The Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Communication


Please read “The Dos and Don’ts for Online Student Communication” below.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Using your FIRST NAME and LAST INITIAL (or two initials if there is more than one of you with the same first name, last initial), answer yes or no below, and then support your answer with a clear explanation. If you voted “yes,” clearly state the behavior that you believe should be added to this list and explain how you feel it will positively impact our online discussions. If you vote “no,” explain why you think this list will effectively keep our online discussions respectful and supportive.

Once you have posted your response, read and reply thoughtfully to at least 1 other member of the class. Compliment strong additions to the list, ask questions, and build on ideas shared.


Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Communication

By Caitlin Tucker

Strategies for Creating and Maintaining a Safe Space:

  • Use each other’s names. Using a person’s name when you respond to his/her postings creates a friendly online tone.
  • Read questions and conversational postings carefully to avoid unnecessary confusion.
  • Compliment your peers when they post strong responses or contribute original ideas.
  • Ask questions. If anything is unclear or you want further information or insight on a topic, just ask. If you have a question, there are probably other members of the group who are confused and need further clarification as well.
  • Be considerate. Remember that your peers cannot see your body language or hear your tone of voice, so you need to keep your language direct and respectful.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, and sarcasm.
  • Listen to all ideas presented. Remember there is no right or wrong in a discussion. A variety of perspectives add depth.
  • Stay open minded.  
  • Respond instead of reacting. Do not write a response if you are angry or upset. Instead, wait until you have had time to calm down and collect your thoughts.
  • Really read your peers’ responses. Avoid skimming. Respect the time your peers have spent articulating their thoughts by reading carefully and thoughtfully.
  • Reread your messages before sending them to ensure that your ideas are clearly communicated and supported.
  • Critique the content, not the person.
  • Do not present your personal opinions as fact. Back up your ideas with information to strengthen your statements.
  • Courteously answer all questions addressed directly to you.
  • Make I statements when respectfully disagreeing. Sharing an opposing opinion or idea is an important part of discussion, but it needs to be presented in constructive manner that encourages further discussion.
  • Do not use all caps when writing. It is interpreted as yelling.
  • Avoid emotional punctuation, like exclamation points, unless you are complimenting an idea shared.

Now respond below as indicated in the directions.

Strong Sentence Starters: 

Rebecca’s comment made me think about…

Although Zach made a strong point that_________________________, I think…

I respectfully disagree with Lawrence’s assertion…

I really appreciate Deborah’s insight into…

Thank you, Manuel, for sharing…

I had not thought about Leigh’s point that…

Great point, Angela! Have you considered…

Even though Katie’s point is valid, I tend to…

Building on Dustin’s statement that…

In contrast to Michelle’s point…

Brady highlighted some key ideas when he said…

Caitlin, can you clarify your statement that______________________________?

Carmen, your posting reminded me of…

Lucy’s observation that ________________________ reflects…

Given what you know about___________________________ George, what are your thoughts on_____________________________?

Marcella, do you agree (or disagree) with…?

Robin, how would you define…?

102 Responses to The Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Communication

  1. Hillary A. says:

    Thank you for all these tips you shared with us. I will keep all these points in mind, while I’m in your class.

    • Taylor says:

      I agree with Hillary Abankwa, these tips are very useful and will keep the online world more respectful of others. I Intend on using these while I am in your class

      • Kaylei W says:

        I strongly agree with Taylor A and Hilary A. If all the rules listed above are followed every time people engage in a online conversation, everyone will be more respectful.

  2. Kate L. says:

    No, if all of these strategies are followed, a safe and efficient space online will be online.

  3. Grace B says:

    No, I think that if all of these tips are followed correctly, posting online and responding to other peoples comments will be helpful to students. This allows students to get peer help and learn new things in a proper manner.

    Kate L’s comment made me think about how if everyone is respectful online and everyone speaks in a proper manner that online will be a safe place for us to have our peers help us if we have questions or want to share information.

    • Isabella S says:

      I agree with Grace B’s statement. With these tips in mind, every student can learn new things in a friendly online environment.

    • Bethany K says:

      I agree with Grace’s comment as well as Isabella, as these rules can definitely help and teach students how to respond to others positively and respectfully.

