Free Online Learning; Understanding Resources Essay Example
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Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
Online Learning: Understanding Resources
Technology in the 21st century has taken people to some truly magnificent places. From virtually realistic video games, to bionic body parts, it appears that the only limits will soon be our own imagination. It is no surprise that we are already able to attend class from the comfort of our own homes thanks computer access. Classes can be streamed through the internet, and entire classes of students can cater to their busy family or work schedules while still getting an education. However, there are some drawbacks to not getting an education in a traditional setting; the most prominent of which being understanding which resources to trust without a professor’s guidance, as well as classmate collaboration on assignments. Fortunately, online education helps students re-evaluate which internet sources are trustworthy through discussion board development and classroom collaboration.
Prior to taking online courses, my idea of what classified as a credible online source varied greatly from what it does not. It is strange what we consider credible in and out of an academic setting. As noted in Susan R. Goldman and associates’ article, “Comprehending and Learning from Internet Sources: Processing Patterns of Better and Poorer Learners,” some individuals are born with the innate talent to distinguish the true from the false . They question the lies and search for information. This skill separates those who believe every link they see in their Facebook feeds, and those who run searches on Google Scholar, or their colleges confirmed library search site. Essentially, it separates the idiots from the academics.
As online sources became a necessity for my projects and papers throughout my online education, I began to notice several distinguishing differences between articles I gravitated toward naturally, and sources that I felt might be more credible, though they seemed foreign to me. For example, many of the authors of the articles that I gravitated naturally toward were not scholars or experts in anything, while authors whose names were followed by Ph.D. typically wrote scholarly articles. Furthermore, the language of the sources was different. While the language in a Buzzfeed article or Wikipedia blurb might be flashy or easy to read, it does not mean it contains accurate information. Andrew J. Flanagin and Miriam J. Metzger admitted in their article that Wikipedia was almost never to be trusted because anybody could change it at any time, yet it was somehow the most trusted source of information on the internet . As I began cross-referencing the facts on Wikipedia with more scholarly, albeit more academically written, articles I found online, I began to notice Wikipedia was, in fact, often wrong. I had spent most of my academic career involving a computer believing Google.com would give me adequate, correct information for whatever I happened to be searching. In its earliest conception this may have been true but now I know the top search results are mere place holders for the flashiest results, not the correct or accurate ones . In order to include accurate sources in my research I know I will have to find reliable, academic search engines, and do a little digging.
Beginning to understand that I could no longer trust Google.com was not unlike losing a friend; I had relied on it for many papers and could not help but wonder how many inaccuracies I had included in previous work because of it. The same could be said for Wikepedia. According to “E-Learning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for Higher Education,” Google and Wikipedia were not without accurate information, it was simply rare to find accurate information on the first try; academic search engines such as Google Scholar or RefSeek have served me better . Surprisingly, my work on the discussion boards has also caused me to reevaluate the credibility of my sources, finding better ones while shedding the unnecessary and invaluable. Discussion boards are primarily used for interaction between students and while I gained many things from the interactions, one was how misinformed my classmates were. I was able to understand where they were gathering information when they would answer with defiant inaccuracies to questions, and not only correct them and help steer them toward more credible sources of information, but also steer clear of the inaccurate sources of information myself.
The discussion boards became a sociological experiment, wherein I was able to view from the outside how misguided one can sound when they rely on misinformation. It only granted more motivation for me to check the credibility of my sources so that I may avoid sounding similarly. As such, I was able to take on a more independent learning style, which suggesting future success in Eugenia Y. Huang and associates’ article featured in Computers and Education . Because I was motivated to cross-reference my sources before posting my information publically, as well as before I formed opinions and posted those publically, it ensured that I was always finding credible sources that were confirmed from two or three other sources. I learned the best way to confirm if a source is credible is to attempt to disprove it. Once a source is disproven, it is difficult to argue, and hard to miss. Those who ignore it are simply being lazy. Moreover, it became a good habit to treat every environment as an academic environment. Part of the problem with today’s population is we are conditioned by our Twitter feeds, Tumblr apps, and Facebook walls to listen to whatever our friends and followers regurgitate. Typically, the sources are not verified or academically credible, but we rarely, if ever, bother to verify the source. Instead, we blindly believe the information because it is easier than finding the accurate information. As a way to train myself out of this habit, I began treating social media as an academic space, as well.
