Behaving Online

There is lots of advice available on how to behave online, some of it very sensible and some of it belonging to the 19th century. The University has produced two guides on Being Online one for students and one for staff, these are aimed at expectations surrounding the use of what is termed “Web 2.0”. The This is Me project aimed to produce sets of guides as to how material online impacted on what we call your Digital Identity.

Etiquette is something different it is about often unwritten rules and social norms of ethical behavior within a community. A person’s general ethos may not change within different communities but awareness of the norms usually does, we act differently with our friends to how we act with family or colleagues. Online these boundaries can become blurred, emails can be forwarded, tweets seen many.

The most basic rule of online etiquette must be to always think before you send. If on reflection you think a post may:

  • get you the sack,
  • lead to legal action,
  • hurt your grandmother’s feelings,

and this was not your intention, then don’t send it.

What other advice should staff and students share with each other about the online etiquette relating to being within the university?


About Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Reading. She is involved in a number of research projects related to learning technologies, communities, social networks, Digital identity and knowledge transfer. She also enjoys reading and cooking.
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3 Responses to Behaving Online

  1. Good advice Shirley. It can be difficult to write appropriate posts and at the same time avoid being too starchy by not wanting to risk anything. Striking a balance is quite an art.

  2. patparslow says:

    This, of course, ties in closely with Shirley’s next post too.

    There is a tendency for some to compound the ideas of a ‘professional’ image with maintaining the appearance of being an ‘expert’ . This often leads to not participating in social media (as being sure you are absolutely right is a time consuming affair), or being so stilted in your interactions that most people won’t bother reading what you post. There are a growing number of educators who advocate ‘teaching by example’, showing ‘open learning’. Basically this is almost the exact opposite of presenting the shiny ‘expert’ persona online, but demonstrating how you learn from your mistakes, engaging in conversation and debate, and reflecting as you develop knew skills and knowledge.

    And that pattern works rather well for normal interactions online too – most communities online accept that people will make mistakes and are supportive of those who learn from them. Well, most people in most communities – there are those who will always regard anyone “less” than themselves as a ‘noob’, ‘troll’ or other inferior denizen of the ‘net. But hopefully those people will become culturally less acceptable as time goes by – they are, after all, just the play ground bullies of the internet.

    Yes, try not to offend people (and yes, it is common sense, but sadly, as we all know, common sense is none too common!), but also be prepared for the idea that with a global audience, there is a good chance something you say will offend someone, somewhere (and with the persistence of data on the internet, somewhen). You can’t hope to please all the people all the time. It can even be argued that if you *are* pleasing all the people all the time, you aren’t doing much to encourage them to think about things in a critical light – so maybe, on occasion, it’s worth mixing things up a bit 🙂

  3. Shirley Williams says:

    If “mixing things up a bit” is your intention then that is fine, and we all know people who often do that in face-to-face situations as well as online.

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