Monday, November 19, 2012

A new kind of netiquette!

As students, we have learned over the years that when we walk into a classroom the teacher expects us to come in quietly, sit down and wait for instructions. At least it’s an understood concept, doesn’t mean students actually do it! We also know what we expect as teachers. There is a decorum in a face to face classroom that we have grown accustomed to. We wait for all of our students to enter and get quiet before beginning a discussion and starting the daily lesson. We call on students who raise their hands, compliment them when they get the correct answer, and encourage them when they are incorrect. We can even tell who does not participate in class and who does. So how can we replicated the face to face etiquette with online learning classroom? How can we tell if our students are the shy ones in the back of the class or they are just procrastinators, waiting for the last moment to post to the discussion board or hand in an assignment. How do we know that a student is really understanding the material just because he/she replies to everyone's posts and asks tons of questions. It is very hard to gauge these physical and personal ques from students that you would normally get from a face-to -face interaction. 

There is a certain level of etiquette that needs to be redefined in an online environment. In fact, it’s not really etiquette but more so it should be policy. Schools and online educators publicize the policies for online “Netiquette” describing both appropriate email etiquette and appropriate posting to discussion forums. However, they should also create policy for both educators and students alike to guide them in creating a warm and positive learning environment. Some examples include introducing yourself at the beginning of class and giving all students an opportunity to make intros. You should use names when addressing responses to students and try to comment on personal things they have mentioned. Refer to good comments made by other students and be visible in the classroom.

Having policies is important. The relaxed nature of an online or blended learning environment may cause a student to use a relaxed manner when communicating with other peers as well as his/her teacher. But certain fundamental concepts of a classroom still apply. Respect for your fellow classmates and teacher, punctuality, and positive responses are a few. Following basic netiquette for online courses for both teacher and student alike can facilitate a creative and collaborative learning experience that could be just as effective, if not more, as a face to face traditional classroom. 

The central importance of clear and frequent communication among students and teacher will naturally allow for relationships to manifest and thus allow the teacher to really get to know the students where they can tell if they are the eager beaver or the shy one in the back.