Communication to Prepare for Your Online Classes

In this modern digital age, online courses are becoming more and more popular. If you haven’t yet taken one, you probably will soon. Online classes are similar to traditional classes in that they both involve communication and discussion among students and teachers.

The method of discussion is different, though. Rather than sitting together in a class and speaking, communication in online classes is mainly held through email or through discussion boards, which requires a different set of skills.

So how can you effectively communicate in an online class? Here’s how!

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Review the rules of professional online etiquette

Some things that are acceptable to write on social media or in a text message would not be appropriate to write on an assignment for your online class.

Here are some general rules to follow:

Don’t be sarcastic. It’s hard for someone to detect sarcasm when they are not looking at you, so if you use sarcasm online, your message might be misunderstood. Avoid this by not using sarcasm in your online class.

Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person. Just because you are not face-to-face with someone doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. There is someone on the other side of the screen. Please be respectful to them and to anyone else who might be reading your post.

Don’t be excessive. Everything is good in moderation, things are bad in excess. Don’t use ALL CAPS because it looks like YOU ARE SHOUTING. Don’t use too many exclamation points either!!!! These things are unnecessary exaggerations.

Don’t ask obvious questions. We now have easy access to so much information that it becomes annoying when someone asks an obvious question. Before you ask anything, you should do a quick Google search (or check your class’s frequently asked questions page) to see if your question has already been answered. If you can’t easily find the answer to your question, go ahead and ask it. Your classmates will appreciate not having to answer obvious questions.

Be brief. Especially online, we tend to have a short attention span. If your classmates see your essay-length response, they will scroll right past it because they don’t want to spend all that time reading it.

Use complete sentences and proper grammar

On social media and in texts, it’s okay to not use complete sentences. But in a formal setting like an online class, you should use complete sentences with a subject, verb, and predicate. You shouldn’t use shorthand textspeak, either. If you use proper English, you will appear more knowledgeable to your online classmates. If you don’t, they will think they don’t know what you’re talking about.

Be respectful

A little respect goes a long way in online class communication. If you are asking a classmate or teacher for a favor, say “please” and “thank you.” If someone asks you to do something for them, come through for them and do it. These are especially true when you are working on a group project.

Also, do not pick fights over email or in the discussion boards. Fighting with someone online, especially a classmate, is extremely petty and unprofessional. You can respectfully disagree but remember and acknowledge that other people have a right to their opinion, even if it differs from yours.

Read and re-read the instructions

It’s easy to miss a keyword or two when reading the direction for an online class assignment. Make sure you read and re-read the directions to make sure you understand what you are being asked. If you have any doubts, reach out to your teacher and respectfully ask for clarification.

Read and re-read your work

Similarly, it’s very easy to overlook a tiny mistake in your own work. You should read anything you post or send online (especially an assignment for your online class) at least twice before you post it. Preferably, don’t re-read your work right after you’ve written it because it will be too fresh in your mind. Let some time pass before you read it again.

Another good idea is to have someone else read your work for you because they might catch something you don’t. You’ll save yourself countless tiny mistakes by simply re-reading your work.

Remember that NOTHING you write is private

Whenever you post someone online, whether it’s for your online class or not, remember that it is not private, no matter how tight your privacy settings are. Anything posted online should be considered public and permanent. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back, even if you delete it. Keep that in mind before you hit the “Post” button.

Rather than being physically discussion based, online class discussions happen through email or through discussion boards. Prepare to communicate through these new media by reviewing online etiquette notes, using proper spelling/grammar, being respectful, and re-reading your work. If you do those things, you’ll be ready to communicate in your new class!