Online discussions don't include the visual and social cues we benefit from with face-to-face communication, but they also present opportunities to more deeply develop self-awareness and consider different perspectives about race and identity. Having discussions about such sensitive topics online, rather than face to face, can add a layer of complexity that we must consider as a group. Here are tips for communicating in online discussions.
THE WAY YOU COMMUNICATE AFFECTS ALL PARTICIPANTS
As a participant you are a member of an online community. Your postings can help push the group to think in new directions and create a sense of community, or they can be divisive. Try to be thoughtful and sensitive in your tone. Be cautious with sarcasm and humor online, as they often don't come across as intended.
As in a face-to-face group conversation, please make a special effort to “listen” carefully to other participants, and as a "critical friend," post your responses kindly and thoughtfully.
LET YOURSELF BE HEARD
Don't be afraid to speak your thoughts. Your perspective, whether it is similar to that of others in the group or different, is important. Join the conversation. Remember, the facilitator and other participants can't read body language online to know if you're engaged in the conversation and thinking about the content. We need to "hear" you.
YET BE CAREFUL NOT TO DOMINATE THE DISCUSSION
Every online group has leaders, and leaders are great. But try to be cautious about overwhelming the conversation. Share your thoughts and responses, but make sure you give room for others to respond and that you're letting the facilitator do his or her job, as well.
ENCOURAGEMENT GOES A LONG WAY
Comments in the discussion can be either substantial, thought-provoking reflections or simple words of encouragement to other participants. They can push other participants to think further or simply offer words of encouragement like Nicely put, or I agree.
Everyone already has a lot to read. As you're writing your messages, remember that we want to hear what you have to say but if it takes you too long to say it, other participants might not be able to read the whole thing.
Online asynchronous (i.e., not at the same time) discussion is a new mode of communication for most of us. There will be times when you post to a discussion and no one responds to that post, or a response comes many hours or even days later. This is the nature of an online discussion. Know that even though your post may not get a response, you can rest assured that many participants have read the post.
EMAIL vs. DISCUSSION BOARD
As a general rule, use the discussions for all workshop communication. Email should only be used to share an issue of concern or private matter with the workshop facilitators or another participant. Email should also be used to communicate about issues unrelated to specific workshop content.