  4. Max G says:

    I believe that there are enough tips listed. Following these rules will help the person who writes something feel good about what they wrote and it can help other people on how to answer with respect.

    Building on Grace B’s statement, I agree with what she said. She demonstrates how students can gain something from these tips.

    • Adam G says:

      I agree with max. Following the tips provided should lead to a civil online discourse.

    • Scarlett Ottley says:

      I agree with Max’s statement. There is definitely more tips that could be added to this list to make it stronger. However, the tips already listed are great and could really help students communication.

  5. Isabella S says:

    No, I believe that these rules for online communication are enough to keep discussions online a safe and friendly environment while still giving enough freedom to one’s opinions.

    • Castor F says:

      I agree with Isabella S, because these rules still allow us to say our opinion while staying safe.

    • Rachel A says:

      I agree with Isabella’s comment. I don’t think there is anything else to be added. I feel if we all follow the rules above, we’ll be able to have kind and respectful discussions.

  6. Taylor says:

    No, I feel that these tips you made us read are important and if used, will lead to a safe online environment and everyone will be happy and friendly to one another.

  7. Castor F says:

    No, I believe Caitlyn T listed all the important do’s and don’ts for online student communication and I believe if we follow all these rules, our community will get stronger and we will all be respected and learn how to communicate in a more sophisticated manner.

    • Noah K says:

      I agree with Castor, Caitlin T listed all the requirements for a safe work-space online. I also think that in a safe space, we will be more productive, therefore making better work.

    • Noah K says:

      I agree with Castor F, the requirements above definitely list a good online workspace. One thing that comes from a safe place is productivity, therefore producing better work.

  8. Kaylei W says:

    No, I don’t believe any new rules will need to be added to the list. If everyone is respectful, follows the rules, and encourages other to follow them, online discussions will be a safe and happy way for all students, parents, and teachers to communicate.

    • Gabi P says:

      I agree with Kaylei W’s points about why the list is already effective and has factors that will contribute to the creation of a safe and supportive online space for discussions. If everyone is respectful and clear as they present their ideas, this will be an effective space for education and sharing of opinions that is beneficial to those wh0 contribute to the discussions.

  9. Sarah T says:

    No, I believe that all of these rules stated are good guidelines to follow when communicating online.

  10. Sarah Mesibov says:

    No, I believe no new rules are needed to be added for if every student were to abide by these guidelines then there should not be any issue with online communication.

    • Jonathan Y says:

      I agree with Sarah in that all the rules should keep all the discussions peaceful and constructive if people follow them. I like how she points out that people have to follow these rules in order for things to be supportive and respectful.

  11. Jonathan Y says:

    I do not believe that there is anything else that should be added to the list, as I believe that all the required fields have been covered with good advice already. The list says how you can be nice when responding to other people which will keep the conversation supportive, and she also says to be courteous which will keep it respectful.

    • Adith V says:

      I agree with Jonathan Y. I did not think about the communication also being supported. This is a really good point because it also allows the author of a comment to expand and develop his or her skills.

  12. Bethany K says:

    No, I believe the rules stated are great examples of how students should respond to one another. This could also lead to better teamwork and a stronger bond as a whole group. I think being respectful is always the way to go, even when disagreeing with another person.

    • Alicia H says:

      I agree with Bethany. Often I think students misinterpret constructive criticism, by following these guidelines students will be more respectful, and learn to seek to help others.

  13. Gabi P says:

    No, I do not believe that any other rules need to be added to the list. I think that by following these rules, we can create a safe and understanding space online in which peers can communicate respectfully and effectively. I think the rules set good guidelines for how we can communicate clearly with one another while stating our opinions and ideas respectively, even if we do not agree with our peers’ opinions and ideas.

    • Samantha S says:

      I agree with Gabi and the points she made. This set of rules has made it clear on how to communicate clearly and effectively without sounding rude or uninformed, which is very important.

    • Zoe F says:

      I agree with Gabi, as long as these rules are followed their should be a safe, easy,and friendly way to communicate with others

  14. Alicia H says:

    No, I would not add anything to the list. Not only does it have guidelines for safe online communication but it also has tips that inform students on how to create a friendly and thoughtful environment. If students follow these guidelines they will look to critique rather than tear down creating a respectful and open minded community.

