"Stick with the question," he says. "That's how we all learn."
3. Be considerate of faculty and fellow classmates: When students are contributing to an online forum, they should always reread their comments to check for tone, experts say. Discussion boards that lack civility can alienate students and frustrate faculty.
"In the written word there can be a tone that maybe doesn't exist face-to-face," says Kim Brooks, academic dean of Ivy Bridge College of Tiffin University. In an online environment, students can't rely on body language to convey meaning, she says.
The same courtesy students show their classmates should extend to emails with instructors, experts say.
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"You should think in terms of a business email and not a text message or Facebook post," says James Porter, a professor who teaches online courses at Miami University—Oxford. "You use 'please' and 'thank you.' You sign your email. You use names when appropriate."
4. Don't share personal details: Discussion boards are great places to share tips for solving math equations, but they are not the place to discuss a recent breakup, experts say.
"Students forget that this is a public forum," says Mattes of Harrisburg. "They may say things that are way too personal, casual or inappropriate."
It is fine for students to form connections with classmates, faculty members say. But when a discussion turns personal, it's time to take it offline.
The same rules apply to email, experts say. Unless a student has established a close relationship with an instructor, it's best to keep communication professional.
"I sometimes get emails from students telling me their whole life story," says Palloff, the instructor and author. "I really don't need to hear all of that."
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