Establishing an Appropriate Online Tone

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Online discussions are a text-based medium where you, the writer, need to carefully consider your subject, purpose, audience, and context. Moreover, you need to establish a tone with your students that fosters discussions and deepens student learning.

Benefits of a Positive Tone


A positive tone sets the stage where a respectful dialogue can help deepen learning, foster a culture of risk taking, keep misunderstandings to a minimum, and create a pleasurable online learning environment.


Select a tone that supports reflection:

  • Select a tone that is based on a specific message context.
  • Do NOT select a tone for personal reflection.
  • Select a tone that motivates learners

Helpful Tips

Neutral tones are safe, but boring.

Humor if done carefully can liven a discussion.

Analytical tones offer an analysis usually with a neutral tone.

Curious tones help to probe without grilling the learner.

Informal tones help to ease up touchy topics.

Nurturing tones can be used to redirect discussions going in the wrong direction.

Whimsical and inspiring tones motivate learners to dig deeper.


Excellent response here, [Student]!

Class, [Student] brings up an interesting point: “whatever student’s interesting point is”. Insert your own thoughts
here to elaborate on the point or relate the student’s comments to the course material.]

Then, insert a follow-up question using a selected tone based on the context of the discussion. [i.e., a curious tone]
“I am curious if you think the opposite assumption might be true?”


Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S. & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating Online Learning Effective Strategies for Moderators. Madison, WE: Atwood Publishing.