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Netiquette for eLearners

Netiquette (or Internet ettiquette) is a set of unofficial rules or guidelines that specify proper behavior for the Internet, specifically discussion forums and chat rooms. Just as in physical group settings, what is considered tolerable or appropriate behavior may vary, there are certain practices that will make your Internet interactions more enjoyable for yourself and others. Below are a list of highlighted points to consider, but the main rule is to use your common sense. If it would not be appropriate in a physical setting, it is probably not appropriate for the Internet.

Basic netiquette guidelines

Respect other participants
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is ok to disagree with a person's posting to a discussion group, but do so constructively. Discussion forums are not place for personal attacks. If you disagree with someone, say so, but back up your opinion with supporting arguments and keep the discussion on a mature level. Because you don't ever see the person you are responding to in an online discussion, it is easy to forget that there is someone who may be affected by what you write in response to his or her posting.

Typing messages in all capital letters is the Internet equivalent of shouting. You can use all capital letters to stress an important word or phrase, but do not capitalize everything. It may seem like a small detail, but typing in all capital letters may be considered rude.

Be careful with humor
Because the Internet lacks audio/visual cues, the humor and sarcasm in your posting may not always be interpreted that way, and may result in hurt feelings or misunderstanding. Humor is ok, but keep it to a minimum and make sure it can easily be interpreted as such. To help convey emotion, many people use emoticons, a few popular ones are shown below.


Respect people's time and bandwidth
When adding to a discussion, make sure you stay on topic. Share your knowledge and opinions. Don't waste people's time with replies to discussions that only say "I agree" or "me too." Make sure your contribution adds something to the topic. Be clear and concise in your subject headings and message. If you are quoting another posting, only include the portion of the message that is relevant to your contribution.

Only post relevant items
Do not post copyrighted materials or try to sell things in discussions boards. This is considered very rude. Also, if you are going to quote something from a private email you received, it is good practice to get permission from the author before posting it to a public forum.

Be forgiving
If you are comfortable using the Internet and communicating via chat and discussion boards, be aware that many other people are not. If someone does something that is not considered appropriate in a certain forum, it may simply be because they do not know any better. Do not publicly criticize them for their mistake, kindly suggest more appropriate behavior. Remember, you were new to the Internet once too.

For more information on netiquette, check out http://www.albion.com/netiquette/

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