An obvious advantage, as stated, to working collaboratively online in a discussion board format was seeing a mirror image of myself. I was able to understand how misinformed I may appear one day and this motivated me to be an independent, self-teacher. I began seeking only credible sources. I exploited this, of course, fully and will continue to do so throughout my education. Another advantage to working in a collaborative community is gaining information from peers that you may not have had to begin with. Lucia Mason and associates’ state in their article, “Epistemic Beliefs in Action: Spontaneous Reflections about Knowledge and Knowing during Online Information Searching and Their Influence on Learning,” that a key part of narrowing down searches for credible sources is to have specific information to search for . The point of discussion boards is to open up discussion and exchange ideas and information. While not everybody uses credible sources, many do, and many in my class began to. Like myself they saw that it was better to use the correct information that be perceived as lazy and misinformed. Because of this constant sharing of information and exchange of ideas, in many instances I was able to narrow my searches for credible sources when it came to adding to discussions or completing assignments.
There are, however, limitations to working collaboratively in an online community. For example, in an online community, classmates to not all converge at the same time. If one individual has a questions or concern and posts it, it could be hours, or even days before the original person to post is able to answer. Everybody in the class is taking an online course for a different reason, typically because they live hectic lifestyles; we are not there to stimulate one another first, but to get an education first. Therefore, the conversation may die out. Classmates will need to work extra hard to maintain a vigorous back and forth when they are able to reply to one another. Some participants may be resistant to add much, or may be resistant to finding credible sources. They may be reliant entirely on their opinions alone without finding credible sources at all. I have found it is best to ignore these individuals, much as one would on the open internet. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, but when it comes to a place of academics, there is no room for senseless arguing, especially when facts can put an end to all debate or discussion.
In sum, I have learned many things from taking online courses that will benefit me throughout my life, as well as my education. Specifically, I have learned how to verify credible sources from the sources that are merely around to merit views. I understand now that there is a significant difference between a source that was written with authority, and a source that was written in haste and published to BuzzFeed.com. It is important we all learn to make this distinction or our Facebook timelines, as well as our brains, will continue to fill with misinformation which will do our society no good. We forget that anybody can post anything to the internet. Wikipedia, for example, is a publically moderated webpage. If I chose, I could find the page explaining Adolf Hitler’s biography and add that he had laser vision; Wikipedia would not stop me. If only our Facebook walls worked the same as my discussion boards do, allowing us to see mirror images of our misinformed selves, then we would all take greater care in verifying the information we believe before we believe it and form opinions. Furthermore, I have learned through online classes that collaborating online has its advantages and disadvantages. It is important to exploit any advantages, because they can help you throughout your educational career. Disadvantages are minimal, and can often be overcome or ignored.
Flanagin, A. J., & Metzger, M. J. (2011). From Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia: Generational differences in the perceived credibility of online encyclopedia information. Information, Communication & Society, 355-374.
Goldman, S. R., Braasch, J. L., Graesser, A. C., & Brodowinska, K. (2012). Comprehending and Learning From Internet Sources: Processing Patterns of Better and Poorer Learners. Reading Research Quarterly, 356-381.
Huang, E. Y., Lin, S. W., & Huang, T. K. (2012). What type of learning style leads to online participation in the mixed-mode e-learning environment? A study of software usage instruction. Computers & Education, 338-349.
Lankshear, C., Peters, M., & Lnobel, M. (2013). Information, Knowledge, and Learning: Some Issues Facing Epistemology and Education in the Digital Age. In M. R. Lea, & K. Nicol, Distributed Learning: Social and Cultural Approaches to Practice (pp. 16-37). London: Routledge.
Mason, L., Ariasi, N., & Boldrin, A. (2011). Epistemic beliefs in action: Spontaneous reflections about knowledge and knowing during online information searching and their influence on learning. Learning and Intruction, 137-151.
Rennie, F., & Morrison, T. M. (2013). E-learning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for Higher Education. London: Routledge.
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