  15. Connor H. says:

    I don’t think more should or could be added to this list. It compliments all of te necessary areas when messaging peers online.

  16. Mia P. says:

    No, I believe that this list is detailed and effective in explaining a good way to communicate online. This list will keep online discussions respectful because people tend to forget social formalities and niceties once conversations are no longer face to face. It is important to remember that the same rules apply during any academic discussion, whether they are in person or online.

    I agree with Kaylei W, because if these rules are followed, online discussions will be not only beneficial for the students, but for the teachers and parents as well. Online discussions will help the parents and teachers understand what their children are learning and if their help is needed.

    • Katharine G says:

      I agree with Mia, when online we sometimes forget how much our words really affect others. These rules help remind us how to act properly on the internet.

  17. Adith V says:

    No, I do not think any rules need to be added to the list. If we follow these rules my peers and I will be able to communicate effectively and respectfully. Even if someone disagrees with someone else the rules help to show how to present the argument in a respectful way rather than an offensive or rude manner.

    • Connor T says:

      I agree with Adith, because the rules provide guidelines for someone who disagrees in order to prevent arguments.

    • Caleb G says:

      I completely agrree with Adith because communication is key in discussions and one should always take their manner into account before saying anything.

  18. Adam G says:

    I don’t have anything else to add. While in reality its really different, online discourse should be like real life discourse.

  19. Samantha S says:

    No, I believe that the rules stated above are more than enough to keep an online space safe and respectful. These rules covered not only how to be respectful to other but how to properly comment on what other people have said. Many of the things stated above on how to sound respectful and how to properly comment are easily forgotten when communicating online.

    • Dylan Mc says:

      I totally agree with Samantha because if followed, these rules allow for a safe and respectful online environment. However, many of these rules can be forgotten in the heat of the moment, as Samantha points out.

  20. Katharine G says:

    No, I don’t think there are any rules that need to be added. I believe that by following these rules, we can communicate respectfully with our peers. These rules are clear and if followed by everyone, create a safe zone on the internet.

  21. Connor T says:

    No, I would not add anything to this list. I feel that the current list is sufficient enough to provide organized online student communication, and they make sure that there are no issues related to anyone being disrespectful to each other.

    • Stephen C. says:

      I agree with Connor whole-heartily. I believe stopping disrespect is something that’s not only important online, but also important in real life conversations.

  22. Noah K says:

    I agree with most of these points. However, when Caitlin says not to use all caps, I would disagree and say that it helps get the point across. This helps express your opinion and make sure that you or anyone else is heard.

    • Lauria M says:

      Noah makes a good point. I had not thought of this. I agree with him that using all caps can be beneficial in certain situations.

  23. Dylan A says:

    I feel as though the guidelines stated will help me and my peers be as functional as possible doing school work online. Thank you for these wise words of wisdom.

  24. Hayley A. says:

    No, I think all the points to creating a respectful online environment have been addressed and I will use these tips when writing online. The sentence starters are especially useful because they are respectful ways to respond to my classmates comments.

    • Gabbi L says:

      I completely agree with Hayley and I am also glad she acknowledged the sentence starters. I though they were clever, creative, and helpful. I will definitely use some in the near future.

    • Neve H says:

      Building on Hayley’s comment, sentence starters can help a student think of a creative and respectful way to respond to other’s comments, even when she does not agree.

  25. Stephen C. says:

    I don’t believe anymore tips need to be added to the list since the list already covers pretty much everything important in the conduct of friendly online communication. I think one of the hardest things to convey on online communication is emotion and tone. While it’s easy for us in person, these two elements are incredibly hard to communicate to someone online, and I think the list perfectly demonstrates how to convey emotion and tone in a friendly, clear way

    • Hadiya Q. says:

      I had not thought about Stephen’s point that tone and specifically emotion is hard to convey online. I agree that these guidelines will allow for a forum where emotion and tone can be communicated in a healthy and positive way.

    • Adam C says:

      I completely agree with Stephen, nothing needs to be added to the list. Not only does it have excellent rules and guidelines to follow for online communication, but it also has advice and tips that inform students on how to create a friendly environment while communicating with each other. If students follow these rules they will look to correct or help fix what others do rather than disrespect and say something rude about something, creating a respectful community.

