Written by contributing author Lisa Kroulik.
When I first started my online degree program earlier this year, I had a lot to learn about communicating with my instructors and fellow students over the Internet. Over the past few months, I have learned several important things about communicating with instructors and classmates online. I hope these are helpful to you and that your learning curve is shorter than mine was.
You’re not on Facebook Anymore
The most important thing for all online college students to learn is that virtual classrooms, discussion boards and email with instructors and other students is not the place to use the same informal tone you use when texting or on Facebook. The academic setting is a more formal one, so make sure that your word choices match that. If growing up in the electronic age has left you with the inability to spell out words in full, now is a great time to put those habits behind you. No student of professor will take any message seriously that begins with “U R” or “b4.”
Observe Grammar and Formatting Rules
Perhaps just as distracting as reading a message in texted code is a paragraph written entirely in lower case. Without the first word of each sentence being capitalized, it all runs together and your readers will probably not take you seriously. The same goes for frequent spelling and punctuation errors and not putting proper spacing between paragraphs. Personally, when I look at a page that is practically an entire essay with no paragraphs breaks or one that has spelling or punctuation errors in the first sentence, I don’t bother to read any further.
Don’t Be a Bully Behind a Computer Screen
Unfortunately, the Internet can bring out the worst in some people. Some use it as an opportunity to be abusive to others and say things they would never say in person. You should never say anything online to a classmate or instructor that you would not say if he or she were sitting across the table from you. College students are expected to display a level of maturity when addressing others. This means that you can respectfully disagree with someone without resorting to a personal attack.
If you feel passionately about certain issues, it is best to step back from the screen before you type something you will later regret. Responding while upset may lead you to post things others view as abusive, which may in turn get you kicked out of the online class, or even your choice of online colleges. Also, keep in mind that it is considered bad manners to type a full sentence using all capital letters. This is the Internet equivalent of shouting at someone.