The Other Side of Digitally Mediated Learning: Anonymity vs. Trust

The Other Side of Digitally Mediated Learning: Anonymity vs. Trust

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-543-8.ch001

Abstract

Trust is an integral part of online learning. Learners must be able to trust the technology as well as the humans behind the technology. Anonymity provides protection and other benefits that support the co-construction of knowledge, yet there are potential tradeoffs that diminish this protection and increase the risk of deception. Cyber educators are responsible for designing and creating a safe online learning environment that promotes trust, hence increasing collaboration, student satisfaction, and improving learning outcomes.
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Objectives

  • Describe the dichotomy of trust and anonymity existing in cyber education and the impact upon the learning community.

  • Analyze the components that can be part of establishing trust in an individual and in a social community.

  • Characterize the benefits of anonymity for the cyber learner and how they enhance the learning experience.

  • Recognize the potential trade-offs available in the online learning environment and how technology impacts trust.

  • Discover how trust in digitally mediated environments can be enhanced through the use of solid design principles and educational methods.

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Background

Psychologically speaking, humans have the innate need to seek refuge in that which is familiar and comfortable, hence trustworthy. It is no different with technology or human systems because humans add social dimensions to their interactions with technology (Nass, Steuer & Tauber, 1994; Waern & Ramberg, 1996). Humans trust a system that is reliable and will meet their needs. If the user feels safe and comfortable being dependent on a particular system, whether technological or human, he will be more willing to trust in it and return for future transactions.

Trust is generated in different ways; it must be present in order to achieve a reciprocal and successful transaction. Different degrees of trust emerge through presumptions, experience, surface inspection, and intuitions (Bailey, Gurak & Konstan, 2002). Individuals make presumptions based on their unique set of values, beliefs, and their own comfort level dealing with doubt or the absence of doubt. Their previous experience also plays a role in generating and maintaining trust. The more positive experiences an individual has trusting in a person, product or system, the more likely that individual is to trust in a new situation. Surface inspection leads to a “gut feeling” when encountering something for the first time. It may be a new product, meeting a stranger, or in the case of online learning it could be enrolling in their first online course. The learner will soon form an opinion about the course after a quick inspection of the virtual environment including interface and content, as well as the first impression of the instructor.

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