Online course etiquette, or "netiquette" has as its basis the ideal and understanding that you conduct yourself online as you would conduct yourself in a face-to-face interaction. Below are guidelines for being respectful of yourself, your instructor, and your peers.

Netiquette for Online Learning

To prevent misunderstandings in the online learning environment, it’s important to remember that non-verbal cues, facial expressions, gestures and intonation are often absent. The information below will help to prevent miscommunication and ensure everyone participating in the course gets started on the same page. 

Expectations and Guidelines for Interacting in the Online Environment (Stavredes, 2011)

A 2011 book by Tina Stavredes entitled “Effective Online Teaching: Foundations and Strategies for Student Success” outlines several guidelines that should be followed during each interaction between yourself and your instructor and between yourself and your classmates. Following these guidelines will help to ensure that your interactions are respectful and professional:


Stavredes, T., (2011). Effective Online Teaching: Foundations and Strategies for Student Success. San Francisco: Wiley.

  1. 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 him or her.
  2. It is easier to say something online when you do not have to look the person in the eye, so never post anything that you would not say to the person face-to-face.
  3. Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life, which includes acting ethically and following rules and regulations.  If you would not steal in real life, then you should not steal online by taking other people’s ideas and using them as your own.
  4. Respect other people’s time and bandwidth:
    1. Take time to understand the requirements of the discussion.
    2. Do not waste people’s time by asking questions that are not relevant to the discussion or questions whose answers can be readily found in the course material with a little effort.
    3. Refrain from disagreements that lead to personal attacks.
  5. Make yourself look good online:
    1. Take time to check your spelling and grammar.
    2. Prepare for discussions prior to engaging in them.
    3. Refrain from inappropriate language and remarks.
  6. Share your knowledge by offering help to your classmates who have questions.
  7. Help keep flame wars under control by not posting flames and not responding to flames – keep discussions professional.
  8. Forgive the mistakes of others and be patient and compassionate of all learners in the course.
More Tips for Online Discussions

Online discussions are more akin to face-to-face discussions interactions than writing assignments. Learn about a few more tips for interacting in an online course by reading Online Discussions: Tips for Students