Online class etiquette: Why is it important?

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Etiquette refers to a set of customs and rules acceptable in social groups or social situations. It is sometimes called common courtesy because many of these rules encourage politeness and consideration for others. Examples of social etiquette include coming to an appointment on time, speaking with the right volume, or dressing for the occasion. We follow these rules not only to show respect for others, but also to help maintain order and feel a sense of belonging.

In an online environment, we call accepted common behaviors as “netiquette” (internet + etiquette). Just like in real life, netiquette encourages us to act with courtesy. When everyone treats one another with respect, it helps create a safe, engaging, respectful and collaborative environment. Netiquette also prevents miscommunication which is important, since body language is limited online.

Netiquette encourages netizens to act with courtesy. When everyone treats one another with respect, it helps create a safe, engaging, respectful, and collaborative environment.

Some basic netiquette you should observe:

  1. Start with a greeting

    The first rule of internet communications is to “remember the human.” You should always be aware that you are talking to a person, not a device. Acknowledge your instructors and classmates as you would in an in-person class. It is also a great way to signal your presence. A quick “hello” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening!” is always appreciated.

  2. Stay focused

    • Don’t do other tasks that will distract you or others especially if you will make noise. Tapping on your keyboard, flipping sheets of paper, and other distracting sounds can take over a session and spoil it for everybody else. Stay muted if you can’t prevent background noise.
    • Listen to others and respectfully wait for your turn to speak.
    • Respond in a timely manner when asked a question.
    • Use chat if you can’t turn your mic on or if somebody else is speaking and you don’t want to interrupt.
  3. poster for online class etiquette

  4. Don’t shout

    Don’t use all capital letters when writing a message on a chat box. It’s equivalent to shouting, which is rude. All caps are used only when you’re angry or if your message is extremely urgent. If you want to emphasize your message or convey emotions, use emoticons.

    Use polite and simple language when posting a message on a community chat. Remember that everyone can see your post. If you’re sending a message to a specific person or answering someone’s question on the chat thread, you can use “@ + user name” so that others will know that the message is for that particular person. For example, you can write: “Hello @Blaine! May I know when the next Citizenship Class is going to be?”

  5. Be informal but not too informal

    Online classes tend to be relaxed since you’re at home and meeting in a virtual environment. But don’t forget that it’s still a class. Plus, you’re opening up your home (or room) when you’re on a video call. It’s important to be mindful of what you wear, your background, and the people around you.

    If you’re a private person (or if you want to protect your family’s privacy), ask your instructor if it’s okay not to turn your camera on. Another option would be to use Skype or Zoom backgrounds if you don’t want strangers to see your room or home.

  6. It’s okay to ask for help

    No one will know you’re having technical problems unless you tell someone. Tell your instructor immediately if you need help or if you have a question (this also goes for non-technical issues).

    Remember that you can use various modes of communication in an online class. When it’s urgent, use your microphone to speak or call your instructor’s attention by posting a chat message. Email can be used for longer inquiries, or for sending documents or homework (you can also use chat for this). Phone calls or one-on-one video chats are for private meetings, interviews, and consultations. Just ask for an appointment ahead of time. You can also use social media for sending messages or sharing resources.


Read Simple principles of proper netiquette to know more rules of netiquette.

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