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Online Learning – learner conduct, communication and content online*

Courtesy and confidentiality

Treat others with the same courtesy and respect as you would in a face-to-face conversation.

  • Don’t write or share anything that is:
    → defamatory, obscene, discriminatory, illegal, incites hatred or could damage the reputation of Skills & Learning
    → confidential or infringes another person’s privacy; for example, you should not post someone’s contact details
    → sent to you privately and not intended to be shared with others
    → likely to make someone feel bullied or harassed
    → malicious or potentially harmful to others.
  • Don’t engage in commercial activity
  • Although it seldom happens, moderators can and will remove content that they
    decide is unsuitable.

We would like you to have your camera switched on during online learning sessions with tutors and classmates. This helps your tutor to identify non-verbal signals about the course content and your engagement and it helps classmates to develop good working relationships. If for any reason you feel unable to have your camera on, please contact your tutor.

It is possible to blur your background within video chat in Teams – watch this YouTube video on how to do this. This way you can obscure your audience’s view of people or family photographs in your backdrop.

You should try and access your online learning in a quiet and private location to reduce distractions for you, your classmates and tutors. Use headphones where available and ask housemates and family members to avoid interrupting. We realise this isn’t always possible so please talk to your tutor if you have any concerns.

You may be asked to share your screen during online sessions – you should avoid having too many things open on your device to minimise the risk of sharing something you do not wish to. It will also help you to stay engaged if you are not distracted by chat messages, emails and notifications popping up on your screen during your online learning time.

Your profile

Consider adding a picture to your profile to help other people identify you. You can choose a photograph of yourself or another image that you would like people to associate you with

Be cautious about sharing your address or telephone number, and make sure you reveal no information that could pose a security risk such as your date of birth or mother’s maiden name.


Avoid committing or supporting plagiarism. Never discuss answers to work that is counted for assessment (remember that even if the cut-off date has passed some people may have extensions).


Be brief. Several short posts have more impact than one long message. Write in a natural and informal style but take a moment to check grammar and spelling. Use spellchecker.

Online messages are sometimes misunderstood because the other person’s facial expression can’t be seen.

It can help to use emoticons to show you are smiling, surprised, sad, embarrassed and so on.

Don’t write in capital letters because it can look as though you are SHOUTING and is harder to read.


Make your posts in the right forum. Many ‘Teams’ have an area for general discussion and other channels for individual communication or activities. Try to use these rather than sending all messages to the general forum.

If replying to a particular person in a chat, begin your post with an @ sign followed by their name. You can even make this the new subject line, very useful if you are just thanking someone. A subject line like ‘@Anna – thanks!’ says it all, without needing anything in the message.

If you do well in an assignment, it’s natural to want to share this online. However, we recommend you don’t mention your actual marks in case it discourages someone who has not done so well. It’s fine to write in more general terms though, such as ‘I was really pleased with my mark for XXXX – it was better than I expected’ or ‘I found the exam very hard but I’ve got the result I wanted, which I’m very happy about!’

Prevent (counter-terrorism) strategy* and safeguarding

Skills & Learning has a statutory duty to show ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ (Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, 2015).

If you are concerned that a learner is in danger of being radicalised, you can contact one of our Learning Support Officers, Cheryl Bascombe and Janet Miles for confidential advice.

You must not share electronic content with staff or learners which could be seen as extremist. This includes videos and posts that support or encourage hate, violence, abuse, illegal/harmful activity or conspiracy theories. Be mindful of non-course related social media posts that you share and consider how appropriate they are for the audience you are sharing with – even things you may consider as fun could cause offence or upset to others.

Find out more on our safeguarding page.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do be courteous to other participantsDon’t make distracting sounds
Do speak clearlyDon’t shout
Do keep body movements minimalDon’t make distracting movements
Do move and gesture slowly and naturallyDon’t interrupt other speakers
Do be yourself and have funDon’t carry on side conversations
Do dress appropriatelyDon’t wear “noisy” jewellery
Do maintain eye contact by looking into the cameraDon’t cover the microphone – mute yourself if you do need to speak to someone outside of the class or to cough/sneeze.


YouTube video Using Teams –

*Resources informed by OU

Read more of our policies below