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How To Participate in an Online Class Chat Room Discussion


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Online chats for distance learning classes can be nerve-wracking. Students are expected to respond to instructor questions and interact with other students in the chat room, without much time to prepare responses. Unlike traditional classrooms, chat rooms don’t give you the chance to see physical cues or hear verbal inflections during a discussion. Additionally, chatters can be hampered by typing speed or poor spelling. Often, students’ grades will be determined, in part, by their chat room participation. But, never fear. There is a way to enter distance learning chat rooms with confidence and cool. Here’s how:
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 10-20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Before the class chat session, review all related reading assignments. Mark your textbooks with sticky notes, so that you’ll know where to turn when a topic comes up. Choose two or three key concise quotes that you’d like to discuss during the online chat. Spend a few minutes typing these quotes into a word processor, so that you’ll have them ready to cut-and-paste when they’re needed.

  2. State your point, demonstrate your point, back it up with a quote. When you have the opportunity to share your views in the class chat, begin by stating your main point. Explain your point with a quick example. Then, back your point up by referencing one of the concise quotes you prepared prior to the chat. Your quote should be long enough to prove your point, but no more than a line or two. Give enough information to prove your point, but don’t write a lengthy diatribe.

  3. Respond to your classmates. A chat room is meant for interaction, so don’t make your comments in isolation. Offer your comments only when they fit with the topic of discussion. Respond to your classmate’s questions and, when appropriate, ask questions of your own. Occasionally, let your classmates know when you agree with a point and when you disagree. Explain why.

  4. Practice chat room “netiquette.” Read the class chat rooms “FAQs” or “Rules” section before the chat session. Follow basic computer etiquette when interacting with your instructor and peers. For example, if you enter a chat room in the middle of a discussion, wait a few minutes to understand the discussion before posting. Never write in all caps (it’s considered shouting). And, give writers a chance to finish their thoughts when they conclude a paragraph with ellipses (it means that they’re not done writing yet).

  5. Be friendly but formal. Chat rooms are often a casual environment, but don’t forget to convey a professional image when chatting for an online class. If you want to be taken seriously, present your ideas in a more formal manner. You don’t have to be stuffy, but you should write in complete sentences. Capitalize the first letter of each sentence and avoid the over-use of emoticons, unusual fonts, and abbreviations such as “lol” or “brb.” Many web browsers now include spell checkers that can help you catch mistakes while typing in online fields – make use of these.

  6. Have fun. With a little advanced preparation, you can be a successful participant in an online class chat. But, don’t forget to have fun too. Class chats are one of the only chances many online students have to connect with their classmates. Make the most of it.


  1. Class chat formats vary from teacher to teacher. Follow the tone and format your teacher establishes.
  2. If you want to arrange a more social discussion with your classmates, set up a time outside of the class chat.
  3. Never dominate the conversation. Give others a chance to voice their opinions.

What You Need

  • post-it notes
  • web browser with a built-in spellchecker
  • word processing program
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