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WI Forum Etiquette Guidelines

Jan 1, 2020

The purpose of Wilmette Institute courses is to promote knowledge, insights and service in a unified manner. To enhance the learning experience for all participants, we have provided the following guidance for posting in Wilmette Institute forums. By using the forums you are agreeing to follow these guidelines.

Web-based forums have unique limitations
Lack of body language—a humorous tone may be interpreted as condescending or insulting. “Emoticons” may help, but sometimes they don’t. Writing style—email is very abbreviated, whereas in actual speech fewness of words can indicate the speaker is irritated.

It is very important not to read negative feelings into other’s postings. In Wilmette Institute courses the students come from many cultures and may not understand English well. We urge you to be as courteous and polite as possible. If you think you might have hurt someone’s feelings, it may be a good idea to apologize. You can write students and faculty privately if that might help smooth the waters; the course provides a way to do this.

Post useful messages. 
If everyone sent a post saying “I agree” or “good point” when they read someone’s posting, we would be flooded with superficial messages. But if everyone liked something and no one says anything, the poster may feel his comments were ignored or disliked. There is no easy solution to this problem. We suggest that everyone send their messages to the Forum in a detached manner without expecting any comments back. If you have a short, specific question, email it to your mentor.

Emotional or controversial topics. 
If we were sitting in a classroom and an emotionally difficult subject came up, the instructor could gauge the class’s reaction by body language. If someone is looking mad but doesn’t seem to want to speak, the teacher can help the person express his or her thoughts. But if someone in an online forum is angry, no one else will know until they say so. This can result in a very unsatisfactory discussion. Swearing, insults, and other nastiness is highly inappropriate and in extreme cases could result in someone being removed from a course.

Curse words and racial slurs—even in reported text—should be strictly avoided. If in doubt about the appropriateness of a post, please consult your faculty mentor before posting. We also urge people who are feeling upset to send a private message to their mentor before posting to everyone. Even a mildly angry posting to the forum can cause some sensitive students to refrain from posting, and since they won’t say anything, no one will even know why they are silent.

Loss of the distinction between private and public speech. 
In a classroom you can turn and whisper to the person next to you. The equivalent in an online course is private messaging. It is best to reply to personal comments off the forums.

Best practice in posting. 
Your first discussion posts within each unit should address the discussion topic. Additional postings should provide comments that are thoughtful, relevant, and help to extend the discussion.

Internet connection/required skills and equipment: 
It is strongly recommended that learners have a broadband (cable modem or DSL) Internet connection, and their own computer or laptop with up-to-date software, including the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Moodle course management platform works through the Internet, and can be easily accessed on either a Windows PC or a Mac. Each learner must have their own email address, and must be able to speak and write English. Basic computer and Internet browsing skills are required of all learners.

Mobile apps: Moodle also has mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices (see or visit your App Store). These apps are helpful as supplementary tools, but should not be the only point of access to Wilmette Institute courses.

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