Remote/Online Class Etiquette

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In the Virtual Classroom

The virtual classroom is similar to the regular classroom in certain ways, but it’s also quite different. Below are some guidelines to help make your experience (and everyone else’s) more pleasant.

  • Try to join the class a minute or two before your class starts, but feel free to keep your video off and mic muted until class begins.
  • Be aware of what’s behind you in the room if you’re going to be using your webcam. It doesn’t have to be incredibly tidy, but remember that everyone in the call can see it.
  • Mute your mic when you’re not speaking, especially if you’re eating. No one wants to hear you chew. NO ONE.
  • If your professor invites spoken discussion, use the hand-raising function when you would like to speak unless the professor instructs you otherwise.

On Your Class’s Discussion Board

For asynchronous course delivery (that is, when your professor posts content for you to look at on your own time), there’s a good chance you will be using discussion boards to answer questions and have class discussions. Most of us are familiar with discussion boards and comment threads, but Remember, your discussion board is your online classroom. There are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Be polite and respectful. If you wouldn’t say it out loud in a class to your professor, it’s not appropriate to write it on the discussion board.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Write in complete sentences.
  • Avoid emojis, bitmojis, and the like—at least at the beginning. As class goes on, the discussion board may become less formal, but start out writing more professionally.
  • Reply to discussion questions and conversations in good time—within 24 hours is best, unless specified otherwise by the professor.

Emailing or Messaging Professors

University professors generally expect a more professional attitude from students than a high school teacher might expect, and that should be reflected in the way you contact your professors. Below are some guidelines for how to contact your professor — they hold true all the time, but they’re especially important this year when it will be one of your primary forms of communication. Remember to:

  • Write in complete sentences.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Avoid slang and emojis.
  • Keep your email’s subject matter focused. Pleasantries are fine, but try not to go on tangents.
  • Be realistic about how long it will take your professor to reply—some are very prompt, and others are not. Wait at least 48 hours before resending an email, and send questions early to ensure they’re answered in good time.
  • Take cues from your professor’s reply. If they sign their email with their first name, they are inviting you to call them by their first name. If they sign it “Doctor” or “Professor,” they’re asking you to speak formally. When in doubt, use formal titles.

The First Time you Contact Your Professor

  • Don’t assume they know who you are, especially at the beginning of the year. If you are not messaging them through Blackboard or Canvas, make sure you use your full name and tell them which class of theirs you are attending.
  • Start formal. This means:
  • Begin the email with “Dear…” or “Hello…”
  • If your professor has a PhD, refer to them as “Dr. (Last Name)”. If your professor doesn’t have a PhD, or you’re not sure, refer to them as “Professor (Last Name)”.
  • Sign off the email. Using “Sincerely,” “Best,” or “Thanks,” are all appropriate ways to end an email.

Emailing or Messaging Classmates

You may need to get in touch with classmates to work on group projects, get notes, or ask questions. Generally, the same guidelines apply as the ones for contacting your professor, although you probably don’t have to be quite as formal.