Student Netiquette in the Online Discussion Forum

student netiquette

There are days when you want to throw your phone away after just five minutes of reading Internet comment sections. Online students don’t have that option. They have to work in the online classroom and discussion forums, so it can be agonizing when a troll wanders into the conversation and won’t go away.

There are ways to deal with trolls as a community – unmasking them, ignoring them, or fighting back with facts – but within the online classroom, harassment and negative comments are largely handled by university employees working on behalf of the students.

“[Negativity] brings the learning process to an unnecessarily grinding halt,” said Dolan Williams, an Ashford University Student Community Standards Specialist, who is responsible for dealing with student misconduct in the online environment. Misconduct, according to Williams, can range from profanity and abusive language to forms of academic cheating, such as buying a paper from another online student and submitting it as your own.

Internet trolls can become much more than an annoyance. Their activity can cause a distraction for students trying to interact with one another, and worse, they can dissuade students from participating in the online community.

“Discussion forums are so important to student success because they focus heavily on communicating with other people electronically,” said Williams. “If [students] don’t do that, they run a significant risk of being unsuccessful.”

Students who violate Ashford University’s Student Community Standards will be sent an email detailing the misconduct. They must respond to the email within two business days or risk having an administrative hold placed on their account. Incidents that aren’t deemed serious will be dealt with through an informal hearing — a phone call that is intended to be a “non-adversarial” discussion. If a student were found in violation, they would be subject to sanctions that include formal warnings, conduct probation, or educational projects.

In serious cases, a student accused of misconduct is asked to attend a formal hearing — also conducted over the phone — with the Student Community Standards Committee. Students found in violation can face sanctions that include expulsion, suspension, or even fines and restitution.

All of that can be avoided by sticking to the guidelines laid out in the Student Rights and Responsibilities policy. Additionally, Williams suggested students who want to excel in the online environment do so by interacting with instructors and peers frequently in the forums, while keeping non-academic discussions reserved to social media, student groups, or private discussions.

“The purpose of the classroom experience is to help build a sense of community among the learners and the faculty,” he said. “We always encourage students to be direct, polite, and professional.”


Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.


Retrieved from, “10 Tips to Dealing with Trolls”

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