It looks like when we view online information we trust our friends, family or people like ourselves as much or more than we are willing to trust an academic expert or anyone else. As an academic expert I am not concerned with this data, but am rather excited to have data to support what I have been watching develop over the past twenty years in the online classes that I have been facilitating. I have observed that my students are very quick to trust each other’s input and perspectives as much or even more than my own. Students still do view my voice as the final voice of authority because I am the one who determines their grade–but do they trust me as much as they trust their peers? I wonder…?
This confirms the importance of collaboration in online courses. Students do trust each other enough to really learn from each other. Yes, I am making a generalization from the Eldemen data that looks at the trust level of authors on social networking, content sharing and online-only information sources but this does describe a significant component of the online learning environment that I have created for my students. Online educators have been measuring the importance of online collaboration for student achievement for many years and there is a fair amount of data to support the fact that well structured online collaboration helps students to achieve their course learning outcomes as well as or better then in traditional face2face settings (Hiltz, Coppola, Rotter, Turoff, & Benbunan-Fich, 2000; Su, Bonk, Magjuka, Liu, & Lee, 2005).
The evidence is clear; if you want to learn more effectively online you need to collaborate with your classmates. The evidence also suggest that most people are willing to trust their classmates as much or more than the professor so online students should take advantage of this fact and learn from and with their peers.
Edleman Trust Barometer. (2016). [Slideshare]. Retrieved July 14, 2016 from
Hiltz, S. R., Coppola, N., Rotter, N., Turoff, M., & Benbunan-Fich, R. (2000). Measuring the importance of collaborative learning for the effectiveness of ALN: A multi-measure, multi-method approach. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 4(2), 103-125.
Su, B., Bonk, C. J., Magjuka, R. J., Liu, X., & Lee, S. H. (2005). The importance of interaction in web-based education: A program-level case study of online MBA courses. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 4(1), 1-19.