Respectful Conduct in an Online Course

Interacting With Others

  • Use the preferred names of your classmates. If someone signs their name as “Melanie,” don’t address them as “Mel” in your response.
  • Use the pronouns that a person uses for themselves (such as “he,” “she,” or “they”). If you don’t know what pronouns to use, simply ask.
  • Do your part to maintain a professional environment. For example, if your instructor has you use an online tool where you can make up your own username, don’t create a username that is silly or offensive.
  • Be respectful of others’ opinions. Being open to new perspectives is one of the objectives of academic discussions. However, if someone writes something that you think is genuinely offensive or hateful, immediately bring it to your instructor’s attention.
  • Before you write something, ask yourself: “Would I say this out loud in class?” If not, don’t write it.
  • If you’re angry about something, wait a day to cool off before you communicate with the person or persons who’ve angered you. This is a good idea in the real world, too!

Professional Writing

  • Write in a clear and concise manner. Write in sentences, not fragments.
  • Do your best to use correct spelling and grammar.
  • Avoid using short forms such as “u” instead of “you.” Those abbreviations are fine when texting friends but not in a professional context. Likewise, avoid abbreviations such as “ROFL” and “WTF.”
  • Avoid using all caps because it can be interpreted as YELLING.
  • Be careful about responding with humorous or ironic statements, as they might be misinterpreted and cause offence. If you do inadvertently offend someone, apologize immediately.

Discussion Groups

  • In discussion groups (and email), make your subject line specific and descriptive: “Next Wednesday’s midterm” is a better subject line than “Question.”
  • Stay on topic. If the topic of a given thread is “Napoleon’s rise to power,” don’t bring in the movie “The Fast and the Furious” (unless you are making a genuine and thoughtful connection).
  • Don’t reply to someone’s post with just “I agree.” Instead, explain why you agree, or explain why you mostly agree but have a slightly different perspective on certain aspects of the topic.
  • It’s become acceptable to use common emoticons such as a smiley face or sad face. Such emoticons can help convey the tone of your statement. But avoid overusing them, and avoid using outlandish ones (like a zombie or mermaid).
  • Don’t share personal information about others (and be prudent about the personal information you share about yourself).


  • Don’t start an email to an instructor with “Hey” or similar informalities.
  • If you need to email your instructor, send it from your ACC email address (e.g. not a personal email address (e.g.
  • It’s often a good idea provide some brief context for what you are emailing about, such as, “I’m in your Tue/Thu Stats course. Last Thursday I asked you after class about bivariate distributions. I have a follow-up question…”
  • Use a standard font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Avoid “silly” fonts like Comic Sans. As for font size, choose 12 pt. or 14 pt.

Remember: you’re part of a professional learning community. That community is either enhanced or undermined by each person’s behaviour. Help to enhance it!

This work, “Respectful Conduct in an Online Course,” is a derivative of “Student Guidelines for Communicating in Online, Professional Contexts” by University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching and Learning, used under CC BY 4.0. “Respectful Conduct in an Online Course” is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Assiniboine Community College.


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