Posts are "public" (i.e., viewable by everyone in class) and are typically paired with the poster’s real name. And learners know that Posts are viewable by the Community Owner even when they post anonymously. It would be fairly unusual for a learner to stand up in a classroom and start yelling at another learner in front of the instructor and the rest of the class. Similar social pressures dictate acceptable behavior within a Yellowdig Community, and instructors can easily set the expectations of the community and re-iterate them as necessary on the rare occasions where a problem would arise.
Aside from the social situation and instructor guidance, as long as instructors award points for the actions, learners know they can receive more course points when their peers upvote their discussion. Other learners can also mark their content as “Not relevant,” which can lead to instructors deciding to revoke points for poor content.
Finally, instructors considering the platform often voice concerns about Post quality or learners getting points for leaving short, thoughtless commentary. By default, Posts and Comments have a required word count. With Upvotes and social expectations, we find that most instructors that are new users of our platform are pleasantly surprised by the quality of Posts and Comments. All of these design features incentivize and guide learners towards creating high-quality, thoughtful, and well-articulated Posts while also dissuading anti-social behavior (e.g., “trolling”).
Why? You shouldn’t expect disruptions because they rarely occur. To put it bluntly, there are real social and academic consequences for acting like a jerk within a learning community when points and grade passback are enabled. Yellowdig Communities very rarely require policing.
For example, we did a search of the 7 dirty words that George Carlin said in a famous comedy bit about words that cannot be used on television (we will also not repeat them here!). These words appeared in only .05% of all Yellowdig posts. Out of the 5.5 million Posts made as of that time, only 53 Posts containing these dirty words had ever been deleted. Interestingly, almost 3x as many Posts containing one of these words (N = 161) had received the instructor badge. These are pretty clear indications that problem behaviors are rare and that even when bad language is used it is more often used properly in context than it is used inappropriately.