So . . . you are about to take part in a chat for an online course.

Maybe you have participated in online classes or discussions before and maybe you are a "newbie." Whatever your experience is, it is always a good idea to go over expectations of behavior for the particular online class you are taking. There are many benefits to taking a class online (such as participating in your pajamas, not having to go out in inclement weather to get to class, etc.) and there are a number of pitfalls (such as making sure you can connect to the online class, not being able to see people's expressions, etc.). By familiarizing yourself with our chat protocols, you can reap many more benefits and avoid most of the pitfalls.

Probably the first thing you need to do is test your chat software before the 1st scheduled class time. And this means to test it from the location you plan on being during class. Don't assume that because it worked at home that it will work from your school or place of work . . . many schools block all chatting and you don't want to find that out five minutes before class begins.

Okay . . . you have the technical problems all worked out and are ready to go . . . that's one pitfall you avoided. Keep reading . . . you are on the right track.

The online chat portions of this course are class times. In general, it will start on time, last the scheduled time, have a clear purpose and objectives to accomplish just like a face-to-face class. Be sure to look at the chat schedule ahead of class to see what chat room you should report to. The chat schedule and topics will change each week and will be based on your requests as well as the facilitator's sense of what may be needed. Please let the facilitators know what topics will help you most for the next chats. We will ask you to post your requests periodically during the class.

Please arrive for class on time and prepared to participate. Read materials assigned before hand and come prepared to take part in a lively discussion. Remember, participation is more than just showing up . . . Your thoughtful participation, questions and insights are needed by your colleagues (and are part of your participation grade in the class), not just your seat-time. In a face-to-face class you wouldn't raise your hand to say "I agree." Instead you would raise your hand and say "I had a similar experience with my students . . . " And then go on to share your thoughts. Do the same during chat. Everyone wants to hear your ideas, plans, problems, and successes.

Make sure your family and friends know that you are participating in a class when involved in a chat. Ask them to honor that time as class time and try not to interrupt you during the chat. This can be difficult but using a bit of visual humor can sometimes come to your aide. People have been known to wear a particular hat during class chats or hang a "Do not disturb" sign up so that family members know automatically that class is "in session."

We should also point out that participating in one online chat session is hard enough without trying to cram in another chat session at the same time. That would be like having one of your students run from your classroom to the neighboring classroom and switch every five minutes. Not only would that student not be able to learn effectively, but it would definitely be a distraction to others in the class.

Also, if you are chatting in the same physical location as someone else, please remember that your online colleagues and facilitators cannot hear your conversation . . . instead they see you "disappear" from the chat for stretches of time while you are talking to your on site colleague. Do not become the invisible participant.

If you can't avoid arriving late for class (the freeway is backed up, the baby needs a change, you know . . . life), then please adhere to the following guidelines:

-Stop off in the designated "lobby" first to have a facilitator bring you up to speed before you go to your designated chat room. This way you can be ready to join in on the discussion when you arrive.

-When you enter the chat room, refrain from announcing your arrival . . . you wouldn't walk into a regular classroom in the middle of class and announce, "Hi everyone . . . you wouldn't believe the traffic tonight!!" When the time is appropriate, the facilitator will welcome you to class.

Good, you have arrived in the correct room for chat, your family knows to leave you be, you have some refreshments at a safe distance from the keytboard and are prepared to join in on the conversation. Let's go over just a few more issues before you begin.

Keep your conversation during chat on topic. If you have to let the dog out, don't feel like you have to let everyone know. Would you stand up in the middle of a face-to-face university class and announce you were letting your dog or goat out?

Subtle emotions and meanings do not translate well in a synchronous chat environment. This is particularly true of satire or dry humor. And sarcasm almost always comes across as rude and overbearing. This doesn't mean that you have to be straight-laced and stiff during chat sessions . . . just careful, both on the giving and the receiving end. Choose your wording carefully and when necessary use a smiley to denote humor. If someone posts something that seems offensive to you, take a deep breath and realize that they have probably chosen their phrasing poorly. Always assume the positive.

You do need to use more cues in text chat simply because you can't see or "read" the other people in the chat. Here are a few simple protocols to follow:

while you are typing, the conversation may take off . . .

in another direction. Instead, type in part of what you want to say . . .

followed by " . . . " To indicate that there is more coming.


            Got it




            That was off the wall.


            That was off the wall :-) 

Alright . . . you have your chat grammar down pat and are eager to share your ideas with your fellow participants . . . and you already let the goat out. Here are some last pointers to use during your chat to make sure the communication keeps flowing:

Congratulations!! You made it through the online chat successfully. Go put your feet up and relax. And you can take your hat off now. :-)