All online faculty are encouraged to introduce a section exploring Netiquette but this is great advice for face-to-face classes as well when blogging assignments or other online interaction is involved. There are many great resources online that outline the basic tenants go good online etiquette – called “Netiqette” but I use the structure provided by Rasmussen College as the basis for my own guidelines. I’ve added to these to address common issues that I see in my classes. A Netiquette quiz is also required of students upon completion of this section in their class.

What is Netiquette?

Netiquette is “etiquette” (or good behavior and practices) for the internet. Adhering to the basic guidelines of netiquette is important when online in any situation, but it is especially important in the online classroom environment.

Remember that when you are participating in an online course, you are participating in a professional classroom. The way that you present yourself and complete various objects should therefor be handled in a professional and considerate way and should avoid the more familiar and casual habits we often form when using other online platforms such as social media.

9 netiquette guidelines every online student needs to know:


While we may commonly use caps to signify that something is more important or to ensure that it doesn’t get overlooked by the casual skimmer, TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED INAPPROPRIATE AND CAN BE SEEN AS YELLING. Most readers interpret all caps text as shouting. As a result they will likely have a hard time taking you seriously, no matter how intelligent your response may be. If you have vision issues—there are ways to adjust how text displays so you can still see without coming across as “yelling.”

2. Sarcasm can (and will) backfire

You never know who is reading your comment on the other end, so it’s a good idea to avoid the use of sarcasm as it’s not guaranteed that the reader will pick up on your “tone” and language barriers may make it hard for someone to recognize that your choice of words may be referencing something that has alternate meanings. Using emoticons to help communicate that you are just joking (or writing “JK” or “LOL”) are not conducive to maintaining a professional classroom environment and should be avoided.

Sarcasm has been the source of plenty of misguided arguments online, as it can be incredibly difficult to understand the commenters intent. What may seem like an obvious joke to you could come across as off-putting or rude to those who don’t know you personally.  As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid sarcasm all together in an online classroom.  

3. Attempt to find your own answer

It is often frustrating for instructors and your classmates when you ask questions that are clearly answered within the assignment instructions or course materials. This is a waste of time and can easily be avoided with more personal accountability for course material.

For questions related to class structure such as due dates or policies, refer to your syllabus and other documents provided to you in iCollege.  Attempt to find the answers to any other questions on your own using a search engine if the knowledge is something basic and outside of the course content. Relatively simple questions can usually be answered within seconds—which saves everyone time.

If your questions remain unanswered after a bit of effort, feel free to bring them up with your instructor.

Remember that it is your responsibility to study the materials provided and apply your knowledge to you course assignments. Questions which attempt to assess if you’ve exhibited enough time or comprehension in order to achieve a specific grade is considered “pre-grading” and will generally not be addressed. I will help you to understand what the expectations are of all assignments and assessments, but it is ultimately up to you how you apply yourself to these expectations.

4. Stop … grammar-time!

Always make an effort to use proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Because Art, Society, and Culture has zero prerequisites, including the completion of specific Learning Support and ESL requirements, I do not expect anyone to have a substantive background in writing and grammar. I will not grade you on the accuracy of your grammar, however I do expect that you will make a reasonable effort to communicate as effectively and as professionally as possible. Writing as you would in a text message is never acceptable. Take the time to spell check any message you send and save everyone the headache. Trying to decipher a string of misspelled words with erratic punctuation frustrates the reader and distracts from the point of your message.

On the other hand, it’s important to be reasonable about others’ grammar mistakes. Nobody likes the grammar police and scolding a classmate because he or she used “your” instead of “you’re” isn’t practicing proper netiquette. If a classmate or instructor makes a simple mistake in a message that is otherwise coherent, give them a break. Remember that English may also not be the native language for some of your classmates and errors may be the result of translation software that is generally far from perfect. Focus on the content of their post instead!

