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Using open text responses safely and dealing with inappropriate or offensive posts


By default, the University polling tool Mentimeter is completely anonymous and a common concern from teaching staff is that students may not use open text options appropriately. This page offers strategies for the safe use of open text comments focused on:

  • Minimising the likelihood of inappropriate or offensive comments being added by attending to the learning environment and developing shared ‘rules of engagement’ for anonymous open text.

  • Setting up the Mentimeter environment so that if any inappropriate or offensive comments are added, negative impacts can be prevented or minimised.

It incorporates suggestions from the following members of staff who are experienced Mentimeter users: Yaprak Tavman and Mathilde Peron (Department of Economics), Thomas Davies and Sally Quinn (Department of Psychology), and Gareth Evans (Department of Biology).

Which question types does this apply to?

Closed question types limit the students to respond using pre-set options and cannot be used to add inappropriate or offensive comments. This is only possible using the open response questions/interactions including word clouds, open-ended responses, Q&A and chat.

Should I limit the use of Mentimeter to closed questions only?

Limiting the use of Mentimeter to closed questions/interactions will avoid any issues with inappropriate or offensive comments altogether. However, this also limits the potential of the tool and many of the case studies of effective use by staff at the University incorporate open questions. These allow for a wider range of activities to be included and provide opportunities for greater creativity and discussion. Examples include Thomas Davies’s use of Mentimeter to support discussion in seminars and Gareth Evans’s use to share and give feedback on group work.

Depending on your group and familiarity with Mentimeter, you may want to limit things to closed questions/interaction to begin with while you prepare the ground for open questions/interactions.

If it’s your first time using Mentimeter with students, it can be helpful to start with a low-stakes ‘fun’ exercise that allows for some levity before more serious activities. Starting with pair work activities for open text, e.g. to share the results of a Think-Pair-Share activity may also discourage individuals from adding inappropriate comments. Although this counteracts the benefits of anonymity, you can also use the quick form question type to elicit names, email address or other information which will make subsequent responses from the same device identifiable.

It is also worth considering whether the occasional swear word, or ‘inappropriate comment’ is inherently a bad thing. Obviously this will depend on the nature of the comment and people should use their own judgement as to what is acceptable.

Some further ideas are included below.

How can I minimise the potential for inappropriate or offensive comments?

It is recommended that you consider the specific group and context to make a decision on when and how to use open text comments. You may want to discuss the use of Mentimeter with your students, focusing on your rationale for using it and looking to set out or develop some shared ‘rules of engagement’. Example approaches might include the following:

  • You can ask students to make responsible use of the opportunity to contribute and not to share anything anonymously that they wouldn’t be comfortable sharing face-to-face.
  • You can thank students in advance for their time and taking activities seriously and for being on task, and setting the norm that students engage well with these activities.
  • You can tell students you are looking forward to hearing what they have to say and look to set a genuine and trusting classroom atmosphere.
  • You can enthusiastically and genuinely thank students for the positive contributions they make throughout your use of Menti to encourage students to stay ‘on task’ and to maintain a positive ‘norm’ in the classroom.
  • Should any inappropriate use start to emerge, you can inform students that answers to open questions will be moderated in future, or that it will no longer be possible to continue with these questions at all in future. A prompt response might ‘nip this in the bud’ and prevent problems from escalating.

It can be helpful to co-create ground rules with students to promote a sense of ownership and shared responsibility. Mentimeter itself can provide useful options for this, and anyone who would like to explore this in more detail can take part in the following ‘Mentimeter academy’ course: Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Engaging All Students. This free, self-paced course aims to arm educators with strategies for furthering inclusivity and belonging in the classroom, as well as to develop the necessary skills to create an engaged, and safe learning environment.

Different staff in different teaching contexts may have different views and approaches to this but it is important to think through your own approach and to prepare yourself to deal with inappropriate or offensive comments as needed. The ‘community of respect’ webpage may help you to provide a framework for discussion on how Mentimeter can contribute to respectful, open, inclusive, and challenging interactions in your classroom.

If you think that there is a danger of inappropriate use, consider some of the steps below to prevent this or minimise the impact.

How can I set things up in Mentimeter to minimise or prevent inappropriate use from having a negative impact?

Word cloud and open text entry

Mentimeter includes the option to switch on a profanity filter to automatically strip out contributions in text-based questions/interaction that contain words included within Mentimeter’s profanity database (swearing etc). This is available in multiple languages and you can ‘select all’ to increase coverage. Included words will not appear in the presentation of results on screen and will only be visible to staff when downloading the results. The filter is off by default. It is important to note that it will only remove words that appear in the database and to acknowledge that there are many creative ways of avoiding profanity filters. It is also worth considering whether a small amount of profanity can actually add to the discussion and allow students to express themselves in the language they want to. Different members of staff will have different tolerances for swearing and other ‘inappropriate’ comments, and there is not one ‘correct way’ to use Menti.

Should inappropriate or offensive comments come through the profanity filter, it is possible to remove input from word clouds and open text entry. If you would like to ensure that any inappropriate comments will not make it onto the presentation screen in the first place, you can use the following steps:

  • Hide the responses while students are adding responses (keyboard shortcut ‘h’). The open text entry question type now hides responses by default and simply shows the number of responses received until you opt to reveal the responses using the ‘enter’ key.
  • Check for inappropriate comments and remove them. If you have a phone or tablet with you, the mentimote option provides the most straightforward means of doing this and you can find information and a demo video on how to use this from Mentimeter’s mentimote page. If you are not using a phone or tablet, you will need to blank the presentation screen at the front of the room, close the voting (keyboard shortcut ‘c’) and use the console computer to remove the comments.
  • Close the voting (keyboard shortcut ‘c’).
  • Show the responses (keyboard shortcut ‘h’ or ‘enter’ for open text entry).
  • If you have further questions to follow, you can then move on to the next slide and open the voting again (keyboard shortcut ‘c’).

By default, however, all comments that make it through the profanity filter will be displayed immediately on screen. This can be positive for learning, and feedback from students suggests they often like to see the ideas emerging as responses come in, especially in word clouds. However, when using this approach, you should be ready to hide responses (keyboard shortcut ‘h’) or to blank the presentation screen at the front of the room if needed. If you are using open text comments for questions, using the Q and A interaction instead will provide you with more options for moderation.


The Q&A option within Mentimeter allows students to post anonymous questions either on specific ‘Q&A’ slides, or at any point during a presentation. You can decide whether you would like the questions to be private or viewable by all as they come in. You can also decide whether you would like to be able to ‘moderate‘ questions which means they need to be approved before they are displayed on the screen. Moderation can be done by the presenter or you can share a link to allow moderation by a colleague. If you are moderating yourself, using mentimote is the easiest option and you can find information and a demo video on how to use this from Mentimeter’s mentimote page.


You can switch on the option for students to add a comment which will appear briefly at the bottom of the screen before disappearing. These comments are subject to the profanity filter but unlike in word cloud and open text entry, a comment that includes a word in the profanity database will not be removed altogether. Instead it will be replaced with the following characters ‘!#*&!$’. Given the lack of moderation options, it is recommended not to switch on comments unless you are happy with the risk that they could be used inappropriately by your group.