Online Learning Resources
Online course etiquette ("Netiquette")
Time and time again it has been proven that you only get out of an online course what you put in. To fully realize the benefits of your learning experience, don’t sit by passively reading only what other people contribute. Get involved in the class.
Abs O.K. iff evry1 nos thm
Abbreviations are fine, if everyone reading your message speaks the language. Try to limit your shorthand to commonly used abbreviations or standards used in your industry. Saving typing time won’t accomplish anything if people can’t understand what you wrote.
As a matter of fact, spelling and punctuation do matter
Take time to check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Poorly written messages are not only hard to read (and therefore might not be read), but also open the door to misinterpretation. Take time to proofread what you wrote. If you find spelling and grammar difficult, compose your message in a word processing application that has spelling and grammar checking. Then, cut and paste your composition into e-mail or D2L.
Do not "flame" other members of the class. Remember that online exchanges are meant to remain constructive. Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
Using UPPER CASE text in an e-mail or discussion posting is the same as yelling at someone. YELLING is rude and accomplishes nothing constructive when talking face to face. It will accomplish even less online. Your message will simply get trashed.
Save a tree
One of the ideas behind computers is that they can be environmentally friendly, at least to the extent that we don’t need to shuffle as much paper (in theory). Having said that, the intention is only as good as the execution. Statistics indicate that we might as well build computers out of wood for all the trees we are saving. Instead of printing off every message, organize yourself by setting up directories and storing digital copies. Remember to spring-clean every so often to rid yourself of old files.
Understand what you are doing
Make sure you read the instructions posted in the course. Your instructor may wish you to use a discussion forum for a specific purpose, or establish other guidelines for use. If you are constantly posting to the wrong forum, or are not following the purpose of the discussion, you will start to get on the nerves of the other members of the class. Knowing how the technology works is also critical. Don’t waste everyone’s time. Learn the technology, read the instructions, think before you post. Your contributions may be for marks.
Consider your classmates
Read the profiles posted by your classmates. Understand that you may be participating in class with learners from many countries, cultures, or backgrounds. Not everyone will understand references to TV, movies, pop culture, or current events in your country. If you must use this type of reference, please explain it. Don’t assume that everyone will understand geographical or political references that are local or national.
Keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of the discussion forum and make sure that you are posting to the right forum. If another person posts a comment or question that is off the subject do not reply. A reply will keep the off-subject conversation going.
To simply reply or quote, that is the question
Using the Quote function includes the full body of the original message in your reply to an e-mail or posting. This is not always appropriate. If you do need to reference the original in some way, copy the necessary bits, or quote the original using the Quote function and cut out unnecessary parts. The idea here is to keep the messages as concise as possible. Consider file size and readability issues.
Patience is a virtue
Unlike telephone or a face-to-face conversation, e-mail does not provide instant feedback. Although computer technologies do set us up with higher expectations for response times, it is important to remember that there is a person at the other end of your e-mail. They’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Hey buddy, ya wanna buy…
Formality in communication has a tendency to be lost in the fast-paced virtual world of e-mail. This is fine if you are dropping a note to a friend, but if you are asking for a raise, making a business proposal, or stating your case for a higher mark, try to use the appropriate "voice" when drafting your message. In the case of important correspondence, it is always a good idea to save your draft and come back to it the next day. It is amazing how different a note reads the next day. You may find yourself saying, "I can’t believe I was going to say that!"
Who sent me this thing?
Not all e-mails include your full name. Many company e-mail and ISP e-mail addresses use short forms of names. So, unless Anna-Lee Smith-Robins signs her note, we might not know who firstname.lastname@example.org is. Many users like to include a signature line or quirky phrase at the end of their notes. The personal touch in e-mail goes a long way towards making sure proper attention is paid to your message.
If you want privacy, lock yourself in a room somewhere
Although most e-mail systems are secured with passwords, don’t assume that everything you write will be viewed only by your intended recipient. This is the digital age and accidents can, and do, happen. Your note may be misdirected, read by someone else in the office, opened by a systems or e-mail administrator, et cetera. If it needs to be said in private, use the appropriate technology—the phone.
A picture’s worth...???
