How Do You Manage Misbehavior in Online Classes? 7 Best Tips

The transition from traditional classrooms to online learning has brought numerous advantages, but it has also introduced unique challenges, especially when it comes to managing student misbehavior.

In a virtual setting, maintaining discipline can be more complex due to the physical distance and limited direct supervision. However, with the right strategies and proactive approaches, you can effectively manage misbehavior in online classes and create a positive and conducive learning environment for all students.

strategies in managing misbehavior in the virtual classroom

Heavy sigh! But, think of this one.

“Remember, everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart,” – Annette Breaux

Such is the hardest part of being a teacher – managing different personalities. However, being judgmental shouldn’t be our option. We need innovative strategies to manage misbehavior in online classes knowing that it’s very different from in-person learning.

When students are uncooperative with instructions like they refuse to turn on their cameras, lack focus, and won’t comply with tasks, how do you handle such problematic behaviors?

In this article, we will explore the 7 best tips to handle misbehavior in online classes.


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We can never expect a perfect online class. There will always be the presence of interruptions and distractions. Sadly, oftentimes, the reason for disruptions is misbehavior.

How Do You Manage Misbehavior in Online Classes?

Teaching in a virtual classroom is already a challenge, but it’s even more difficult to keep your pupils involved. However, dealing with disruptive students can make things even more challenging.

Don’t worry. I’ll share practical tips to handle misbehavior so everyone in your class can avoid bad days.

1. Set Clear Expectations from the Beginning

Prevention is the key to dealing with misbehavior. Establish explicit expectations and standards for online behavior at the start of each academic term or online course.

Explain the rules to your kids and make sure they understand the repercussions of breaking them. Instill the value of respect, active involvement, and appropriate online behavior.

Students will be more likely to comply with these standards if they are established from the start, lowering the probability of misconduct.

Specifically, establish clear communication. Use straightforward language in all communication, including announcements, instructions, and feedback. Avoid ambiguous language that could lead to misunderstandings.

Also, be consistent with schedule and deadlines. Establish a clear schedule for live sessions, assignments, quizzes, and exams. Share this schedule at the beginning of the course and remind students of upcoming deadlines regularly.

2. Establish Consistent Routines

As teachers, we can’t just deny the importance of establishing routines and adhering to rules throughout the school year. Our students should know what to expect in our virtual classroom.

They should know when to complete their assignments, when should they log in, what to wear, what to do during discussions, and so on. Then, you’ve gotta prepare the list and discuss them one by one.

Research shows that clear instructions and routines must be posted so students to keep things achievable. Students must know where to pick up and submit assignments. And it should be consistent. As teachers, we should be mindful of the consistency of established routines so our students won’t get confused.

Classroom management won’t work without clear routines. One would say that everything is out of whack in online learning. It’s difficult enough for a group of students to work together in in-person learning how much more in virtual learning.

Creating routines is implementing patterns that guide students on how to act and work in a virtual classroom. When a structure is made clear, students are more focused and know what to expect. And conditions for misbehaving become obscured.

Additionally, developing routines and procedures in online learning gives students a sense of predictability which boosts their confidence because they know what will happen or what to expect.

a child participating in online learning

Photo by Julia M Cameron

3. Set Learning Behavior Expectations

Setting learning behavior expectations in the virtual classroom can help manage misbehavior in online classes. When students know that they should be on time, mute their microphones when the discussions begin, and so on, the virtual classroom can be organized and orderly.

How do you expect your students to communicate their thoughts, ask for clarifications and questions, and initiate interactive discussions?

Set expectations for effective communication. Your students should show respect and kindness when they share their comments and express their thoughts. Here, modeling is crucial. Show them how to realize this expectation in effective communication.

To ensure engagement in virtual learning, we should manage student misbehavior and help students avoid misbehaving as well. In a virtual classroom, best learning practices must be specifically taught to the students as it is a very unique learning environment.

Teaching students about virtual learning behavior expectations is a  practical idea if you want them to understand why they are so important.

For a virtual classroom to be successful, misbehavior should be managed by developing clear expectations.

4. Deal with Discipline Issues As Soon As Possible

Is the raising hand button made clear to your students? What about dressing appropriately and avoiding snacking while the online class is going on?

