When we communicate online, we do not have the usual nonverbal cues that help us to communicate our message. Therefore, we need to be extra careful in considering how our written messages will be interpreted. To some extent you can compensate for the absence of traditionally and culturally communicated body language and other physical cues by using words and symbols. The smileys or emoticons (icons that express emotion, e.g. :), :( , etc.) we have posted are one example as well as parenthetical meta linguistic cues such as (hmmmm.) to indicate you are thinking, or brb which means "be right back."
All of us must strive to create a safe learning environment for everybody in this class. Because communicating in an online environment is a challenge, we have posted the following communication protocols to help you as you begin to communicate with others in this programme.
Try to keep your messages short. One screen or two at most.
Talk online as you would in a face-to-face class. Use simple language. If you have difficulty in finding a suitable English word, write it in Sinhala or Tamil using the English language (for eg: "water" written in Sinhala as "wathura" or in Tamil as "thanni").
Review your messages and think about how they will be interpreted before you post them. Make sure your emotions are interpreted accurately by using the appropriate smileys.
Provide the context necessary to interpret your message. This is especially important if you use words that have specific meanings in a specific culture. For example, Always spell out the acronym the first time you use it in a message. For example: the acronym "DE" to mean distance education.
Humor and jokes are difficult to interpret online, so be careful when you use them, and give cues/hints to help in their interpretation. In an online environment, sensitive topics can be misunderstood easily. If you think someone has misunderstood you, try to discuss this misunderstanding via private e-mail and try to resolve it.
Do not insult each other online on a personal level. It is important that we create an environment where individuals feel comfortable to disagree with each other's ideas. But we must learn to be polite to each other as we do this and disagree only on the level of ideas.
Be human. Do not forget that the person reading your message is, a person, with feelings that can be hurt. We hope that you will share your expert knowledge and help this online community grow, and that your online dialogues will be a rich experience for you.
Enjoy talking online!