Rules of Netiquette in Online & Distance Learning Courses

To ensure your peers and instructor receive your written communications as you intended, keep the following netiquette rules in mind:

  1. Your Peers are Human:
    When communicating online, remember there are real humans reading your words who deserve respect.  Without the benefit of facial cues and other physical indications, your readers may not interpret your words as you intended.  Before sending any communication, ask yourself if you would say the same thing if you were face-to-face.
  1. Apply the Same Ethical Standards as You Would for In-Person Communication:
    Expectations for standards of behavior are no different in an online course. This includes following the copyright laws and University codes of conduct.
  1. Consider Where You Are in Cyberspace:
    Communication which is acceptable in one platform (texting), may not be appropriate in your online course. Pay attention to how other learners in your course are communicating and follow their cues.
  1. Respect People’s Time and Bandwidth:
    Your communication should be relevant and concise. Your peers and instructor will need to be able to read your work within a reasonable amount of time. Avoid attaching large files or images which might take time to download.  In addition, you should not expect immediate responses to your work.  Follow the guidelines outlined in your syllabus for response time and feedback.
  1. Pay Attention to the Quality of Your Writing:
    People may not be judging you on your appearance, but they will be judging you on the quality of your written words. Make sure your work is relevant to the topic and proof-read before submitting.
  1. Share Your Knowledge:
    One of the great aspects of learning online is the varied experience of your peers and the ability to learn from one another.  Share your expertise, including resources and reference materials.
  1. Do Not Participate in Bullying or Inciting Arguments:
    Express your passion for a topic without anger.  It’s okay to disagree with someone, but keep it respectful and avoid personal insults. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
  1. Respect the Privacy of Your Peers and Instructor:
    Some forums ask students to share personal information, relevant to the topic at hand. Do not share your peer’s personal information - respect their privacy. This privacy extends to all of your classmates' presence in the online class environment. Sharing screenshots, video, or audio of your classmates without their permission is a violation of student privacy rights. Similarly, you should not share any of your classmate's classwork, group work, presentations or other educational materials without permission.
  1. Don’t Abuse Your Power:
    Having more expertise can give one a sense of power in the learning community. Do not take advantage of others who may not have the same experience or knowledge.
  1. Practice Kindness and Forgiveness:
    Some students may ask questions which appear to be off topic or peers might make errors in spelling, etc.  Be kind and do not draw attention to mistakes. If you feel your peer would benefit from your feedback, provide the information in private.

For guidelines more specific to communicating in online discussion forums, please read  General Discussion Guidelines.


Mintu-Wimsatt A. Netiquette: Make it part of your syllabus. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 2010;6(1):264.

Shea, V. (1994). Netiquette. San Francisco: Albion Books.