Creating Trust in Online Learning Environments

December 19, 2016  • Communications and Society Program

As 2016 comes to a close, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program invites you to join us as we celebrate and reflect over an exciting year marked by thoughtful, constructive discussions on a range of issues. The following “2016 Year In Review” series offers highlights from the various programs as well as insight into 2017 programming. For more information, please  visit our homepage and or follow us on Twitter or Facebook 

Education, learning and teaching are transforming. Driven by technological advances, former models of education now go beyond the physical classroom. This new type of online and off-line learning system allows learners and teachers to connect directly to resources, people and activities. In this new era, the possibilities for inspiration, mentorship, access and customization are available to students of all ages across the nation.  

This new vision for learning, however, comes at a cost. To ensure that young learners have the opportunity and are able to take full advantage of a networked learning environment, issues of trust, safety, privacy, literacy and equity of access must be resolved. The Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet published five essential principles and twenty-six action steps to guide stakeholders on these issues (for more information on the Learner at the Center of a Networked World report, please visit  

Next month, we will release a tailored Action Guide on Building a Trusted Learning Environment (Action U in the Task Force report). The guide proposes the following seven best practices:  

  1. Clearly define and communicate “trusted environment” and what “trust means to your learner and his or her community.” 
  2. Value the youth perspective and help them exercise their own voice. 
  3. Engage experts across disciplines to address need. 
  4. Be proactive and be ready to react when necessary. 
  5. Understand that language matters. 
  6. Pull from best practices and utilize lessons learned from previous organizations. 
  7. Define clear roles among the learning network. 

The guide serves as a framework for dialogue and action among a learning community’s many constituencies, including Learners, Parents and Caregivers, In-school or Out-of-school Providers, and Developers. The Action Guide also features worksheets to help readers explore what trust means to them, evaluate the current level of trust in their learning environments, and uncover specific next steps. You can use the Action Guide as a means to engage in further discussions and to help identify priorities in your community.  Please check back to learn how to receive your copy or visit