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Tips for Participating in AISA’s Discussion Forums

Participating in one of AISA’s online community discussion forums can be one of the most rewarding aspects of being an AISA member.

In posting messages to the online community, please follow these guidelines or “etiquette”:

  • Generally, group members will begin by introducing themselves. Your group’s facilitator will then ask you to develop a list of key issues or discussion topics that you would like your group to explore.
  • Once you begin your posts, keep your messages concise and clearly written. Most ideas can be stated in a couple of paragraphs, although sometimes a longer message may be needed to develop your thoughts adequately. Keep in mind that people are more apt to read and digest shorter messages than long ones.
  • Be respectful of other’s ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It’s fine to disagree with someone, but please respect their right to think differently.
  • The verbal style used in online discussions generally will be less formal than the style used in papers and more formal than the one used in a chat in the hallway. Some people call the in-between tone of an online community “Say-Writing.”
  • You should state and support your positions, but refrain from trying to overwhelm everyone with the force of your argument. For one thing, long posts will be simply skimmed or skipped by many readers who are pressed for time. Also, very detailed, argumentative, or formal posts can intimidate other members of the community.
  • Don’t be afraid of making a joke, a sideline comment, or an observation that is not completely relevant–these touches of humour and humanness can make a community warm and comfortable for everyone. However, you should avoid making a joke in every post, or veering wildly off-topic. If you want to add a new topic for later – let your facilitator know.
  • Let other users know that you have read and appreciated their posts. You can observe many visual cues in a classroom that indicate people are listening to you carefully, but you can’t do so in an online community, so you must provide these in writing. If you write “I agree with Ken’s position,” or “I understand where Sarah is coming from, but….” instead of just jumping in with your own thoughts, Ken and Sarah (and everyone else) know it is a real discussion and not a series of monologues.
  • Be yourself. Do not attempt to be overly formal, overly persuasive, or overly eager to belong.
  • Share. Sharing requires both expressing your own feelings and experiences but also reading and appreciating the feelings and experiences of others. If you have a great resource you can attach this to your email for others to share.
  • Be willing to accept the views of others, even if they have quite different backgrounds or positions, are not as knowledgeable or capable of expressing themselves in writing, or seem to break some of the rules of netiquette.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your feelings or to ask for help if you are upset by or confused about a topic.
  • One experienced online community member listed being “intellectually honest” as the most important piece of advice she would give to participants in an online community. This means you should be able to look at issues from other perspectives, to make decisions based on facts and logic rather than emotion, and to constantly consider and reconsider your position and be willing to change your mind when necessary.
  • Avoid using all caps. IT SEEMS LIKE SHOUTING!
  • Maintain the privacy of participants, including the privacy of comments made during electronic conversation. Unless mutually agreed otherwise these should only be shared with those participating in the discussion
  • In order for your community to thrive – post as regularly as you can.

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