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USF St. Petersburg campus Guide to Online Learning

The Golden Rule of Netiquette

What is netiquette? Simply defined, it means etiquette on the internet (or net). In an online course, you will be speaking through writing both to fellow students and instructors, so it is imperative to communicate well and professionally. Mostly, when speaking in an online course, or in any online environment for that matter, the same rules apply for etiquette as in-person communication.

The golden rule of netiquette in an online class is, do not do or say online what you would not do or say offline.

Act professionally in your communication.

  • When you are interacting in an electronic environment as a member of a class you are subject to the same rules of courtesy and conduct that you would find in any face-to-face environment. Treat your instructors and fellow students with respect.
  • Proofread and check the spelling. While online communication is more relaxed, it is not careless communication. Doing a quick proof of your work before you send it may alleviate the need to clarify your posting and save you some time and potential embarrassment.
  • Be aware of copyright and “fair use” law; do not plagiarize, cite your information.
  • Respect others' thoughts and ideas. Be constructive in challenging different views and explain where you disagree and why within the rules of "netiquette."
  • Be clear with your words. It’s easy for someone to misinterpret your meaning. They can’t see your expressions or hear the tone of your voice.
    • Avoid using text speak (lol, idk), all caps (which can signify yelling), and emojis.
  • Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Without face to face communications, your comments may be misinterpreted.

Use email and discussion boards appropriately.

  • Remember that you are writing to a group when on a discussion board; if you need to reply or respond to an individual, do so privately.
  • Use the subject line effectively; use meaningful subject titles.
  • Group E-mail and discussion board posting are public conversations; therefore do not post anything personal.
  • Keep your messages on the course topic.
  • Do not send chain email and/or spam to others.
  • Any personal issues, related to the course or confidential, should be directly communicated to the course instructor in a respectful and professional manner. Such items should not be posted on the public course discussion forum.


More Information

Some of the information in this guide has been adapted from an article by Laurie Patsalides. For more tips, visit her original article: Top Five Rules of Etiquette in an Online Course.