Distance Learning Etiquette – Part A

Online classes have rules, just like traditional classes do (Photo by Rex Pe)

Sure, you’ve been texting, IM’ing and chatting with your friends since you thumbed the keys on your first Playskool iPhone. But just because the newbies fry when you flame doesn’t mean that you are ready for the more rarified air of the online classroom. You are back in class, and certain protocols must be observed. They may seem picayune to you, but following the etiquette procedures will make your life much easier in the long run, and may even sway the professor to accept your claim that your dog ate your homework (again).

1) Remember: the professor is not your bud. He has not known you since childhood, and is not aware of your every thought before you think it. Especially, if he has more than one class (and all of them do), he can’t remember whether you’re the John Smith in his English Comp 101 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or the one on Saturdays. And your email user name is not going to clue him in. So, put any and all identifying information that you can think of on any and all correspondence, no matter how short or trivial. You might even set up a macro for each class, so that you can quickly and easily insert your name, the full course name and section number (you might even list the times and dates it meets), today’s date, and the title of the thing that you are submitting.

2) I know that it is ridiculous to have to spell out an entire word when everyone knows that 4 means for, or four. Or maybe, it means 4. A little confusion among friends can be kind of cute, but it is merely annoying in class. And the person that you are annoying is the person who will be deciding what your grade in the course will be. It’s worth taking the extra couple of seconds per word to spell it all out for him. And don’t forget to use spellchecker! And don’t forget to proofread! If you are lousy at grammar, take a refresher course before you ever start your degree track. When you get to writing term papers, you will be glad that you invested the time.

3) Stay on track during class meetings, and don’t hog the whiteboard. Make sure that you have read the assigned text and done your homework before connecting with your professor and your classmates. That will give you the opportunity to craft the essential, relevant questions to further your understanding. Once you have asked a question, let someone else jump in before you go on. You never know—another student may ask a revealing question that you haven’t thought of yet. If you run out of time before you run out of questions, you need to schedule some alone time with the professor, a tutor, or another student.

4) If you have a problem with the class, or with the technology, or any problems at all, discuss them privately with the professor. The other students are trying to understand the coursework also, and it is not incumbent upon you to regale them with the story of how it took you 3 hours to log on. Save that story for your friends. They’ll probably be able to finish your sentences for you.

(To be continued)

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