Learning proper Netiquette

We've put together some useful tips to help you navigate the requirements of studying online. Make sure you understand your online study requirements, how you will manage your time and the basics of Netiquette (Internet etiquette).

Online study may involve

  • Discussing issues
  • Completing quizzes, and
  • Listening to online lectures

This is on top of attending traditional lectures, tutorials and practicums each week.

Read the tips below to help you thrive in this unique environment and make studying online simpler.

Studying online

To be successful as an online student, you should:

  • Log onto the site as soon as you have access so you can resolve any technical problems. Are there any technical skills you need to learn? Go through the iLearn system early.
  • Scan through the material available to you on your iLearn unit page to get an idea of what resources you have access to.
  • Find out what you have to do, how much time you are expected to spend online, and regularly check discussion boards and your email. Talk to your lecturer or other students if you're unsure.

You will need to be focused and organised: Don’t leave things to the last minute!

Note: if you are a distance student, you may have to attend a session on campus once or twice a semester. Check details of your course carefully to be sure.

Time management

All of this may sound a bit daunting at first, but it is manageable, and generally, students learn very quickly.

Log on to your online unit regularly and allow room in your schedule in case there are difficulties, such as:

  • trouble logging on when a quiz is due
  • forgetting your password
  • not being able to print when needed
  • the system being down when you have a scheduled chat session.

The more you use the online unit, the more proficient you will become at accessing information and troubleshooting problems.

Reading online

  • If you are reading online, give your eyes a rest from the computer every 20 minutes.
  • Print off long documents rather than trying to read them online.
  • Often, you can enlarge the font size on your browser for easier scanning.
  • Most importantly, read critically and question the source of all materials on the Internet.

Online tutorials

  • Take note of the guidelines set by your lecturer. Make sure you read the Netiquette guide below.
  • Make sure you don't add your messages at the last minute as often these discussions are collaborative activities, and members of your group will be relying on you to contribute in a timely fashion.
  • No one person should dominate the discussion space; ensure everyone has a chance to share ideas online.

Student Guide: Netiquette

If your units have online activities, you should be aware of Netiquette (or internet etiquette) when communicating.

Participating in online discussions takes some getting used to. The first few times you participate you may feel nervous about sharing your ideas publicly. The more you take part, the more comfortable you become using online communication tools and the more you will benefit from them.

General politeness

An online discussion can be a face-to-face interaction, or over one or two days, a week or semester. This means you can either respond immediately to discussion points or take some time to respond more carefully.

Ideas and impressions are written rather than spoken, so you don't have the advantage of body language to help you interpret meaning.

Therefore, it is important to:

  • be polite and avoid bad language
  • acknowledge people's contributions
  • respect other people's point of view
  • be non-judgmental and supportive
  • be aware of cultural differences
  • be careful with humour and sarcasm

One way to overcome the fact that you can't 'see' the person you are talking to is to use 'emoticons' to give a visual meaning to your written words.

For example, a smiling face or laughter can be represented by the symbol :) or the acronym LOL (laugh out loud).

Only use these if you feel comfortable with them and don't overuse them.

Basic online communication guidelines

  • You should make a regular commitment to log-on and check the discussion board. This will help you to get familiar with your online community and become an active part of the class.
  • When you take part in an online discussion, your tutor gets a clearer picture of your understanding and level of interest.
  • In some units, participation is compulsory and you will be assessed on your contributions. Always check the Assessment section of your unit for details.
Writing messages
  • Keep messages reasonably short to help people follow the discussion.
  • If you have something longer to say, attach it to a short message as a separate document, but take care not to overload the system with excessive amounts of information.
  • Use the subject line and make sure it is clear. People see it first and often use it to decide whether or not to read the message.
  • Express yourself clearly.
  • Keep to the subject of the discussion.
  • Try to move the discussion forward rather than saying things that could end it.
  • Speak from your own perspective. Don't be afraid to give your own ideas.
  • If you use someone else's ideas, cite them appropriately by using quotation marks and give the person credit ("As John stated in his post of 5th October.."). The rules of copyright and plagiarism apply here just as they do elsewhere.
  • Keep messages jargon-free. Always define terms and acronyms fully before use.
Before posting a message
  • Read all the contributions to avoid repeating something other people have already written.
  • Proofread your message for grammar, punctuation, spelling and layout to make the meaning clear.
  • Observe and get a feel for the discussion to ensure the correct level of formality is used. Generally, online discussions are informal but polite.
  • Check who you are replying to. If your reply is not valuable to the whole group, reply to the author only.
  • Re-read your message. If you accidentally send the wrong message, you will need to contact the system administrator to have it erased.
Things to never do
  • A discussion is public so don't write anything which discriminates on the basis of race, colour, nationality, age, marital status, sex, political affiliation, religion, disability or sexual preference, or which might be considered obscene, offensive, threatening or intimidating. This includes offensive text or pictures, for example:
    • pornography
    • racism
    • sexism
    • obscenities
    • insults, sarcasm
    • defamatory statements
    • rumours, and
    • gossip about individuals or organisations.

Such comments have no place in online communication where the general approach is supportive and collaborative.

In extreme cases, people who persist in an offensive or disruptive behaviour may lose access to the tool and may be charged with misconduct.

  • Never publicly attack another member or post an emotionally charged contribution. This is considered "flaming" and is not acceptable.
  • It is inappropriate to correct someone's mistakes in your posting to the group. If it is necessary to point out a mistake, use a private email.
  • Only use capitals for specific purposes such as headings, otherwise, it can seem like SHOUTING.
  • No advertising is allowed.
  • Don’t dominate the discussion.
  • Never post when angry.
  • Don’t forward sensitive content without the writer’s permission. This protects the confidentiality of any content that was intended only for course participants.

Any breach of the Macquarie University Policy Guidelines on electronic harassment may constitute misconduct or serious misconduct. The University's code of conduct for electronic communication and the University's other IT Policies can be found in Policy Central.

Macquarie University is committed to building a safe and supportive campus for everyone – including online. Students and staff can seek support and report issues about wellbeing, inappropriate behaviour or misconduct to the Student Care and Reporting Network. For more information, visit https://students.mq.edu.au/support/care-reporting.

Getting help

In addition to this guide, your tutor will inform you about any other rules specifically relating to participating in discussions in your course.

If you are nervous or unsure of how to participate in an online discussion, please contact your tutor. Otherwise, it may be possible for your tutor to misunderstand your reasons for non-participation.