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This paper will focus on reflecting on the course “Learning and Communicating Online,” and, in particular, discussing the new information with regards to evaluating, using, and finding reliable online sources for academic communication. Also, the paper will explore personal ideas of using online sources as well as how their credibility can be evaluated, particularly in the context of the recent political and societal events. By the end of the course, I was making a plan to become more proficient in using online resources for conducting research on different topics and be able to differentiate between reliable and credible information. The issue of source reliability was of particular concern to me due to the spreading of the “fake news” phenomenon that has an adverse impact on the society.
Change in Areas of Expertise
First, it is important to mention that researching a specific topic by using different online sources such as social media platforms or news websites helped to gain an understanding not only of how I can learn but also how new information can be collected from various sources. Because the barriers to entering the sphere of online media have dropped significantly (Allcott & Gentzkow 2017), it is currently possible to get a variety of information about different topics.
The resources used for research ranged from Youtube to official websites. It was surprising to find reliable and high-quality information in the most unexpected sources while CNN or Buzzfeed websites sometimes reported on “fake news,” the statements on which they later had to retract.
Second, the concern over source reliability was the most important point I wanted to explore during the “Learning and Communicating Online” course. In the essay “Reliability of Sources and the 2016 US Election,” the topic of source reliability was given some extensive consideration.
The 2016 US election was notorious for both candidates using different methods of deceit to convince the public to vote for them. While Mr. Trump was presenting “alternative facts” that the public perceived as truth, Mrs. Clinton was seen shifting her opinions from one extremity to another in order to align with the mainstream views. Unfortunately, not all media sources were successful in differentiating between real facts and alternative facts, which lead to misinformation and confusion, especially in the context of the election (Lewandowsky, Ecker, Seifert, Schwarz & Cook 2012).
To this day, it remains unclear to which extent the public was influenced by the misinformation spread by the current president and whether the outcome of the election was different had both candidates were telling the truth, and the media reported trustworthy information. Again, the problem of source reliability ties in with the dropping barriers to entry since it is much easier for modern users with a computer to set up websites and spread any information they want.
Change in the Knowledge of the Online Environment
My future work skills developed significantly as part of the experience learning to use online sources for collecting information for research. Articles without clear titles and authors, lack of references, as well as the lack of readers’ feedback were usually considered “red flags.” It was important for me as a researcher to only find sources that presented information, which could be easily corroborated by other sources. When sharing information with others, I tried to make sure that websites were considered credible and that they were not known for spreading fake news.
Because doing quality research is a part of nearly any job, the course “Learning and Communicating Online” allowed me to become more proficient in the usage of online sources to research various topics. In turn, this allowed me to learn more about being a consumer, producer, and sharer of knowledge online. As a producer, I have developed an understanding that any information that is shared in the online environment should be reliable and verifiable. In the future, when working with new projects, I will make sure only to provide trustworthy information collected from credible sources to avoid misleading online users.
Alignment with the Course Aims and Outcomes
The unit was designed to bring confidence and develop a capability when communicating online within professional practice and academic settings. On the one hand, the course was beneficial in bringing more confidence and developed an understanding of the importance of sharing reliable information within professional practice. On the contrary, it remains unclear how the information can be shared effectively since there are too many sources and outlets that can help online users do that.
With regards to alignment with the outcomes of the course, it can be concluded that “Learning and Communicating Online” gave me confidence in exploring, using, and evaluating information along with developing research and communication skills. In my opinion, communication skills are imperative for researchers that want to become proficient Internet users in the future. Without communication, it will be impossible to effectively share new knowledge, give feedback, or interact with other online users interested in similar topics (Brindley, Walti & Blaschke 2009).
As to the identification of the reasons for academic integrity and the usage of various tools for ensuring the effective application, it is crucial to mention that the course provided an extensive background on the importance of academic integrity and helped in ensuring effective application of the various research tools. Constructing and publishing knowledge in the online environment was rather a challenging learning outcome. Since the barriers to entry have dropped and there are many successful sources that provide unreliable information to online users (Jackson 2017), it was complicated to determine how to effectively publish knowledge online.
When reflecting on personal learning skills, I have developed an understanding that practice is the most effective way to learn and acquire new knowledge. Without practice, it is impossible to learn how to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources, start sharing knowledge with other online users or develop a platform that will report only trustworthy information. Furthermore, the course helped in developing problem-solving skills and the ability to learn independently, which are skills required for the future practice of a researcher.
While the ability to work independently is essential, it remains to be discovered how to collaborate with other researchers that explore the online environment. Moreover, the course was effective in developing communication skills that will allow collaborating with researchers in the future, so it could be recommended for the course to include some information and practical advice on how to find fellow researchers online and develop an innovative platform for interaction and research based on teamwork and feedback.
Lastly, it is worth praising the course for its effectiveness in teaching ICT skills that are crucial in the modern technology-driven society. Among the large list of ICT skills, using search engines and directories to find information on the Web and understanding how to keep information safe while using the Internet (The University of Tennessee n.d.) can be the most useful.
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Impact of the Lessons on the Future Studies and Career
When thinking about the future studies and career, it is important to mention that the course gave profound knowledge about the most valuable resources that can help writing research papers. As long as the sources are credible (Inez 2015) and contain truthful information that has been reviewed by editors or peers, they can be used in studies. The course helped me understand that the most important thing with regards to future studies and career is not to be afraid to go outside the box and use a variety of sources, even if they are not as popular. Since there is too much repetitive information on different platforms, finding a fresh perspective on an event can only be a positive thing.
The course also had an impact on the critical skills and helped me learn how to evaluate the work of others and provide constructive feedback. For instance, when designing presentations to prepare for lessons, I gave advice to other students to help them improve and vice versa. This helped develop effective communication skills that will have a positive influence on the future studies and career. Currently, I am looking forward to discovering more about the world of the Web and conducting research on various topics relevant to the modern society.
To conclude, it is important to say that “Learning and Communicating Online” course was a positive experience that taught a lot about the specifics of online research and communication. With the rising problem of source reliability, it is crucial for future researchers to learn how to differentiate between trustworthy information and alternative facts in order to present and share only corroborated information to the public.
Moreover, the course was beneficial for helping establish general knowledge of online research procedures and develop problem-solving skills that will allow me to work independently in the future. It was also fascinating to learn about the manipulation of information by media to push an agenda. The example of the 2016 US election was the most prominent with regards to the discussion about the reliability of sources and the manipulation of facts.
Allcott, H & Gentzkow, M 2017, ‘Social media and fake news in the 2016 election’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 211-236.
Brindley, J, Walti, C & Blaschke, L 2009, ‘Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 1-10.
Inez, S 2015, 5 best resources to help with writing a research paper. Web.
Jackson, J 2017, Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source. Web.
Lewandowsky, S, Ecker, U, Seifert, C, Schwarz, N & Cook, J 2012, ‘Misinformation and its correction: continued influence and successful debiasing’, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 106-131.
The University of Tennessee n.d., Information & communication technology skills. Web.