  26. Gabbi L says:

    I would not add anything to this list; I think Caitlin Tucker hit the nail on the head with this one. She provided tips and rules to maintain a peaceful, considerate online communication, while still explaining how to get your own ideas and opinions across with a good tone.

    • Casey K says:

      To add on to Gabbi’s point taking a look at some of the helpful tips such as the sentence starters in this list, may help us to self-check and make sure we are not starting our reply to aggressively or angrily. By using the tips presented we will be able to maintain a calm environment for everyone to express their ideas freely.

  27. Scarlett Ottley says:

    Yes, there is definitely more that could be added to this list such as helping your peers create strong arguments by kindly by extending their post. However, the tips given are very helpful and would be adequate even without adding tips to the list.

  28. Dylan Mc says:

    No, I don’t believe anything else needs to be added to this list because it provides all of the key points that will make online communication respectful. If everyone follows all of these tips, we can have safe and meaningful online conversations, without the fear of harsh feedback.

    • Emma C says:

      I agree with Dylan. Many students probably feel nervous once posting a comment just because someone would make a negative response to it, but once everyone follows the rules, the tone would be much more positive and people would be respectful of everyone’s comments.

    • Anna P says:

      I agree with Dylan in that these rules will guarantee respectful conversation, but the rules also make for, in my opinion, a very bland and dull conversation where ideas are simply stated rather then a true meaningful interaction. I would like to see a new list where there are tips on how to connect more with your peers instead of solely how to avoid conflict.

  29. Zoe F says:

    No, I wouldn’t add anything to the list because every point made a clear message while properly addressing useful tips. This also has good respectful sentence starters that I will use now and in the future.

  30. Hadiya says:

    Yes, there are more items that can be added to Caitlyn’s already strong list. For example, a do should be “do reply t0 comments with less replies” to ensure everyone’s thoughts are speculated on and read. I would also add try not to repeat the same thing, instead word it different and add on your own opinions. I think by adding these two easy changes the list will be complete and perfect.

  31. Hadiya Q. says:

    Yes, there are more items that can be added to Caitlyn’s already strong list. For example, a do should be “do reply t0 comments with less replies” to ensure everyone’s thoughts are speculated on and read. I would also add try not to repeat the same thing, instead word it different and add on your own opinions. I think by adding these two easy changes the list will be complete and perfect.

    • Jillian K says:

      I completely agree with Hadiya, I also did not think of her great idea.

    • Michael H. says:

      I think that Hadiya Q. definitely has a great point here. Making sure that every post has been replied to is very important, so that all ideas are included within the discussion. Again, I agree with your second point as well, as reading many of the same post becomes repetitive. These two ideas would be great additions to Caitlin Tucker’s list.

    • Vienna G says:

      Hadiya brings up a good point. I agree that it is important to make sure people’s opinions are valued and that everyone should be included in a discussion. Having varied opinions is also important and will help strengthen our discussions.

  32. Jillian K says:

    No, I believe that everything listed here is all that is needed to create a safe and open space for everyone’s opinions.

  33. Neve H says:

    I do not think anything should be added and I agree with all the tips listed above because when everyone is thorough and respectful in online communication, new ideas and information can spread. Hearing your peer’s opinions may help broaden your own perspective.

    • Hannah L. says:

      I definitely agree that reading the thoughts of others can help you hear more opinions and broaden your perspective. I had not previously thought about this point, but it is very important to hear what your peers have to say on the subject.

  34. Emma C says:

    No, I believe that these online communication rules are enough to create a safe and respectful environment among students on the internet so that everyone can enjoy it in a gracious manner.

    • Delyth Phillips says:

      I agree with Emma C because she talks about how these rues can create a safe and respectful environment among students and the online community.

  35. Hannah L. says:

    No, I think that Caitlin Tucker mentioned all important areas of respectful communication. It is important that we are all considerate of everyone else’s comments and reply in a polite manner in order to maintain a safe online conversation. Appropriate language and considerate tone both help ensure this.

  36. Richard R says:

    No, The ruled listed above would lead to a safer and more respectable online environment.

  37. Delyth Phillips says:

    No, I believe the rules listed above will lead to a safer online community. Rules that popped into my head while reading, were later on in the list.

