Educ 5412 - The Computer in Education Summer 2005 (Morris M.Ed Cohort): Dr. Helen Mongan-Rallis

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Web Crossing Discussion Ground Rules & Netiquette Guidelines

Welcome to our Educ 5412 Summer 2005 Web Crossing Discussion Forum! Before you begin participating in our online class discussions, it is important for you to understand the context and "ground rules" of our 5412 learning community.

Online discussion forums, like Web Crossing, open up wonderful opportunities to extend discussion outside of the classroom or to extend the "classroom" beyond the confines of a specific physical learning space and time. Increasingly schools, universities, and businesses across the USA and around the world are offering components of or whole courses/training modules online. Discussions among participants through synchronous (at the same time) and asynchronous means form key components of many of these online learning opportunities and enable students to extend their learning beyond the confines of traditional face-to-face (F2F) classrooms. However, web-based discussions can also raise problems that are unique to this method of communicating. It's all too easy to fire off a message that you later regret--one that you would not have articulated if you were speaking in the physical presence of your classmate(s) or one that was taken the wrong way because your tone was misunderstood.

Because of the potential for (usually unintended) abuse, web users have formulated what they call "netiquette," or rules or etiquette for corresponding over e-mail or through web-based forums. Most of these rules involve common sense and common courtesy -- the same rules that apply in the classroom. For example, it is important to argue your own position but still treat your classmates with respect. You should challenge ideas with which you don't agree and state your own convictions as forcefully as you want, but keep the arguments diplomatic and friendly and never attack the people who hold ideas different from your own. The goal is a challenging, lively, friendly, and free (non-intimidating) exchange of ideas about topics that matter to all of us.

Because tone IS difficult to convey without visual and aural help, one of the ways to indicate tone in your message is through using "emoticons" or explicit cues [e.g. :) or "grin"]. However, even if classmates and instructors do not use these to help convey the emotional time of their message, you should assume that they are as well intentioned as you are; don't be quick to take personal offense over what is said. But realize, too, that people's feelings can be easily hurt. Without compromising your own stand or avoiding debate out of "Minnesota niceness," do express yourself with sensitivity to and respect for the emotions of others.

Other principles of WebX netiquette:

  1. Use the WebX Forum only for matters that concern your classmates. Most of the discussion should involve topics directly related to our course. We do have a Class Community Center folder for you to engage in very informal discussions among yourselves and to post announcements of happenings that will interest your classmates, but NEVER pass along chain-letters or "spam" (e.g., solicitations).
  2. When you are responding to someone else's comments, be sure to do so by clicking on the "reply" button so that your comments are attached to the original as part of that discussion thread. When you do so, it may be helpful to refer to or quote relevant and necessary parts of the original.
  3. If you post a question or follow-up comment to someone else's posting, do follow-up and finish the discussion with that person (so check back to see if they responded to you and if there is a need for you to reply).
  4. If you wish to respond to others privately about their posting (so that others do not see your response) you can e-mail them directly (by clicking on their picture next to their posting). If you do this, copy and paste their posting or relevant parts of their posting so that they know the context for your e-mail. [Note: this is important netiquette when responding to e-mails, too. If you are replying to someone's e-mail, it is very important for you to include their original e-mail or relevant parts of it before or following your comments. Don't assume that that remember the details of what was in their original e-mail! Also be sure to include the topic in the e-mail subject line.]

Other resources:

Note: These netiquette guidelines have been adapted with permission from directions originally written by Steve Adams, UMD.

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