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Preparing to learn at a distance > Online communities and communication

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Online communities and communication

Keep in touch!
As a distance learner, you will need to be in regular and frequent contact with your tutor and other students in order to become part of the learning community. There is a variety of ways to keep in touch online, either using some form of text-based tool or possibly via audio or video. Communication on the course can be a combination of instant (real-time or synchronously) or time-delayed (asynchronous).

The most common communication tools we use are text-based and asynchronous, for example, email and discussion forums. 'Real time' messaging systems and chat rooms are also used to bring people together from time to time as a means of providing immediate contact.

Anglia Ruskin's VLE contains several text-based communication tools though discussion forums will be 'the heart' of your course. The forums provide a rich environment for learning activities and opportunities to get to know your fellow students, generally socialise and access support. This means you will need to take part in course discussions by sending (posting) regular messages to help keep them 'alive', even if that simply means just letting people know you're there! 

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Online behaviour and netiquette

Consideration and respect for others is just as important in the online text-based environment as it is face-to-face, though if we can't see or hear each other effective communication takes a little more effort. There are lots of 'netiquette' guidelines available online but the main things to keep in mind are:

  1. Participate
    Be 'seen' and be 'heard'. Join in or you'll be invisible!
  2. Share
    The more you put in the more you will get out! Help yourself by helping others by sharing information, ideas, questions and tips; this will encourage others to do the same.
  3. Brief and to the point
    Don't ramble on - it's a discussion! Messages should be concise no more than a 'screenful', to the point and relevant to the discussion topic to encourage responses.
  4. Use meaningful titles
    Does it do what it says on the 'tin'? Make sure the title expresses closely what the message is about.
  5. Check before you click
    Mean what you say and say what you mean! Read your messages before posting to check for anything that might give the wrong impression.
  6. Smile
    Online messages can often seem abrupt because you can't use your voice, facial expressions or physical gestures to convey how they should be interpreted. Help people to 'see' you by explaining your ideas as fully as possible and, if appropriate, use an 'emoticon'? to let them know when you're joking or being ironic.
  7. Respect
    Think carefully about how you present your ideas and how you might indicate disagreement with ideas presented by others without causing offence. If you're unsure how your message will be received ask for feedback and use capitals with caution as people might think you're SHOUTING. Above all don't be rude.

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