Now your professor wants you to attend a live chat session with some of your classmates — it's a chance to show your stuff, but how can you be effective? Should you be formal or informal? What about introductions?
Despite its great convenience, online courses can at times make you feel like it's your first day of Kindergarten all over again. So we've gathered some simple tips to help you become more effective in online chats.
Know the rules of netiquette.
Netiquette is simply respecting other people in the chat room. That means waiting until others are done "speaking," using appropriate language, and sticking to the subject. Your school should have chat room rules posted. If you don't know them, ask your professor before the chat room starts.
Check out the chat speed beforehand.
If you are on dial-up, it may make the chat room exceedingly slow, which means when you type in a long sentence, the others in the chat room will be waiting to see what you are typing. If you are on dial-up and can't get high speed access, then let the chat room participants know, type only a few words before sending them, or write your responses in an editor and copy and paste them into the chat.
Review the materials.
Think of your chat as a classroom debate. If your professor told you there would be a debate about a topic in class and you had to participate, you would make sure you knew the topic, right? Well, in a chat room, you need to do the same thing — know your topic.
Know the chat room signs and symbols.
Some schools, to facilitate a civil conversation, give certain signs and symbols special meanings. For example an ellipses (…) sometimes is put at the end of a sentence to mean there is more to come. Find out what the recommended signs and symbols are before the chat starts.
You can learn the basic signs at NetLingo.com, ThinkQuest.org, and SafeSurfingKids.com.
Some people are very slow typists and others have dial up issues. Sometimes it takes a long time for a thought to get out, so be patient. Let your professor be the gatekeeper for the discussion.
Read what your professor has to say.
In the beginning of each chat, most professors will go over the rules; let you know the order of the chat, the time limit for the chat, what's acceptable in the chat, etc. Pay attention to these comments. The chat room is a time where the professor sees you interact with others in real time. You want to make a good impression. One of the elements of grading a chat room is almost always about following directions.
Be on time.
Just be on time for your chat. In fact, be a little early so you can get the feel of the chat room. If you are going to be late, make sure you let your professor know ahead of time or see if you can reschedule. When you come to a chat late, it's like coming to a class late, everyone, including the professor, notices.
Have your references on hand.
Make sure you have your paper, your textbooks, and any other documentation readily available, so you can refer to it to support your ideas or you can check your interpretation with the other students in the chat room.
Avoid disruptions during the chat.
A chat room where the professor asks a student a question and gets no response, especially if the student has been responding quickly, indicates the student isn't there. It gets uncomfortable for everyone, so make sure your chat has your full attention. If given the option, select a chat time where you know you will not be interrupted, avoid the temptation to check your e-mail or you're my space page while in the chat room, and keep focused.
Expect the unexpected.
Even with the best of technology, something can go wrong. You could lose power, others could lose power, the Web site could go down, you might have to miss because of something unexpected at the last minute, etc. If something happens, don't panic. E-mail your professor as soon as possible. Be open and honest and ask how you can make up for your absence.