topics to keep the conversation flowing. Avoid being too wordy, and instead say what you need to say without veering off topic.

Although using a more formal tone online might seem unusual at first, by keeping your online conversations respectful and direct, you’ll clear the way for easy communication.

Adapted from University of MarylandFive Online Etiquette Tips 2012


Participating in Discussion Forums

The difference between outstanding, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory discussion grades is getting into the Forums early and often, knowing what you’re talking about based on the reading/listening assignments, and interacting fully with peers. 

You should know the following information for discussion posts:

  • Word Requirement for Each Post: ______
  • Minimum Comments Required: ____
  • Overall Grade Points for Discussion Forums: ____

Common missteps when engaging in Forums:

  • Students who offer opinions/experiences without drawing from the week's content
  • When students post in the discussion forums on the last days of the open period, little back-and-forth discussion between peers can occur.


Interaction with Professors and Classmates Will Look Different

Learning in college is an experience that happens in a community – and this will not change if the community cannot meet in person. Know that online learning will not necessarily reduce your interaction with your professors, TAs, and classmates. Interaction online can happen in many ways:

  • Video lectures, recorded or live, provided by professors for students to watch
  • Presentations that combine PowerPoints with in-time commentary from the professor via audio or video (such as Camtasia or Screen-Cast-o-Matic recordings)
  • Discussion boards on which students, and often TAs and professors as well, respond to questions and prompts as well as continue conversations
  • Chat functions which students can use to converse on course topics in real time
  • E-mail, whether Scarletmail or on the LMS sites, which continues to be a viable way to ask questions and communicate

Use any and all of these ways to connect and continue to learn from and with your course community.

If you've tried multiple methods of communication such as email, Canvas messages, chat/discussions, and you're having difficulty getting in touch with your instructor or TA , you can search for the department contacts on to find alternate contacts in the department. Please remember to give your instructors a reasonable amount of time to respond. For example, if you send an email on Friday evening, they may not be able to respond until the following week.


What to Ask Before an Exam

When it comes time for exams, don't forget to use the above methods of communication to reach out to your professor to ask some vital questions about the exam. Instructors, TAs and LAs are all there to help, so why not take advantage of it?

Here are some sample questions you might want to ask to help you prepare for your exams:

1. How many questions will be on the exam? Will we be able to move back and forth between questions, or will we need to answer them in order?

2. What types of questions will be on the exam? Will they come primarily from lecture notes or the textbook?

3. What material will be covered and how much time will I have?

4. Will the questions come primarily from notes or the text?

5. What materials will we be able to use (open book, calculator, notes, etc.)?

6. Will the exam be conducting using proctoring software, and if so, what do we need to be compliant?

7. Will the exam occur at an exact time, or will we have a span of time to complete it?

your instructor immediately and detail the exact problem that occurred. If you can screenshot anything as proof, that would be ideal. Don't wait until after the exam time to contact them.


Go back to the main page on "How to Succeed in an Online Course."