The course alias (& other forms of Web-based discussion, e.g., WebX Forum) opens up wonderful opportunities to extend discussion outside of the classroom. But Web-based discussion can also raise problems 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, experts 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, feel free to argue your own position but treat your classmates with respect. Challenge ideas that you don't agree with 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. Our goal is a 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, indicate tone in your message through "emoticons" (A.K.A. "smileys") or explicit cues [e.g. :) or "grin"]. Assume that your classmates 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 because of "Minnesota niceness," do express yourself with sensitivity to and respect for the emotions of others.
Edit messages to which you are responding. That is, quote relevant and necessary parts of the message, but cut out the rest so that your classmates don't have to wade through long passages and elaborate signature lines that they've already read. Also write your replies at the beginning of the email, with the message to which you're replying after that.
For a list of emoticons or smileys, try:
For Dave Barry's hilarious alternative collection of smileys, go to:
USEFUL INTERNET EMOTICONSYou might also want to check out my expectations about email format.
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