Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Building Trust in Online Communities
By Barbara Bray    February 9, 2010 -- 08:10 AM

Mutual trust is a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. [How to Build Trust]

Have you joined a lot of online communities? If so, which ones are you an active member? Why? Could trust be one part of it? Each community is designed around a purpose or shared vision. If each member realizes their personal goals are in sync with the goals or purpose of the community or their goals helped design the community goals, then each person will work to keep the community going. When there is no purpose, the community falls apart. [Purpose in Learning Communities]

I belong to loads of different online communities: groups and fan pages in Facebook, educational groups in Ning and LinkedIn, Twitter, and lots of teams in My eCoach. I joined other groups and have saved the logins and passwords for those groups. On some of them, I havenít logged in for over a year. This seems to be because there was no defined purpose for that group or one that was relevant for me. Some were relevant but there was something else that wasnít working right for me: listening.

Was anyone actively listening or just talking?

What I mean is that there were lots of tweets, posts, and comments, but it didnít seem like people were really listening to the conversations. Many of the same people are in the same communities as I am. These same people are the ones that are tweeting and posting. Everywhere I am part of a community involving technology in education, I see and read from the same people. That means if there is a group of 500 people about 15-20% are the ones that are talking. The rest of us are reading the conversations, but are we actively listening?

Active listening means that we are part of the conversations. We may just be lurking. We may be reading and culling the information for our own purposes. We may copy and share the conversations without informing the author. We may retweet a tweet or re-purpose the information and make it our own. Thatís a form of active listening, but many readers have joined groups for their own purpose: to get out their message or use the information for their purpose only. The author continues talking to the same people and is never aware that their information is used by some of the readers possibly for the wrong purposes.

Why did you join certain learning communities?

Was it because of the leader of the community was someone you trusted? There are people who joined My eCoach and some of our free teams because they believe in me. That made me feel good. Unfortunately, it takes more than believing in someone to sustain a learning community.

Everyoneís role needs to be defined. How is the purpose of a specific community benefiting you? When you are in a global learning community, you will be exposed to cultural differences and language barriers. In some cases like forums or commenting on blogs, you are only reading what people write. Itís important to be kind and empathetic to your readers and others in your community. However, sometimes, we perceive something that was not intended. Empathy is difficult when you donít understand something someone wrote. Can you trust someone who takes advantage of a situation and writes an insulting post toward someone else?

Iím asking lots of questions that donít have answers yet. I plan to write more on trust, listening, and building online communities. This is just starting the conversation.

Trust happens when you participate in your learning community and then receive validating feedback. Validation can come in several forms:
  • replies to your introduction or forum post that demonstrates they were listening to you.
  • filling out a survey you asked your community to take.
  • adding you as a friend to their friendsí list.
  • sharing your post on Twitter or Facebook.
  • including your blog in their RSS feed or following your blog.
  • linking to your posts or projects.
  • several people in the community talk about your post or topic.
  • when others want to collaborate on a project with you.
Some community members are afraid to participate because they are not sure how their post will be taken by others or they donít feel confident in what they believe yet. This is where a coach or mentor can help - a little nudging works.

Do you agree that validation is a big part of building trust? Can you think of other ways to build trust?

Two other resources:
Trust Building
Building Trust

Categories: "Trust" "Empathy" "Community" "Online" "Listening" "Conversations" "Voices" "Posts" "Blogs" "Twitter" "Social Media"

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