Not following the established routines and expectations is a sign of misbehavior and a discipline issue. Really in a remote class, our verbal and non-verbal cues are very limited and one disruptive student can make a huge negative impact on the whole class.

Thus, discipline issues must be resolved fast. Don’t wait until a problem arises before dealing with it. However, the sense of immediacy shouldn’t give us a reason to be harsh. It will just make things worse.

Maintain a positive demeanor and show consideration for the rest of the class no matter what happens. Make use of behind the scene discipline strategies such as sending a private message or emailing the parents. Don’t announce it to the class and never feedback to the group.

When a particular student misbehaves, then your discipline strategy should be directed to him or her in a discreet manner. Even though addressing discipline issues should be made fast, still it should be inspired by the lights of respect and consideration.

One way of addressing discipline issues is by having a private conversation with the child together with the parents. There might be a reason for the misbehavior and you should extend time and effort to unravel it for you to understand as well.

Remember that, “A misbehaving child is  a discouraged child.” – Rudolf Dreikurs

5. Give Possible Consequences for Misbehavior

When rudeness of behavior is shown, what should be done? Are your students aware that it isn’t allowed? And when they understand it from the start, then you can be very confident in giving possible consequences for misbehavior.

Still, this is part of discipline but it’s being specified because this is another practical strategy. However, the rule is don’t be harsh and never break a heart.

Misdeeds. Bullying. Rudeness. Aggressive behavior. They are part of the circle. But if you know how to manage misbehavior in online classes, you can make your students learn as they can and increase engagement.

What could be the possible consequences of consistent late log-ins? What about creating voluntary disruptions such as being noisy, making fun of others, taking screenshots for later funny acts, and so on? What can you do about them?

a parent assisting her child

Photo by Julia M Cameron

At times, it seems as if keeping up with our students’ activities is an impossibility. Well, since kids are learning at home, tap the assistance of the parents for close monitoring. Involve them and make it clear during the orientation that there will be consequences for misbehavior. Getting family support is effective.

Take precautions and give consequences. Exhibit fairness and be consistent.

6. Build Community

Establishing positive relationships in online classes makes students aware of their actions and is one of the effective strategies for behavior management in a virtual classroom. As they feel a sense of belonging, they become so mindful of their actions and behavior.

Unwanted student behaviors usually show up when they feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in the learning space.

If you want to get the most out of an online course, you need to get involved in the community of learners. Building good relationships establishes real engagement and avoids student misbehavior.

The first step is to encourage your students to reach out and communicate. Encourage your students to engage in meaningful conversations that will benefit their learning and their interpersonal relationships.

Devote particular time for casual interactions and dialogues. This can help build managing misbehavior and to build an online community. The enriching exchange of dialogues and conversations can help children express themselves and ask for clarification.

Building a community in virtual learning is one way for students to learn and understand one another. Also, creating, nurturing, and sustaining online learning communities can be both academically and personally transformative.

7. Utilize Technology to Your Advantage

Use the technologies at your disposal to assist you regulate student behavior. Online platforms frequently have options such as muting and private messaging, which may be useful tools for dealing with misconduct without disrupting the class.

Furthermore, employing interactive tools, quizzes, and breakout rooms may keep students interested and reduce off-task behavior. Remember to become acquainted with the platform’s features in order to make the most of them.

In addition, you can also make use of intercative content for the best engagement. Use engaging and interactive content to keep students focused and interested in the lesson. Incorporate videos, interactive quizzes, educational games, and virtual simulations to make the learning experience more enjoyable.

Besides, using breakout rooms is also a fine deal. Divide students into smaller groups using breakout rooms during online discussions or group activities. Smaller settings can help prevent distractions and allow for more focused interactions.

<<<For more innovative tips on classroom management in an online learning environment, watch this video.


As we do our best to continue educating our children, we should not overlook the practical ways to keep them attentive, respectful, and sensitive to the needs of others.

Although misbehavior is really a part of any endeavor, it can’t be ignored. Otherwise, successful student learning will be compromised. And we can’t allow it to happen.

Hopefully, the strategies stated above can help you manage misbehavior in online classes and help students take account of their own learning by being disciplined and diligent.