10 Guidelines for Participating in Discussions

1. Do more than state agreement or disagreement. Justify and support your opinion. The most persuasive opinions are supported by evidence - examples, facts, and reasoned opinions. If you disagree with something, say why. If you agree, say why. 

2. Do appropriate preparation .For example, do reading, viewing, and lesson activity work before you express yourself. Having prepared well, indicate your sources so that others can decide better whether your information is reliable. They may also want to go to your sources themselves.

3. Keep your comment fairly brief. A short paragraph or two is plenty unless you are posting something that by nature has to be longer - a historical timeline, for example. Sometimes a sentence is plenty.

4. Check your message before you send it. Pay attention to your spelling and grammar, and be sure that your message makes the points you want to make in a clear and concise way.  

5. Help move the discussion along. When contributing to a discussion, read other people's comments first. Introduce new ideas, but also build on what others have said. ("Piggy-back" on other people's ideas.) Be sure to refer clearly to the ideas you are building on. Do not, however, copy someone else's entire message into your reply when you only need to refer to a sentence or two.  

6. Keep up with the discussion throughout the course. After you have made your contribution on a topic, check back a few times to find out how the discussion is evolving. Does someone's comment make you think twice about your previous view?  

7. Share your experience with your fellow students. You may be able to offer advice and encouragement to someone who is newer to the course.  

8. Respect others' ideas and opinions. Feel free to disagree, but express your disagreement in a respectful manner. Disrespectful communication is poor communication, and it is inexcusable.  

9. Be positive when offering advice. If one of your fellow students asks for opinions about his or her ideas, be encouraging with your comments. If you see weaknesses in someone's writing or ideas, focus on describing the strengths to keep up, as well as the opportunities for improvement. Put yourself in the shoes of the other people in the discussions.  

10. Be gracious when receiving advice. When you contribute to a discussion, you are hoping that other people will feel you have said something worthwhile and suggest useful ideas to build on yours. When others are critical, assume that they are trying to provide a critique, not criticism in the negative sense. Even if they don't seem diplomatic, be gracious in response.


Taking It Further: Take a few minutes to peruse "Netiquette," a concise and witty guide by Bob Crispen. It will help you to be a good citizen of the Internet.

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