How to Uphold the Values of Ashford in Online Communications
The written word takes on added importance for students at an online school. Almost all of an online student’s communication will be non-verbal. Potential communications include emails to instructors, interactions with fellow students in discussion forums, and even posts on the school’s social media sites.
As such, online students need to take extra care about the way they present themselves while writing. Stripped of verbal cues, body language, tone, and emotion, written language is easy to misinterpret. Nuances like sarcasm and irony can be completely lost, significantly altering the way readers interpret your words. Furthermore, if your readers aren’t personal acquaintances, they may be unable to discern your meaning. You can prevent misinterpretation by simply re-reading your communications before sending or posting. Try to review your words with a critical eye, and ask yourself if your meaning and intent are abundantly clear.
Practice Proper Netiquette
Another issue students must contend with is inappropriate online behavior and the phenomenon of online trolling. Emboldened by the anonymity of message boards and social media sites, “trolls” leave comments that are insulting, antagonistic, and/or offensive. Trolling and a general lack of civility online have become so commonplace that you may not even recognize it anymore.
When it comes to your school, you want to be conscientious about the image you portray. While Ashford University encourages students to interact freely and challenge ideas, it is vital that such challenges be made in a manner befitting an educational institution. Is your message something you would honestly say if you were speaking to someone face-to-face? Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind when interacting online:
- Aim for a tone that is considerate, encouraging, and helpful. Others may not possess the same knowledge or have the same life experiences as you and their opinions may differ. This diversity can be a wonderful component of education. You don’t have to agree with anyone’s opinion, but you will develop empathy and critical thinking skills if you take a moment to try and understand other points of view.
- Don’t shout. You may not realize, but writing with your keyboard’s caps lock on is considered rude. In an online environment, all caps is the equivalent of shouting.
- Practice patience. When you send an email or post a question that requires a response, you never know when or if someone will answer. The waiting game can feel like torture– especially if your question is important, but try to give your audience a reasonable window of time to respond. Your recipient may not see your question immediately and they may need to research an answer. It is acceptable to follow up if you do not receive a response, but always try to be considerate in your correspondence and expectations.
Actions Have Consequences
One of the reasons bad online behavior has flourished is a perceived lack of consequences. Offensive comments might be deleted and you could potentially be barred from social media sites, but that’s generally the extent of negative consequences.
Bad online behavior at school, however, is an entirely different matter. Ashford University, and most other online schools, have policies in place to ensure all students can learn in an environment that is free from harassing, threatening, and disruptive behavior. Students who break those policies could face disciplinary actions. If you have any questions about acceptable online behavior and consequences, review the Student Rights and Responsibilities section of the Ashford University Catalog.
It’s all about respect. In all of your online communications, try to convey a sense of respect. With a respectful attitude, you’ll make a better impression on your instructors and classmates, your opinions will be viewed more favorably, and you’ll help to create a better online community.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education.