Reflections on online learning and credibility

Nowadays, the way how we acquire and learn information has changed dramatically, and it is to some extend challenging to keep up. It is also difficult to absorb everything that is out there, since there is such a vast of information. The advancements in digital technologies have made online learning a common tool that many people, particularly young generations are adopting as common practice. However, it is easy to get lost and feel disoriented, if some sort of guidance is not provided. It is obvious that despite today’s generation being more agile and savvy on using later technologies and being more active on multiple social media platforms, there is a huge gap and challenges on acquiring the proper skills for online learning. Notably, this gap did not happen recently. It has grown over the years and perhaps its widening is a result of moving too fast in technology, in which people have been left behind without an opportunity to familiarize with new technologies, and/or have not been giving the chance to catch up with the web. David White, then a lecturer at Oxford University and now head of digital learning at the University of the Arts London, has addressed partly this issue in his lecture visitors and residents in where he focused on differences between young and old generations and the usage and level of comfort for using the web including the notion of online learning. In his lecture, D. White pointed out that young people who grew up with technologies are natives to the web and thus online activities including digital learning comes easily and is conveniently manageable, whilst old people are just immigrants to the web, making the use of the web and online information as a second language and therefore a skill to work on to acquire with dedicated effort and constant learning. Within this note, it is important to emphasize that as one remains immigrant to the web, the options for online learning are somewhat limited. Reflecting on this, the question that I would like to ask myself and others is: Is it the early exposure of technologies at the young age that makes the young and old generations different? Or Is it the level of education among these generations that contributes the digital divide?

In addition to differences between the old and young generations and the usage of the web, D. White also addressed the issue of credibility, available on another of his lectures visitors and residents – credibility. Credibility is a significant matter everywhere and in every aspect in life, particularly when it comes to learning and acquiring knowledge. Most people before embarking themselves onto a new learning activity, they want to verify whether the information available is reliable, its content is important, interesting and worth to spend time and effort on it. Thus, before going through something available online, people pause and reflect before they do the next click, asking themselves: Is this information true? Is it reliable? Who wrote it? Is it reference? Do I need to know this? All these questions pass through someone’s mind before engaging on online learning activities. The fact that not everything that’s found on the web is always reliable makes people hesitant and wary to explore the web further than they have to, particularly with digital learning. Furthermore, people from older generations tend to be cautious when it comes to learning something from the web since the information may be wrong or may be drawn from an unreliable source. Therefore, further verification on the information provided is always guarantee as compared to young generations who just jump into online learning without sometimes verifying the sources of reliability and credibility. In fact, a recent study published in november 2016 and titled “Students have trouble judging the credibility of information online” by researchers at Stanford university from the Department of education addresses many of the issues regarding credibility

My reflection on this topic is: Why do we have a digital divide among these generations and within generations themselves? Is credibility the main obstacle to digital learning?

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Figure 1. Key concepts of online learning
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Author: Natalia V Rivera

Hello, I am a senior postdoc at the Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet.

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