Managing challenging behaviour online

There are some possible negative aspects of online communities you should be prepared for. You will be aware that in any group of people some personalities may dominate while others are quiet and rarely contribute to the conversation. Some may occasionally be insensitive, disruptive or even offensive, all behaviours which need to be stopped immediately. If you cannot remove offending messages then you should contact the person privately and explain why their message is inappropriate. It is a good idea to have a set of written rules for respectful communication that the group has either developed themselves or agreed to at the start so you can refer to this agreement if the need arises.

In some contexts, especially asynchronous environments like a discussion forum, you may need to be vigilant about bad behaviour or bring in someone to act as ‘moderator’ whose role is to monitor online conversations and intervene if necessary.

If there are people who do not participate and appear disengaged, there may be a simple explanation; for example, some people are very busy and just don’t have time. However, there may be underlying reasons of greater concern, so you may need to find ways to gently explore and manage this situation. If people are simply reluctant to get involved you may find that explaining the concept of ‘communities of practice’ is a way to emphasise that connecting and sharing with like-minded others can be very beneficial.

Communities of practice