Netiquette

What is netiquette? 

The term netiquette has emerged in the online world as a form of setting professional expectations for an engaging environment; promoting participation and ensuring people feel secure and confident to contribute. Creating a ‘safe space’ classroom environment online means everyone feels able to fully contribute and share their views and opinions.


How can I promote netiquette? 

Netiquette can be promoted though designing interactions and communication expectations with students in an honest and open way. Our five steps to promoting netiquette can help you to get started.  

Create a community feeling 

Presenting in an online meeting to a void of blank screens can feel isolating. It’s often difficult to connect with your audience when you can’t see their faces. During smaller group meetings, encouraging everyone to switch on their cameras can create a virtual community feeling.  

However, some students may feel anxious about using their camera; for example, a mature student with children in the house; a student from a deprived background who is concerned about the appearance of their surroundings; or a student with anxiety who struggles with comparisons to others.  

While these concerns are reasonable and should be treated sympathetically, there are ways in which you can approach these positively. This will ensure awareness of diversity is not only increased – it is actively encouraged. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Promote the benefits of sharing personal environments on camera. However, allow the use of virtual backgrounds if preferred; 
     
  • Nurture compassion, empathy and open-mindedness amongst peers; use breakout rooms, ice-breaker activities and informal pre-class chats to aid this; 
     
  • Students may be concerned about bandwidth, or struggle to maintain a signal. In this case, promote the chat feature as an alternative way to contribute. 

Protect privacy 

Your students may have expressed anxiety around the recording of interactive sessions. It may reduce engagement and participation due to a perceived invasion of privacy, lack of anonymity and potential future repercussions. Firstly, ask yourself “Is there a genuine need to record the session?” Consider alternative options, including: 

  • Share asynchronous pre-recorded material that will complement the synchronous interactive session; 
     
  • Provide transcripts and notes for those who cannot attend, to ensure engagement and promote inclusion; 
     
  • If sessions are to be recorded, start sessions with conversations around privacy and anonymity and allow students the option to switch off their cameras. 

Signpost, safeguard and support 

Many of us feel more isolated while working or studying from home, therefore our mental health is arguably more vulnerable than ever. While it is important to encourage conversations around emotional wellbeing, these discussions can potentially contain triggering content. Additionally, a student may begin to share content that is not appropriate, or of a highly personal nature. Signposting students to mental health services where appropriate, instils a safeguarding approach for all involved in the conversation. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Remind students they can use tutorials for one-to-one support and increase your awareness of student support services
     
  • Make students aware of potentially triggering topics before the session and select content wisely; 
     
    Slide example: “Warning: This session contains material which may be distressing to some students.”; 
     
  • Be clear on setting boundaries for personal contributions to safeguard others. 

Make use of chat and collaborative tools 

Despite providing reassurances, some of your students might not feel comfortable talking or appearing on camera during live sessions. It may also be difficult with larger class sizes to ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute. 

  • Encouraging the use of the chat facility not only aids inclusivity, it is a quick way for students to become more comfortable to contribute and share ideas – and possibly gain the confidence to join in the next live discussion; 
     
  • Consider the use of collaborative tools or platforms for engagement such as using share drives, PADLET or directing students to the Aula feed during synchronous or asynchronous sessions. 

Consider your own mental health 


Finally, holding live online lessons can be a fantastic way to encourage student engagement outside of the classroom. However, experiencing a lack of interaction from students could understandably have an impact on your mental health. It can be demotivating when students aren’t contributing or responding to questions. 

  • Follow the guidelines to aid communication and maintain participation; 
     
  • Approach these sessions as co-created discussions, rather than lectures or seminars; 
     
  • Schedule 10-minute breaks away from the computer screen and remember to include self-care in your daily schedule. Check out Mind’s Five ways to wellbeing for top tips.  

Authors

  • Oliver Atkins-Wood

    Oliver is an Academic Developer supporting curriculum design and development across Coventry University Group. He works for the Academic Enhancement and Professional Development Unit in the Office of Teaching and Learning.

  • Elizabeth Mullenger

    Elizabeth is a mature undergrad student reading Public Health and Community Studies at Coventry University College (CUC). She is an intern with Curriculum 2025, predominantly supporting the team on the themes of Decolonisation and Mental Health and Wellbeing. Prior to this, Elizabeth enjoyed a varied career in project management, marketing and internal communications. She also volunteers for a mental health charity, and creates artwork to raise money for the NHS.

Updated on January 18, 2021

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