Week 10: Building Trust

Ashley Tensen

If you would like to listen:

If you would like to read:

There were many thoughts that popped into my mind as I was reading the articles for this week. I think the biggest thought was that I know how to do this in an face-to-face classroom, but it is a little more challenging when it comes to thinking about how to build trust in an online environment. I feel like building trust is something that is hard to explain for me in words, it is just something that I've always done. Building trust is essential in any relationship so it comes naturally to us in a face-to-face environment but when it comes to online, its harder to emulate and often gets forgotten.

How I would build trust in an online environment would be to:

  1. Before class even starts, send out an email to all students welcoming them to the class, including a little information about the learning environment and class as well as how to gain access to explore the LMS/CMS
  2. Include somewhere on the site my teaching philosophy (I actually have this available for my students this year as an in-class teacher on our class website)
  3. Each week include a welcome video introducing the topic and activities for the week. It gives students a chance to see you and hear your voice each week and shows that you are present.
  4. The first week of the course have students do ice-breaker activities to get to know more about each other and why they are taking this course. I also would require my students to include a picture of themselves in this initial post &, depending on the LMS I use, require them to select a profile picture. I like being able to see people's faces in a discussion forum (it literally puts a face to what people write).
  5. Reinforce predictable patterns of communication among students as well as between students and instructor.
  6. Providing students with feedback to let them know that you are present in the learning environment.  
  7. Model positive communication between members of the online learning environment to create a positive social atmosphere.

Another point that was mentioned was about being authentic. I believe being authentic is a huge part in building trust and I think that is something I feel confident doing. Even in my writing, so I've been told by people who've read my personal blog, my writing always sounds like me. Another way that I think authenticity could be shown is by including other multimedia ways of communication. By including video and audio recordings, it allows students to get to know you better than they would with only written communication.

I also believe that being authentic means that you are able to share things with your students and make yourself vulnerable. I do this ALL the time in my face-to-face classroom to build trust. I readily admit to my students that I don't know everything, that I make mistakes, and that bad things have happened to me.  I think that may come in part with the territory of being a health educator because we cover difficult topics and building trust is KEY to getting through to students and helping them to relate and connect with the content. Even so, I believe that authenticity is important in any content area because students like learning from real people who they can relate to on some level.

Overall, I believe more now than ever, that building trust is just as important (if not more important) in an online environment as it is in a face-to-face environment, because in an online environment trust isn't build naturally, therefore, it needs to be thoughtfully designed into the course.