This post outlines how we expect students and staff to behave in an online environment. This will support the development of a successful learning community and guide us all to become considerate digital citizens.
Please read the following principles. As you do this, think about which are the most important to you. Are these things that you have thought about before or are they new ideas? Do you think anything is missing?
We respect each other
“Welcome to a University where everyone is equal, but never the same”.
LJMU is a place where everyone can be themselves and is respected for being who they are. It is space where we are all equal, but never the same; where the things that make each of us unique makes our university stronger. This goes for the online environment as much as where we meet face-to-face.
Learning thrives on mutual regard and is undermined by disrespect. Naturally, the University will not tolerate acts of hate and will carefully investigate and act on any attempts by individuals to undermine the learning experience of others. However, we all have a part to play in creating an environment where people are treated decently regardless of their age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief or non-belief, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity status.
What can you do to contribute to a respectful learning environment?
Different spaces have different rules
There are always hidden rules about how we communicate, this goes for online spaces too. Chatting to friends is different than emailing your tutor. Comments in an online lecture will not always look the same as those you might make in social media. Think about the language you use to communicate and how it might need to change in different contexts.
- Emoticons/emojis. These are a useful way of expressing your emotion and intended meaning but are not always appropriate. They are great for casual messages. That said, some people might misunderstand them or see them as a bit flippant. So, its best to avoid them if your message is more formal.
- Use of first names, shortened names or nicknames. Names matter and while most people are happy if you address them by their first name, some prefer a title – Mr/Mrs, Dr. or Prof. If you are in doubt, go for a title and surname and they will soon tell you if they would rather have something more relaxed. Likewise, its best to ask people if they mind you shortening their name or using a nickname.
- Txt speak. Does everyone know all the txt speak you know? If not, it will cause confusion and misunderstanding. All in all, keep this for messaging your friends and don’t use it in communicating with tutors or your fellow students.
- Humour. Humour is important. It brings people together and helps create a sense of community. However, it can backfire…so be careful. It’s great to laugh with people, but not to laugh at them. So, be funny but don’t be unkind. Remember also that some forms of humour rely on how words are delivered and don’t necessarily work in written form. Sarcasm, for example, can be difficult to interpret in online, text-based messages. People might read it in completely the opposite way to how you intended.
- Getting involved. A learning community needs dynamic spaces where the discussion flows. This means that we need to participate. That involves not just reading what others have written but responding. Of course, it’s important that we respond in a way that doesn’t embarrass, shame or undermine anyone else. Its okay to challenge and disagree as long as we don’t make it personal.
- Profile images. By default, your image will be used inside Canvas. This can help people to get to know and recognise you, as well as helping you get to know them. You can remove or change the image, but think about how you want to be portrayed?
- Live lectures. It is not always easy to show that you agree, disagree or are confused when you are in a live lecture. Sometimes your lecturer will ask you to turn off your microphone to avoid background noise. Use the chat function or response features to ask questions and raise issues without disrupting the session.
- Turning on your webcam. Some people feel uncomfortable sharing their live webcam image but seeing each other can help build a sense of community. This can be particularly important in smaller online groups.
- Intuition. Most of us a pretty good at communicating because we naturally read others’ reactions. It’s the same when you are online, but you have to look for clues as to what is acceptable or be bold and ask people how they prefer to communicate.
Digital communication can speed up how we can react to each other. This can lead us to respond very quickly which might create misunderstanding. No single communication method is perfect and all of them can improved by really listening hard to other people before reacting.
- Active listening. Schools don’t usually teach us how to listen, but perhaps they should. It takes effort to think of where the other person is coming from before replying, but it is worth it. Try and put your own thoughts on hold as you listen to others in live online sessions or reading discussion board posts. The your responses will be more measured and considerate. Active listening video by UMassAmherst and TedTalk 5 ways to listen better by Julian Treasure contain some useful ways to think about active listening.
- Forgiveness. People make mistakes. They can saying things that they don’t really mean or pit forward ideas in the wrong way, particularly when they are new to online environments. Everyone has to start somewhere, so try to forgive other’s mistakes and support them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should tolerate bullying or abusive behaviour and LJMU have robust policies to deal with this.
- Re-read your comments before hitting “submit”. Before replying to someone, read through what you have written to make sure it is easy to understand and will not be misunderstood.
Nurture your online learning self
We want you to feel confident in your online learning. This means that you will feel confident, happy to lend a hand to support others and free to ask questions (even those that you might feel stupid asking).
- Be open to learn from others. You are part of a learning community, reach out to discuss the topic with others both online and in person. What things could you do to make sure everyone gets the most from the online learning community?
- Reinvest in your community. Think about how you can help your fellow students. Online learning is not just about the individual, so much can be gained by sharing ideas, supporting and encouraging others – safe in the knowledge that they will do the same for you.
- Be credible. You are part of our academic community that values rigorous research and critical thinking. We want you to hold the same values and share information that is from both reliable sources and contains considered arguments. This means that it’s more important than ever to factcheck and use credible sources.
- Seek to understand. You are a digital learner, so make the effort to understand alternative and challenging views and ideas. University is meant to help you grow and develop…embrace that opportunity.
- Say thank you and acknowledge others. Build a positive learning community by thanking people if they help you and acknowledging others’ contributions when they help you to understand or think differently about a particular subject.
Becoming a good digital citizen
Let’s think beyond your university learning community. You live in a global society that is increasingly dependent on digital communications. The idea of a ‘digital citizen’ is one who makes a positive contribution to in this new world. We want you to be a force for good in both online and face-to-face environments. Being a good digital citizen means using your voice and actions to improve the wider digital community for better.
- Connecting with others outside the University. The University wants you to use social media. It can bring many benefits and opportunities and is a valuable tool to engage with the University, the programme of study, staff and other students. However, we all know that this carries risks. We have a social media policy for students to help you keep safe and avoid overstepping the boundaries. The TEDtalk
What do your digital footprints say about you? By Nicola Osborne is a good short video to help you understand how what you do online becomes who you are online.
Digital Time Out
Too much time spent in the digital world can affect your mental health. Social media can have a positive effect by connecting you with friends and doing the things you love, but everyone needs some downtime.
- Post positively & examine your motivations. Try cutting down on the number of posts or status updates you make each day. Ask yourself why you are posting. Is this because you want to impress some unknown audience or actually connect we people who matter to you.
- Turn off the lights—all of them. To avoid disrupting your sleep rhythms, turn off all your screens an hour or two before you go to bed and give your eyes a rest.
- Limit your social media usage. Take breaks – both large and small. A tech break can be as small as stepping away from your desk to take a short walk across the room or as large as declaring a technology blackout for an entire day each week.
- Use your online interactions to facilitate real-world meetings and relationships.
- Give your work or entertainment space an ergonomic makeover. Why not devote some time to improving the places where you spend so much of your day? A better-placed desk chair or better lighting can make a huge impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
LJMU policies to support your learning community
The University’s IT and communication systems are intended to support your learning. The conditions of use outline the standards you and others must observe when using these systems, and what measures we will take to protect our learning community take in respect of breaches of these standards. Remember E-mail and discussion board facilities are provided for responsible usage only. The abuse of email as outlined in the IT Services Disciplinary Procedures is strictly prohibited. Abuse of discussion boards or online conferences, whether through offensive, antisocial or inappropriate postings is similarly prohibited.
Acknowledgements and further information
The key principles were informed by the following:
LJMU Student advice and wellbeing
John Moores Student Union
LJMU IT services
The Digital Student: Netiquette – University of Hull
Succeed with learning course – Open University