Netiquette—Or Best Practices for Interacting Online

Netiquette is the term used to describe the special set of rules for online communication. Because students in the online learning environment are unable to experience the body language, tone of voice, or facial expressions of their peers, it is important to make them aware of netiquette guidelines at the beginning of the course. Instructors can emphasize that netiquette will be useful not only for their course, but also for future professional interactions (Ogilvie, 2006). By making netiquette information explicit, students will better understand how to effectively communicate in Discussion Forums, online classes, and the online environment overall.

How to Get Started

Step 1: Model the netiquette you would like to see students use:

  • Include email response times in your syllabus. If you will only check it from Sunday through Friday, for example, include this so students know what to expect.
  • Include sample Discussion Forum responses so students can see what is appropriate and what is not.
  • Be sure to cite sources based on your preferred citation style, and let students know that you expect them to do the same.
  • A few examples of safe use (Copyright, 2016):
    • A professor uses clips from various films to illustrate a point in her history seminar at NC State.
    • All students in a class on popular music and culture share clips from their favorite musicians in Moodle to illustrate a discussion on genres of music.
    • A student links to a news article humorously related to a Discussion Forum prompt in Moodle.
  • A few examples of risky use (Copyright, 2016):
    • All students in a class on popular music and culture post full versions of their favorite songs on the open web as a way to introduce themselves.
    • A professor uses clips from various films to illustrate a point in her lecture to a local civic organization.
    • A professor shares a recording of her lecture, including an entire database of magazine covers in the library’s electronic reserves system.

Step 2: Communicate netiquette expectations clearly:

  • In your first general class announcement or email, remind students of the importance of proper netiquette.
  • Include a Discussion Forum rubric to aid students’ understanding of assignment expectations.

Best Practices

  • Before opening the first Discussion Forum, remind students that you appreciate when they tie in their life experiences, but that they should avoid overly emotional posts (Sull, 2014).
  • Consider pasting the following guidelines into your Discussion Forum rubric:
    • Remember the human behind the computer screen. Keep in mind that each message is from a person with thoughts and feelings much like your own (Shea, 2004).
    • It is appropriate to disagree with a peer’s response, but do so in a professional manner (Sull, 2014).
    • Follow the same standards of behavior that you subscribe to offline. Although it may seem like one can get away with more online, a lower standard of ethics is not acceptable (Shea, 2004). Keep in mind that all online communication is documented and therefore permanent.
    • Consider drafting your response in a Word document before pasting it into the actual Discussion Forum.
    • Try to stay calm and do not allow yourself to be easily offended. If you feel the need to send an angry message, take a break. If you write the message out, do not send it immediately. Save it. Then, look at it later and try to rewrite it using a milder tone.
    • When drafting an email, avoid putting the recipient’s email address in the “To” field in case you accidentally hit “Send” before the draft is complete.
    • Always read over your post before clicking “Submit” (Sull, 2014).


  • These examples of netiquette breaches could be pasted into your syllabus or Discussion Forum rubric:
    • Using slang, poor grammar, and other informal language in Discussion Forums or email messages to professors or classmates.
    • Sending inappropriate links or photos.
    • Typing in all caps.
    • Not responding to the Discussion Forum by the due date, which leaves no time for peers to comment on your response.
    • Going long periods of time without checking your NC State email (the general expectation is to check it at least once per day Monday through Friday).
    • “Flaming” others in Discussion Forums. Flaming is the act of responding in a highly critical, sarcastic, or ridiculing manner—especially if done on a personal level. Remember that these discussions are meant for constructive exchanges and learning.