Communicating Online

Effective Email Communication

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind for communicating with your teacher and the other students in your online class:

  • Make sure you spellcheck your written communication and proofread it for clarity (reading out loud is a great way to proofread and also to make sure what you are saying "sounds right").
  • Even though you are working in a digital environment, you are communicating with real people; please respect their attitudes and feelings just as you would in person.
  • Choose your language appropriately. Your online course is like a virtual classroom; make sure your comments online are up to the same standards you would apply in a regular classroom setting.
  • Read the instructions for each assignment carefully so that you can focus on the appropriate questions and tasks.
  • Sign your email. Although email is often very informal in style, it is important to "sign" your email by including your name at the bottom of the email.

Effective Discussion Communication

Most online courses rely heavily on Discussion Forums where students can exchange information and share ideas. Here are some important points to keep in mind when you are using Discussion Forums:

  • Be considerate and appropriate when using the discussion board and the chat room. They are extensions of your classroom. Please keep in mind, as you contribute to a discussion forum or chat room, that not everyone comes from the same background, or shares the same values and ideals. Please be appropriate (professional) and considerate of others.
  • Read what other students have said carefully before posting your reply. You need to make sure you understand where the current discussion is headed before you make your contribution.
  • A discussion is not an argument; the point is not to prove that you are right and that someone else is wrong. Instead, the goal is to share information and help all the students in the class learn more about the subject under discussion.
  • Use short and concise sentences, and get to your point quickly. If your post is on the long side, you should break it up into separate paragraphs to make it easier for others to read online, with line breaks in-between the paragraphs.
  • Learn how to use the features of the discussion forum to enhance your writing: can you add links to your posts? images? lists? blockquotes? If these features are available, use them to make your post more readable for others.
  • Use people's names (or nickname). When you reply to someone in a Discussion Forum, use their name! You can say "Hi Jessica" or "Hi Michael" or whatever their name/nickname might be. That is the only way you will really start to learn the names of the people in your online class!
  • Joking around. It is important to remember that tone of voice often plays an important role in letting people know that you are making a joke or being ironic. If you want to convey that tone in your email or discussion board post, you can learn to use smiley's or simply add parenthetical comments like "(just kidding!)". And be careful: sarcastic comments are easily misunderstood in any online discussion.
  • Reporting problems. If you find something in a Discussion Forum that strikes you as upsetting or unacceptable, please be sure to let your instructor know about it as soon as possible.

This document was modified from materials created by the University of Oklahoma.