Leap of trust into the Openness

(This post is a part of completing the Open Networked Online (ONL) course (topic 2))

Openness in education means open resources, open tools and open participation courses. It’s about sharing materials, collaboration and allowing learning.

Openness requires trust. For example, I can share my materials with a Creative Commons license that requires giving appropriate credit to the licensor, but I have to trust that others know and respect the license. I can use open tools to teach and collaborate with others, but I have to trust that the tools don’t have any privacy issues and that my collaborators try to add value too. These are reasons why I ended up reflecting on trust in this blog post.

“Trust is important, but it is also dangerous”, Carolyn McLeod (2015) writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It’s a positive attitude we can have towards others, but it’s well-grounded only if others are trustworthy, and we can’t always know if they are. In this sense trust is like a leap to uncharted territory, where landing might be something else than we expect – trust makes us vulnerable.

If we would like to promote and support educational openness, we should support those things that make educational openness trustworthy and easier to trust on. But how to do this? The following three factors can be found from McLeod’s text.

Social norms is the first one. I think this is also what Ragupathi (2020) is writing about, taking examples from early seventeenth century coffee house model: Equality, behavior by discursive rules, evidence-informed rational discussion, relevant topics and no idleness/gabbling. It’s maybe a bit surprising or even contradictory, but “openness” may be fostered by shared rules or principles; they give us a shared way to be open.

Past experiences is the second factor. They can be an evidence of trustworthiness or not. This means that giving examples of open education accomplishments, asking others to join and try, and giving chances for positive experiences builds trust.

Thirdly, trusting itself builds trust. McLeod writes that sometimes parents may trust in their children in order to give them a chance to become trustworthy, even if they actually have doubts. In relation to educational openness, trust isn’t just its requirement but also its product.

This is a simplified view, of course, but all these factors support a climate where it’s easier both to trust and to be trustworthy.

It’s notable how this perspective shows the world of educational openness as a social one. Sharing and collaboration are social skills, and they may lead into socialization. This may feel especially uncomfortable or difficult for those using the Web mainly as a tool compared to those who know the Web as a social place of identity building and communities (visitors vs. residents, with White’s (2011) terms). Trust becomes important, because engaging the Web as a social place has its risks; your actions, standards or character may be judged by others, and losses of reputation weigh heavily in social world (Eisenegger 2009: 13). It requires courage and trust, like a leap.

Weller & Anderson (2013) argue that “the changes made possible by the combination of digital content and global networking have profound implications for all aspects of higher education.” It’s a challenge and it’s not without risks and problems, but I consider educational openness a promising idea. Even more so, if it’s intertwined with trust. McLeod (2015) writes: “trust that is warranted contributes to the foundation of a good society. It helps people to thrive through healthy cooperation with others and to be morally mature human beings.” For me this sounds something worth cultivating in the field of education. With a leap or with small steps.

Photo by processingly,


Eisenegger, M. (2009). Trust and reputation in the age of globalisation. In: Klewes, J. & Wreschniok, R. (eds.) Reputation Capital: Building and Maintaining Trust in the 21st Century.

McLeod, C. (2015). “Trust”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Ragupathi, K. (2020). Being open: drawing parallels with the Coffee House model.

Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53.

White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

7 thoughts on “Leap of trust into the Openness

  1. Very good post. Networks, community, sharing and indeed all education are indeed based on trust. It’s the glue that binds us together and without it we work in an atmosphere of suspicion, rivalry, self-interest and barriers. There are educators at either end of this spectrum and at all points in between.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was interesting Reading your reflection. I too believe that openness is about trust, but as you say, it can’t be free in the sense of no rules. Trust is built, not only by using and respecting CC licenses, but it also has to do with content. And I believe that is harder. The meaning of things, conclusions drawn, are changing over time. Shared and open data may be accessible over long time, without updating or changing. You may have Control over what you first posted online, but what others take further, sharing in new communities, you do not Always know about. So I think there also has to be some kind of shared responsibility to put dates on information or to delete when outdated…or maybe that’s part of the source critisism we all should have?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. very interesting, I think this is kind of “the other side” of what I chose to write about, which is teaching as a profession and responsibility for what we teach and how we teach.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for your reflection Jukka!

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with discussing the importance of trust. Starting from trusting oneself as a teacher to put your content out there, trusting your institution to support your opening of courses with their policies and requirements (I can only think of the whole open access publishing controversy for researchers on the tenure track) and trusting others to use and hopefully not abuse your content. It’s really a leap of faith, but maybe one worth taking?!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Many thanks for your interesting and valid point about trust, Jukka. I have been pondering on these thoughts, as well, and am struggling with how to integrate the positive and “easy” aspects of openness and sharing with the realities of traditional university education that also includes norms of hierarchies and more closed communities, possibly an identity of being happy to reside in an “ivory tower”. I believe your questions focus on important points that will receive a lot more attention by future educators than my own generation has managed.

    Liked by 1 person

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