Student Guidelines for Respectful Online Conduct

With some classes and services continuing in online spaces, we recognize that our students, faculty, and staff face diverse challenges of connecting virtually and across a distance. 

We are committed to providing all students and faculty with a positive learning environment, whether face-to-face or online. 

You can help contribute to building welcoming and respectful spaces by following the UBC Distance Learning netiquette for communicating online and following the tips below. 

Everyone can play a part in creating a learning environment that advances excellence, wellbeing, safety, and mutual respect.

1. Be mindful.

Without the support of contextual and non-verbal clues, it’s easier to misinterpret written exchanges. As a result, online exchanges may escalate quickly and in unexpected ways, while also highlighting different forms of inequities. Be mindful of how your statements, language, jokes, and tone can be interpreted differently online than you intend; avoid sarcasm.

2. Be generous.

Everyone has different stressors in their lives and many once routine tasks may now take longer to do or require more energy. Expect yourself and others to be potentially less focused and less productive – so avoid imposing further expectations or judgements and practice acceptance of delays, disruptions, and strong emotions.

3. Be curious.

Time-delayed and asynchronistic learning forums offer a unique opportunity to engage differently with divergent perspectives.  When discussing topics that you feel strongly about, take extra time to organize your emotions and emotional response, and consider the most generous language for your response. Consider whether you can frame your response as a question. This can help replace a polarized and polarizing discussion with an invitation to explore ideas differently and lead to a richer understanding of ideas, experiences, and positions that are different from your own.

4. Respect privacy and boundaries.

Isolation, disruption, and uncertainty may inspire us to seek out more meaningful connections and conversations and we may end up sharing or learning personal information than would not have otherwise been shared. If you’re unsure as to what should be kept confidential, err on the side of caution to  keep things private or clarify directly.

5. Address disagreements directly if it feels safe to do so.

Perhaps you disagree with what someone said, or perhaps they said it in a manner that hurt you or others: either way, while their behaviour impacted you negatively, it’s possible that they did not intend to be disrespectful. Consider talking to them informally, if it feels safe to do so, allowing for a mutual exchange of perspectives to broaden yours and their understanding. Ask what their intention was, and describe the impact on you. Both matter.  While potentially uncomfortable, this approach can build a stronger relationship and offers a rare opportunity to give and receive feedback or apology.

6. Be respectful.

The virtual classroom is an extension of the in-person classroom. As you continue to exchange diverse ideas and perspectives in online forums, the same standard of respectful interactions is expected as in on-campus settings. If you would not say it in-person, don’t do so online; remember that UBC policies remain in effect in the online community, including the  Student Code of Conduct, UBC Respectful Environment Statement, Discrimination policy and the Sexual Misconduct policy.

7. Ask for help.

Getting support for yourself is important. The following supports may be helpful:

    • A trusted friend.  Having someone to listen to your story can be an infinitely helpful way of planning what to do next.  Rather than simply venting, accessing another perspective can offer more clarity, new insights, and different options you might not have considered.
    • Your course instructor.  If your concerns are related to a particular course, the course instructor may be able to provide support and insight as you seek to find productive ways to address your situation.

For students who need more support with mental health, accessibility and other matters, please check out the available resources at UBC VancouverandUBC Okanagan. Human Rights Advisors in the Equity & Inclusion Office are available to provide confidential, impartial, and accessible consultation, information, and referrals for students, faculty and staff at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses who may have concerns about hate, discrimination, harassment or bullying. Learn more about and/or request human rights advising.