*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.
The Internet and social media are among the most frequently used sources of information today. Students, too, often prefer online information rather than traditional teaching materials provided by universities. According to a study conducted by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Goethe University Frankfurt, students struggle to critically assess information from the Internet and are often influenced by unreliable sources.
In this study, students from various disciplines such as medicine and economics took part in an online test, the Critical Online Reasoning Assessment (CORA). “Unfortunately, it is becoming evident that a large proportion of students are tempted to use irrelevant and unreliable information from the Internet when solving the CORA tasks,” reported Professor Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia from JGU. The study was carried out as part of the Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) alliance.
To investigate how students deal with online information, Professor Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia and her team have developed a new test based on the Civic Online Reasoning (COR) assessment developed by Stanford University. During the assessment, the test takers are presented with short tasks. They are asked to freely browse the Internet, focusing on relevant and reliable information that will help them to solve the tasks within the relatively short time frame of ten minutes, and to justify their solutions using arguments from the online information they used.
To date, 160 students from different disciplines have been assessed; the majority of the participants studied medicine or economics and were in their first or second semester.
The results are striking: almost all test participants had difficulties solving the tasks. On a scale of 0 to 2 points per task, the students scored only 0.75 points on average, with the results ranging from 0.50 to 1.38 points. “The majority of the students did not use any scientific sources at all,” said Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, pointing out that no domain-specific knowledge was required to solve the CORA tasks.
The study shows that most students do not succeed in correctly evaluating online sources in the given time and in using relevant information from reliable sources on the Internet to solve the tasks.