Generally speaking, the attention span of our society is decreasing. If you want your mail to be read, master the art of economy of words. Use the attachment feature of e-mail to send larger documents, and the e-mail message itself only to introduce the file you are sending or entice the reader to open it.
Succeeding in your online course
Succeeding in an online course is fundamentally the same as succeeding in a classroom. You must:
- Focus your attention.
- Be organized.
- Use your time wisely.
- Take responsibility for your learning.
- Be self-directed.
- Be willing to work and participate.
- Communicate effectively.
For most students, it can take an adjustment period to learn the rhythm and patterns of online communication. Here are some tips for getting comfortable:
- Take time to review the available help files and documentation.
- Spend some time just navigating your way through the class. Learn the functions of the buttons on your screen.
- Manage your time. You’ll find that your time management skills will be critical in an online class. It’s very easy to spend either far too little or far too much time on the class. Set designated blocks of time to work on the course. This will help you stay current with the assignments and the interaction required in most online classes.
- Download or print out pages for reference, and review them offline.
- Set priorities for yourself and pay close attention to priorities the instructor sets for your class. Check the calendar and/or course outline frequently for assignments, quizzes, etc.
- Ask for help right away if something isn’t going right for you, whether it’s a technical issue or something to do with course content.
- Finally, don’t forget about the tried and true technologies: the telephone and fax machine. If you are experiencing any problems you can always pick up the phone and call your instructor, other class members, or Student Help.
Getting started with a new course
In the first week of a course, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the course and its components. Doing so can save you time later on. Here are some suggestions:
- Find out how to get in touch with your instructor – What is their e-mail address and/or telephone number? Remember, if you have questions about the course or course content, contact your instructor.
- Read the course outline – Pay particular attention to assignment due dates. Mark these on your calendar.
- Find out the structure of the course – Do you have self-tests to complete? Are you expected to participate in conferences? How much participation is expected? Is participation graded and if so, how?
- Look for the course schedule in the course – It could be posted in the calendar or in the course outline.
- Quickly scan your text, manual, or any reading materials – Are there questions or quizzes at the end of each chapter? How could these help you when you start studying for a test or exam?
- Before doing any course work, read any other documentation sent to you – You may receive introductory letters, notes on logons and passwords, user manuals, etc.
If you are taking a classroom-based course or a paper-based distance education course with an online component, follow these tips:
- Sign on to the course within the first two days of the course start date. If you experience technical difficulties, contact Student Help right away.
- Complete all first-week or orientation activities. These are designed to help you familiarize yourself with the technology and get to know others in the class.
- Go to all sections (icons) of your course and find out how each of these work. This will save you time in the future. For example, learn how to post to the discussion area, send an e-mail, and submit an assignment.
Online communication and communities
As always, effective communication is critical to your success. It’s even more important in an online environment, however, because your instructor and the other class members can’t see the expression on your face or hear the intonation in your voice. You no longer have all those non-verbal cues that can be taken for granted in a physical classroom. Be responsible for initiating contact, asking for help when needed, and sharing information with others.
Courtesy and respect are constant in all classrooms, however, and still apply and are practiced online. Here are some guidelines:
- Participate – In an online environment, it’s not enough just to show up. We need to "hear" your voice and feel your presence. Your comments add to the information, shared learning experience, and the sense of community in the class.
- Remember that others can’t see your reactions – We won’t see the grin on your face when you make a sarcastic comment or the concern on your face if you only say a couple of words. We also can’t read your mind and fill in the gaps if you abbreviate your comments. You must be clear and concise when communicating online. Please explain your ideas fully.
- Share tips, help, and questions – For many of us, taking online courses is a new frontier. There are no dumb questions. Even if you think your solution is obvious, please share it—someone is bound to appreciate it.
- Think before you push the send button – Did you say what you meant to say in your e-mail or posting? How may the person on the other end interpret your words? Be careful and articulate. While you can’t anticipate all reactions, do read over what you’ve written.
- Be persistent – Remember that we’re all working in a fairly new environment. If you run into difficulties, don’t hesitate! Send a note or call your instructor immediately. Most problems are easily solved, but we must know about them in order to help.