The Do’s and Don’ts of an Online Discussion Board

by Grace Dickins

So, you're registered for a subject that includes a requirement to post in an online discussion board. This is an opportunity to show your professor your mastery of the material; it can also go very wrong. If you want to make a good impression on your instructor and classmates, follow these twelve do's and don'ts of an online discussion board.

1. Be professional. Treat each post as if you were emailing an employer or your professor.

2. Unless the course is about religion or politics, practice common sense and avoid controversial topics.

3. Do not be overly casual. Yes, it's a forum. However, informality in an academic or professional online discussion board could influence your grade. Respond with the formality as if you were verbally responding during a traditional classroom discussion or professional meeting.

4. Proofread your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Copying your responses into a word processing program for spell check is a smart idea!

5. Avoid slang and emoticons.

6. Keep your responses focused on the topic of the discussion. Deviating from the topic in an online discussion board is known as hijacking. It is considered bad netiquette.

7. When you are responding to a comment, use the quote function of the message board.

8. Avoid dominating a discussion. You don't need to respond to every post.

9. Avoid posting comments that don't add value to the discussion. Many vague posts that simply say, "I agree," will not impress the instructor.

10. Be aware of the tone of your posts. Since tone of voice and inflection won't translate through your screen, be aware of the tone implied in your messages.

11. Choose your words thoughtfully. Words with a derogatory or negative connotation should be avoided to prevent misunderstandings.

12. To reinforce tip #1: remember, it's not Facebook. Do not use the message board to share personal details of your relationships or social life. Although friendly banter might occur in the few minutes before class begins, be cautious about sharing personal details on message boards.

Those are a dozen top netiquette tips for participating in an online discussion board. Do you have a top tip to share with us?