Rules of Netiquette When Taking Online College Courses

Online communication has long followed different guidelines than face-to-face or telephone discussions. Known as netiquette, online etiquette applies to email, chat sessions, message boards and even online courses. When you take online college courses, even more rules apply, but you will also follow basic netiquette, such as:

  • Using opening salutations and ending with signatures
  • Avoiding sarcasm to prevent misinterpretations
  • Including descriptive subject lines
  • Not quoting/forwarding personal messages without permission
  • Promptly acknowledging and returning messages
  • Being concise
  • Using proper spelling and grammar
  • Refraining from rude or coarse language

These still apply when you enroll in university online courses. The typical online class uses discussion boards where classmates can communicate, ask questions and help one another. Participants interact daily and are expected to demonstrate proper netiquette.

Some of the most important rules for college online participants include:

Don’t use anger or sarcasm: It’s nearly impossible for someone to interpret your real meaning without hearing your voice. The tone of a conversation reveals whether one is telling a joke and if the person doesn’t know you well, the comment may come off rude or insulting.

Avoid all-caps text: This is the online equivalent of screaming, which is considered inappropriate and you won’t be taken seriously. It’s quite distracting to read through a comment in all caps, so don’t do it yourself.

Read the discussion: If you have a question to ask, check the board to see if someone already asked it. Internet searches and reading the class FAQ may provide answers, so check there for obvious answers or look to see an issue was already resolved.

Stay on topic: Pay attention to what your classmates are saying to keep the conversation flowing and show an instructor you are present. Do not post irrelevant content or comments or anything like an inappropriate picture or link.

Be respectful: “Please” and “thank you” are the hallmarks of netiquette when your classmates’ help is appreciated. Respect your classmates’ opinions. Although you may feel somewhat anonymous, recognize valid points in arguments you don’t agree with and acknowledge the perspectives of others.

Be brief and accurate: Most individuals seeking higher education online are quite busy. Keep your answers brief, especially when responding to a simple question, and don’t post unless 100 percent sure you’re correct.

Refer to previous comments: If you want to comment on something said earlier, quote a few words or lines from a classmate so discussion participants are on the same page. Think of the details before you post.

Forgive your classmates: Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be impolite toward those who slip up occasionally. Just move forward and let everyone be themselves.

Follow the rules of netiquette when taking online college courses and your instructors and classmates will respect you. For information and resources on online college courses from Upper Iowa University, review our website at or call 800-553-4150.