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Online Learning

Resources and tips about online learning for students.

Respectful Online Learning

Expectations in Online Classes

Most in person classrooms have community expectations of behaviour that create a climate of respect and encourage a productive learning environment.  These same expectations apply when learning online. However online communication comes with its own set of challenges--it can lack verbal and non-verbal cues such as tone, gestures, facial expressions and personal accountability that are a regular part of in person classroom environments.  

Online video conferencing can feel very casual due to the fact that you are at home or in a less structured environment and some people may feel uncomfortable on camera. The casual environment, possible discomfort and absence of non-verbal cues can lead to misunderstandings in the online environment. It is important to recognize that the online classroom is in fact a classroom, and certain behaviors are expected when you communicate with both your peers and your instructors.

To reduce the occurrence of misunderstandings and to promote an online environment where students feel respected, it is important to consider behaviours for online learning. This code of conduct for online behaviour is often referred to as "netiquette" and is the practical expected behaviour for working virtually on the Internet.

General Guidelines

In all your interactions, remember that there is a person behind the written post, who has feelings and can be hurt by what and how you interact with them. It is easier to say something online when you do not have to look the person in the eye, so don’t post anything that you would not say to the person face-to-face.

  • In all your interactions, remember that there is a person behind the written post, who has feelings and can be hurt by what and how you interact with them. It is easier to say something online when you do not have to look the person in the eye, so don’t post anything that you would not say to the person face-to-face.
  • Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life and in an in person learning environment. 
  • Be careful with personal information (both yours and others). You are in cyberspace, where many people can view or save what you type.
  • When writing for an online class or sending emails to your instructors, avoid abbreviations that you might use in more casual settings.
  • We all make mistakes. Forgive other learners’ mistakes and be patient and compassionate of all learners when they are sharing online.
  • Avoid using the caps lock feature AS IT CAN BE INTERPRETED AS YELLING.
  • Be mindful of how you are using the chat box. Chat boxes are incorporated into many online classes as a place for students to share ideas and ask questions related to the lesson. It can be a helpful resource or a major distraction. The class chat box isn’t an instant messenger to chat with friends, it is an important learning tool; take care to stay on topic. Remember that the chat is not private, and can be downloaded and saved.
  • Be cautious when using humour or sarcasm as tone is sometimes lost in an email or discussion post and your message might be taken seriously or sound offensive.
  • Think before you type, a passing comment spoken in class can be forgotten a few minutes later, but what you share in an online classroom is part of a permanent digital record. Be respectful toward others as you would be if you were sitting in the same room together. Ask yourself, would you be comfortable standing up in front of a classroom and saying your message, if the answer is yes, then it’s most likely okay to share.

Email Guidelines

  • Use a descriptive subject line
  • Be brief. Avoid attachments unless you are sure your recipients can open them
  • Sign your messages with your name and return e-mail address.
  • Pause before you send the e-mail to more than one person. Be sure you REALLY want everyone to receive your response when you click, “reply all”.
  • Before you click the forward button, make sure that the author of the original email is okay with the information being shared.
  • Review your email before sending.

Chat and Message Board Guidelines

  • Keep statements brief and to the point. Make posts that are on topic and within the scope of the course material.
  • Take your posts seriously and review and edit your posts before sending.
  • Be patient; not everyone has advanced keyboard skills. Allow others time to complete their  thought before responding, do not interrupt while another is typing.
  • Avoid having side conversations (texting etc. during class); others are aware that you are not paying attention.
  • Officially sign on and off so that everyone knows when you are present.
  • Prepare notes and key ideas ahead of time so that you can engage in the discussion without trying to figure out how to word your statements.
  • Always give proper credit when referencing or quoting another source.
  • Be sure to read all messages in a thread before replying.  Submitting an answer that is similar to a classmate’s indicates that you haven’t paid attention to the conversation thus far. It’s important to absorb all of the information before crafting your reply. Building upon a classmate’s thought or attempting to add something new to the conversation will show your instructor you’ve been paying attention.
  • Be open-minded.  Always be respectful of others’ opinions even when they differ from your own. When you disagree with someone, express your differing opinion in a respectful way. Do not make personal or insulting remarks. 

Video-Conferencing Platforms (Zoom, BlueJeans, Skype, etc.)

  • Be Prepared. Check video and audio quality. No special equipment is needed but if you have a headset it can be helpful. Headsets from iPhone or other online devices are an option and help cut out background sound.
  • Adjust your lighting. Try not to sit directly in front or beside a bright light source, or else all the audience sees is a bright light and a shadowy figure. Experiment with moving lamps and your camera until you can see your face on the screen.
  • Think about your background. You can’t control everything, but it is important to be mindful of your privacy and any images that may be visible in your background. Consider using a generic virtual background supplied by Zoom or other online platforms. It is important to feel comfortable during online learning sessions. If you are uncomfortable on video you can disable the video and still participate in audio discussion, view the presenter and use chat features.
  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking. This cuts down on ambient feedback for the audience. You should mute yourself when listening to a presenter.
  • Use the chat or raise hand function to signal you have a question or statement, as instructors can't always see all participants at the same time.
  • Think about your actions on camera. Someone is watching as you eat, yawn, stretch, or wander around the room. These movements can be distracting to the class and can be disruptive to the speaker. Try to signal to others you are listening and are attentive. 

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