Various sources claim that non-verbal communication accounts for upwards of 80% of all communication. In everyday life we rely heavily on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to complete the picture of what a speaker is trying to communicate.
Why is this important to an online student? Without non-verbal cues in communication, misunderstandings can occur. Students must keep this in mind while communicating online, both when receiving and sending messages. Following guidelines for appropriate online etiquette may help alleviate many of these communication issues.
Many examples of online communication problems are prevalent both in and out of the classroom. When monitoring posts in the SHC Facebook groups, I come across this issue all the time. The first guideline for online etiquette is to “avoid language that may come across as strong or offensive.” (http://www.kent.edu/dl/technology/etiquette.cfm) Starting conversations with a negative tone or underlying attitude does not contribute to learning. All students need a trusting and open forum to flourish and learn. Read your post many times and reword as needed before posting it in a discussion forum or social networking page. If you are posting on a controversial subject, you may even want to write your post, walk away, and then come back and reread it later to ensure a reader will read your comment as intended.
Another guideline for online etiquette is to avoid inappropriate comments and to always act in a professional manner. (http://www.kent.edu/dl/technology/etiquette.cfm) For example, what does it say about a student who vents on a school’s social networking page instead of using problem-solving skills and resources available to them to resolve an issue? Collaboration and seeking positive resolution shows strong character and a professional demeanor. Posts and comments made in and out of the classroom reflect on your personality and character. Conducting yourself in a professional manner is essential for success in school and the workforce.
Think about the following scenario: What would happen to an employee if he or she posted a negative comment about a supervisor on his or her employer’s Facebook page? Most likely, some kind of disciplinary action would immediately follow. However, what if that same employee posted the same comment on his or her personal Facebook page? Free speech, right? Well, even this can hurt the employee, especially if coworkers are included in the employee’s friends list. Most likely, officials at that company would not look kindly on such actions and comments. Practice and reinforce your professional persona now and it will carry forward into your career.
We may not have non-verbal communication cues during online communication, but we can avoid miscommunication by keeping an open mind and following online etiquette. The simple guidelines to follow are to avoid strong language and inappropriate comments, carefully construct your comment, proofread, and retain a professional attitude. Your posts are a reflection of you and your character. So, communicating respectfully and honestly is always the best policy and will yield the best results.
Amanda Ferrante is the Associate Dean of Accounting for the Online Department of Stevens-Henager College. Prior to this position, she taught online in the Business Administration program. She started as an adjunct instructor in 2003.