Appropriate Use of Technology

There has been a case of inappropriate behaviour in an anonymous online setting. How should this be handled?

Vignette #29


Context: A mixed class of young adult and older learners undertaking work related training

I teach an online class for people who work in the childcare sector and want to gain some additional qualifications. They work in nurseries, kindergartens, after school care and holiday clubs. Normally our online classes run very smoothly and I have worked hard to develop an online community of learners in which students can be open about their experiences and the challenges they face in their practice. I encourage everyone to contribute to our discussions and use all the tools available for interaction.  

In our most recent class I asked students to contribute anonymous comments to our online whiteboard. I like this approach because it gives everyone in the class an equal voice and allows those who are less confident to take part without being identified. So I was very shocked when a homophobic comment was posted. I didn’t really know how to respond at the time – it was totally unexpected from within a group of adult students working in a caring profession. My reaction was to close the whiteboard immediately and move on to the next activity. 


The issue I face is that I need to take some action that will address the issue but I don’t want to disrupt our group learning atmosphere.


  • How can I identify the author of the inappropriate comment without resurfacing the content, which may be upsetting to some of the group? 
  • What should I have done at the time – could I have handled the issue better? 
  • Should students be allowed to be anonymous in this context? 
  • What should I do next? 
  • Who can help me to bring this to a swift and appropriate resolution, and it there anyone else who should be made aware of it?