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Fostering Effective and Appropriate Use of Online Resources. Or: How Do We Stop Students Copying their Essays from Wikipedia? Dr Meriel Patrick Intute: Arts and Humanities. The perceived problem. There is a widespread impression that today’s students are:

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fostering effective and appropriate use of online resources

Fostering Effective and Appropriate Use of Online Resources

Or: How Do We Stop Students Copying their Essays from Wikipedia?

Dr Meriel PatrickIntute: Arts and Humanities

the perceived problem
The perceived problem
  • There is a widespread impression that today’s students are:
    • relying too heavily on sub-standard Web resources
    • not making proper use of scholarly material
the perceived problem1
The perceived problem
  • There are also worries that students are settling for quick answers rather than thorough ones
  • Sites like Wikipedia are viewed as particularly problematic
the perceived problem2
The perceived problem
  • This is seen as a particular problem for students transitioning from further to higher education
    • Greater expectation that they will work independently
    • More need to locate their own source materials
slide5
But...
  • Most of this seems to be based on impressions rather than hard evidence
  • So we decided to do some research
intute survey on the use of print and online resources
Intute survey on the use of print and online resources
  • Targeted at students of RS, theology, and philosophy in FE and HE
  • Self-selecting online survey
  • Publicized mainly via emails to schools, colleges, and universities
  • Ran from 4 - 22 June 2008
intute survey on the use of print and online resources1
Intute survey on the use of print and online resources
  • 261 responses in total
    • 58 FE students
    • 131 undergraduates
    • 72 postgraduates
  • 69% studying RS/theology
  • 35% studying philosophy
balance of resources used for a typical essay or assignment
Balance of resources used for a typical essay or assignment
  • Almost two-thirds (63.5%) would expect to use print resources more
  • Another 28% would expect to use print and online resources about equally
  • Only 8.5% would expect to use online resources more
preferred resources for a typical essay or assignment
Preferred resources for a typical essay or assignment
  • 84% consult either handouts or recommended books and articles first
  • 92% make most use of handouts, recommended books and articles, or other print resources
balance of resources used when researching an unfamiliar topic
Balance of resources used when researching an unfamiliar topic
  • 46% would expect to make more use of print resources
  • 27% would expect to use print and online resources about equally
  • 23% would expect to make more use of online resources
  • 4% didn’t know
preferred resources when researching an unfamiliar topic
Preferred resources when researching an unfamiliar topic
  • Just over half (56%) would consult books, articles, or other print resources first
  • 16% would use Google first
  • 12% would use Wikipedia first
observations
Observations
  • Print resources are still the core information source for the vast majority of students
  • Students rely on online resources more when researching new topics
    • But even then, undergraduates are more likely to consult a library catalogue (53%) than Wikipedia (46%)
observations1
Observations
  • Undergraduates are significantly more likely than FE students to use online resources that haven’t been specifically recommended by a course teacher
    • But they also make more use of additional print resources, library catalogues, etc.
student comments
Student comments
  • A number of students said that they liked to use the Internet to get an overview of a subject, then use print resources for more detail
  • Students seem well aware of concerns about the reliability of websites - especially Wikipedia!
student comments1
Student comments
  • Students like the ease of access that Web resources offer
    • Material can be located quickly
    • Multiple people can use them - unlike library books
  • Online journals are very popular - JSTOR was mentioned a lot
training in finding resources
Training in finding resources
  • About two-thirds (66%) of students have receive no or only a little training in finding print resources
  • That goes up to just over three-quarters (76%) for online resources
  • Surprisingly, FE students reported slightly more training than undergraduates
nevertheless
Nevertheless…
  • 91% of students felt reasonably or very able to locate suitable print resources
  • 88% felt reasonably or very able to locate suitable online resources
  • Undergraduates were marginally more confident than FE students, particularly for print resources
but is that confidence justified
But is that confidence justified?
  • Students were given a list of 23 important online resources and asked to select one of four options:
    • Never heard of
    • Heard of but haven’t used
    • Use occasionally
    • Use regularly
and unfortunately
And unfortunately…
  • The results weren’t encouraging, even when the responses were filtered according to subject group.
  • Only Google and Wikipedia had both near-universal recognition and high levels of use for academic purposes
the results
The results
  • Only three other sites achieved over 50% name recognition by students from the relevant discipline:
    • Bible Gateway
    • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    • Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
the results1
The results
  • About a third had heard of and/or used Oxford Scholarship Online
  • Over half the undergraduates knew about New Advent / The Catholic Encyclopedia, but very few FE students
  • Similarly, about a third of the undergraduates knew of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
the results2
The results
  • Several other sites were known to around 10 to 15% of students:
    • Internet Sacred Text Archive
    • Adherents.com
    • Religious Tolerance.org
    • Perseus Digital Library
the results3
The results
  • Worryingly, three-quarters of students had never heard of the major bibliographic databases in their field
    • The Philosopher’s Index
    • ATLA Religion Database
      • For ATLA, this drops to two-thirds for undergraduates
the results4
The results
  • But perhaps the most striking statistic was the lack of recognition of scholarly gateways
the survey asked about
The survey asked about:
  • Intute
  • Virtual Religion Index
  • Wabash Center Internet Guide
  • New Testament Gateway
  • EpistemeLinks
  • Peter Suber’s Guide to Philosophy
  • Peter King’s Philosophy Around the Web
  • Philosophy at Large
  • Noesis (philosophy search engine)
the results5
The results
  • Typically, name recognition for gateways was under 10%, with only one or two students actually using them
    • EpistemeLinks and the New Testament Gateway fared slightly better (but it’s possible students were confused about the latter)
the results6
The results
  • The survey featured a separate question asking students if they use gateways
    • Defined as ‘websites offering lists of links to other sites on a particular topic’
  • Just over a quarter (28%) said yes
    • But when asked which ones, most named sites that aren’t gateways
  • Students seem unfamiliar with the concept
the story so far
The story so far…
  • Most students have received little training in finding resources – but are nevertheless confident of their ability to do so
  • However, their lack of recognition of key websites suggests this confidence may be misplaced
slide33
And...
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests students are often unaware even of the electronic resources their own institutions offer
  • Students are unlikely to seek assistance if they don’t think they need it
slide34
So...
  • There seems to be a significant risk that students aren’t using the best resources available
    • They don’t know about them
    • They may not even realize how much there is that they aren’t aware of
and moreover
And moreover...
  • Because students often use online resources as a way in to a subject, using the wrong ones may also have an impact on their use of print resources
    • They may start reading with a warped view of the subject
    • They may miss out on key references
a partial solution gateways
A partial solution: gateways
  • Gateways offer hand-picked lists of links to quality websites
  • Academically orientated gateways can serve a similar purpose to university libraries
  • ‘Card catalogues for the Internet’
gateways
Gateways
  • Recommending gateways to students is a fast and efficient way to guide their use of the Internet
  • Students can develop their Web evaluation skills in a relatively safe context, without being spoon-fed
gateways1
Gateways
  • Gateways offer several advantages over search engines:
    • Quality - the sites listed have been selected by a subject specialist
    • Speed - irrelevant sites have been sifted out, saving time and effort
    • Value-added content - annotations, reviews, additional features
intute http www intute ac uk
Intute – http://www.intute.ac.uk/
  • Database of over 120,000 websites suitable for use in further and higher education and research
  • Offers a descriptive review of each site catalogued
  • Free, UK-based service
a practical comparison
A practical comparison
  • Google: http://www.google.co.uk/
  • Intute: Arts and Humanities: http://www.intute.ac.uk/artsandhumanities/
other major gateways
Other major gateways
  • Virtual Religion Index: http://virtualreligion.net/vri/
  • Wabash Center Internet Guide to Religion: http://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/resources/
  • New Testament Gateway: http://www.ntgateway.com/
other parts of the solution
Other parts of the solution
  • Reflecting students’ information usage in reading lists
    • Students are going to use the Internet anyway, so point them in the right direction
    • A scholarly encyclopaedia article or similar may provide a good starting point
other parts of the solution1
Other parts of the solution
  • Take advantage of the fact that people typically read online and print resources differently
    • Electronic texts lend themselves to ‘power browsing’ - moving rapidly between items
    • Hard copy texts tend to be read more intensively
other parts of the solution2
Other parts of the solution
  • Harness the power of the Internet
    • Encourage students to follow up references - which can often be as easy as clicking a link
    • Promote the practice of cross-checking facts - also made straightforward by the Internet
other parts of the solution3
Other parts of the solution
  • Offer training in finding and evaluating Web resources
    • Ongoing
    • Starting as early as possible
  • Intute’s Virtual Training Suite offers a selection of free online tutorials
if you d like to know more
If you’d like to know more...

meriel.patrick@oucs.ox.ac.uk

artsandhumanities@intute.ac.uk

http://www.intute.ac.uk/