5. Keep it simple:

While it may be tempting to write in your favorite color or a cute font, whoever is reading it may not appreciate it as much as you. Stick to the basic black text color—if you need to emphasize something in your sentence use bold or italicized words. This will help ensure everyone can easily read your message without acquiring a headache.

Try to use simple fonts and sizes – Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, etc. are all good standard fonts that are easily read by most people. Keep fonts to a basic size (between 10-14 point) – if you or someone else needs to view text larger in order to see it they will be able to do so within their own browser.

6. Keep it short:

Keep email messages, discussion forum comments, and blog posts short and to the point (or within the guidelines of the assignment). You don’t need to share your life story to ask for help with a problem—just focus on the essential information. This will ensure your question doesn’t get lost in the noise and saves time for everyone involved.

It is okay to include a numbered or bulleted list if you have multiple comments or questions in order to make it clear and concise for the reader. Think about this like “tagging” someone in social media.

7. Read first

Take some time to read through each of the previous discussion post responses before writing your own response.  If the original post was asking a specific question, there’s a good chance someone has already answered it. Submitting an answer that is eerily similar to a classmate’s indicates to the instructor that you haven’t paid attention to the conversation thus far.

Remember, discussions can move fairly quickly so it’s important to absorb all of the information before deciding how to respond. Building upon a classmate’s thought or attempting to add something new to the conversation will show your instructor you’ve been paying attention.

8. Don’t over share

Personal information is valuable to identity thieves, so try not to share more than is necessary. This does not mean to suggest that your classmates are criminals, but it’s good practice in general to be guarded when it comes to personal information. You are in a classroom with a lot of other people – you may not always feel that way as you will be working in an environment of your choosing, however, you are essentially in a virtual classroom with everyone at all times – if you wouldn’t say it out loud in a face-to-face class it’s probably not a good idea to say it in our online course either.

9. Be kind

Communicating online is unique in that there tends to be a level on anonymity between the people who are interacting. This sometimes results in individuals being more impolite than they might be in person. In an online class, you might not have the complete anonymity that comes with using a screen name, but you likely won’t see your classmates face-to-face. Make a point to be respectful in your comments—even if you disagree or dislike someone’s stance on a topic.

If you feel very strongly about something it is typically a good idea to step away for a bit and return when you’ve calmed down. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to react in a way that you’ll regret later and because our interaction will be entirely online it’s easy to feel like that “distance” provides some type of anonymity or protection. However, you will gain a reputation with your online peers based on your comments and posts so make sure that you present yourself in a way that reflects positively of you.

Additional things to consider:

  • Before posting your question to a discussion board, check if anyone has asked it already and received a reply. Just as you wouldn’t repeat a topic of discussion right after it happened in real life, don’t do that in discussion boards either.
  • Check the most recent comments before you reply to an older comment, since the issue might have already been resolved or opinions may have changed.Stay on topic and make sure you’re replying to the correct thread or post.
  • Respect the opinions of your classmates. If you feel the need to disagree, do so respectfully and acknowledge the valid points in your classmate’s argument. Acknowledge that others are entitled to have their own perspective on the issue.
  • If you reply to a question from a classmate, make sure your answer is accurate! If you’re not 100% sure when an assignment is due, DO NOT GUESS! Otherwise, you could really mess things up for your classmates and they will not appreciate it.
  • If you ask a question and many people respond, summarize all answers and post that summary to benefit your whole class.
  • If you refer to something your classmate said earlier in the discussion, quote just a few key lines from their post so that others wont have to go back and figure out which post you’re referring to. Do not include the full text of a previous comment unless it is absolutely necessary
  • Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board or blog comment section. It only takes a minute, and can make the difference between sounding like a fool and sounding knowledgeable.
  • Don’t be an internet pirate! If you would like to use online articles or content to add to or support your arguments please adequately attribute the original author – not doing so (even if done in ignorance) is plagiarism and will be seriously addressed. Please view the section 1 module on Plagiarism to learn more.