  38. Kezia M says:

    I believe the above list of rules is enough to maintain a safe place for every student to share their opinion without judgment or feeling afraid. I believe every student’s views are going to be valued in this environment.

    • Sorcha H. says:

      I agree with Kezia M. because I think having a safe environment where people can express their own opinions without being scared is very important.

    • Dylan Mu says:

      I agree with Kezia M. and Sorcha H. The list teaches the reader how to communicate online without disrespecting anybody’s views or opinions in the process.

  39. Sorcha H. says:

    No, I do not think that anything else should be added to the list. The list clearly explains how you can respect your peers and how to act online. It also provides some starter sentences that can help someone learn the correct way to address the responses without being too judgemental or hurting someone’s feelings.

    • Julia F says:

      I agree with Sorcha, and I had not thought about her point that the starter sentences are a very useful tool if you want to have a discussion with someone and are not sure how to begin the discussion. If you are worried that you may give the wrong tone when addressing the person, the starter sentences help you to convey your thoughts in a polite way.

  40. Hana says:

    I believe the list helps because it provides a way where students can use the internet in a safe way and a place where we can express our opinions.

  41. Dylan Mu says:

    No, I believe that there is enough information presented in this list. It thoroughly explains how to respectfully communicate online, and the tips given can be used to communicate with people online politely.

  42. Michael H. says:

    No, I don’t believe that anything needs to be added to this list. I believe that Caitlin Tucker really did a nice and thorough job when constructing this piece. She clarified ideas when they could be seen as unclear. She covered a variety of topics concerning online communication, which were very insightful and helpful. Her comments about being polite and respectful could be very useful to many.

  43. Julia F says:

    No, I don’t think that anything needs to be added to the list. The list contains plenty of rules that would ensure safe and efficient online discussions. It makes it clear that everyone should be respectful of each other’s opinions and consider all ideas or sides of an argument before presenting your opinion. I think it is especially important to pay attention to this rule to make sure that we remain open minded, see from other people’s perspectives, get ideas across, and refrain from offending anyone.

  44. Alison Kryger says:

    I agree with Julia. I do not think that any more rules need to be added to the list. It is very clear in stating that everybody needs to be respectful and kind when communicating with peers online, especially when dealing with others opinions.

  45. Casey K says:

    No I would not make any changes to the list , I believe the rules present a clear structure for communicating ideas effectively. In the event of different opinions the list presents ways to calmly make this known without being hostile, and ways to approach a response. I feel the list if followed, will help keep the peace in even the most debated topics.

    • Peter Wu says:

      Thank you, Casey, for your insight into how this list provides a way to avoid hostility while communicating ideas. The way you explained this is succinct but touches on all the points in the list.

  46. Peter Wu says:

    I do not feel as though anything needs to be added to the list. All the rules appear to help avoid the pitfalls of communicating solely in text, such as avoiding sarcasm, which is hard to notice without inflection or body language. I find some parts slightly odd, such as the focus on using ones name, but also to avoid attacking people when criticizing. Attacks on points with names included can be seen as an attack on the speaker, instead of a critique of argument, but this list solves most problems well.

    • Joseph G. says:

      Peter, that is a very interesting point! I believe we can all benefit from a healthy balance of appreciation and criticism that your example provides.

  47. Vienna G says:

    I would not make any changes to this list. I think these rules explain clearly how to communicate effectively and respectfully online. Following these rules will allow us to have meaningful discussions that will help us get a better understanding of the topics we focus on.

  48. Anna P says:

    I believe the list of behaviors is complete, but I would take away a few of them for more thoughtful, creative communication. Unless the communication between the students is being directly graded or analyzed by the teacher, I think they should be allowed to use jargon, fonts, and emotional punctuation as they please as long as it is in a respectful and appropriate manner. This will help the students feel more comfortable with each other and help them express their thoughts better as well

  49. Joseph G. says:

    After considering my own view of how people should behave online, I found that every point was covered by this list is one way or another, and for that reason I agree completely with this list and it’s rules.

  50. Caleb G says:

    No, I would not add anything else to the list. The list is quite clear in explaining how to properly show respect to peers online and how to effectively get your point across. If everyone maintains the behaviors stated on the list, our class discussions will remain respectful and supportive.

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