Archive for November, 2007

Internet research skills

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

One of the Virtual Training Suite’s aims is to advocate and support the teaching of Internet research skills to university students and I hope this blog might facilitate discussion about developing these skills.

Students may well be savvy with new technologies when they arrive at university but I believe they need advice and guidance to develop the skills required to use the Internet to support their academic work.

This view is supported by some recent research findings from a JISC study:

Student Expectations Study, JISC, July 2007

The study surveyed sixth form students about to go to university. One of it’s findings was that:

“Students do not fully understand how ICT and learning can work together. They imagine and like the idea of the traditional, Socratic, or “chalk and talk” methods with face to face learning.”

So students don’t expect everything at university to be online and high-tech’, they actually expect traditional face-to-face teaching, and are unsure how to apply new technologies to their learning.

Surely we should help students to develop Internet research skills that can support their university work, just as we have always taught them good scholarly practice; how to use the university library, and how to approach and present an assignment in an acceptable format for the scholarly norms of the subject discipline?

One of the reports recommendations:

“Traditional teacher/pupil learning methods are preferred as the backbone for everyday learning. Technology needs to be used as a tool to complement this way of learning. Similarly HEIs should explain the benefits of technology”.

It might be a mistake for lecturers to assume that just because students have used the Internet before they arrive at university, they will know how to use it for work at higher education level. However, the JISC report suggests that students are open to learning about the role of new technologies in their work:

“… these students are not inflexible – once they arrive at university it is likely that their opinion of ICT and its role in learning will change”.

So if there is a need to help students to learn how technologies can support their university work the next questions that arise are:

Where do Internet research skills fit in undergraduate curriculum / student experience?

What methods can be employed to teach these skills?

Stanford Web Credibility Research

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

One of the topics we will discuss in this new Virtual Training Suite blog is Web credibility.

The Virtual Training Suite is all about offering a guide to the best of the Web for education and research and so for many years our staff have considered the value judgements and critical thinking required when using the Internet for academic research.

The Internet has thrown up both opportunities and threats to academic study and research.

The good news is that many sources of authoritative research information publish on the Internet – it offers quicker and easier access to academic resources and facilitates scholarly communication.

The bad news is that it can be very difficult for students or new researchers to pin point the resources that are most appropriate for their academic work, especially with recent explosion of un-moderated, user-generated content.

Locating resources on the Web that are suitable for academic work requires knowledge and skill and some there are some interesting initiatives to raise awareness of this.

I’d like to use this blog to highlight some of these, so will kick off with one I have found very useful over the years:

Stanford Web Credibility Research

BJ Fogg and his team at the Persuasive Technology lab at Stanford University are doing interesting work to investigate not only how people evaluate the credibility of information found on the Web, but also how people can enhance the credibility of the information they publish on the Web.

The group also acknowledges the individual and contextual factors involved in making value judgements about information, which helps explain the complexities and diverse opinions in this field.

They have some fascinating research findings describing how experts evaluate website credibility with very different criteria from the general public.

Their website aims to offer a clearinghouse for the academic literature on this topic and offers a very useful list of Web Credibility Research Literature.

I would recommend their work as interesting reading for an academic community faced not only with using the Internet for research, but in having some responsibility for ensuring that students develop the skills and knowledge required for the same. Otherwise we face the danger that the Internet will degrade the quality of academic research rather than enhance it.