The technology of social networking sites has established online collaboration tools and created opportunities for students to utilise the vast amount of communication tools for completion of their work. (Weaver et al., 2010). Throughout this unit I have developed skills to use and evaluate online sources of information not only for academic purposes but for social and personal interests too. The purpose of this paper is to reflect on my experiences from this unit by discussing how I have developed skills in finding, using and evaluating online sources of information for academic purposes. The scope of this paper will begin by discussing how my use of online sources has developed over the period of the course. It will then examine how Metzgar (2007) has influenced my ability to search and evaluate the credibility and reliability of various online sources. Finally, I will identify the advantages and limitations I faced whilst working in an online collaborative community and how I dealt with those circumstances.
My concept of using online resources has broadened since week 1 when I went back to the basics and touched on the history behind the uprising of what we now call the World Wide Web. Amazingly, the first e-mail was sent 43 years ago, back in 1971, and then it took a further 28 years before we saw the first online social network, Friends Reunited, in 1999 (The University of North Carolina, 2013). Now in 2014, living in a world filled with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it seems as if the web is developing at an exponential rate. From the beginning of this unit I felt quite comfortable, as I am familiar with the Internet due to habitual daily use.
I believe my computer skills are of a level where I am comfortable with new challenges. At the beginning of the unit I saw myself as what Forrester Research would refer to as a ‘joiner’ and ‘spectator’ when using social media platforms, but I have developed further skills and satisfaction from acting as a ‘creator’ and ‘critic’ (Von Brocdorft, 2010). This was evident early on when I began researching my first assessment. I found myself not only joining different sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube but actually engaging in online discussions, creating pages, critiquing others opinions and sharing information. Connecting and engaging with others on social media has enabled me to grasp the key learning concepts of constructivism, social constructivism and meta-cognition in a more meaningful approach, which made my first assessment much easier to construct.
I have gained widespread knowledge of different online collaboration tools, which then provided me with the necessary skills to complete assessment 2A and 2B. Being active in a group of 5 members was rather daunting at first because I had never completed a group online presentation or heard of Wiki. I really enjoyed using Wiki and found it to have many benefits such as highlighting individual contribution and making the process of group work all that little bit easier because all our conversations were documented and organised by date.
I found Prezi to have some positive aspects such as being easy to use, but it was extremely slow and frequently lost connection, making it highly frustrating and a massive time waster. Reading feedback of other groups on their chosen collaboration tools I think for future online assignments I will use Google Docs to present an individual or group task. Groups were able to use it with ease and the standard of presentations was exceptionally high. Next time I would also check who has experience with online collaboration tools as nobody in my group did and it caused a lot of extra work for others. This unit has not only taught me new skills of how to use online sources of information, but also how to evaluate online information sources.
This unit has highlighted the importance of evaluating online sources for academic purposes as the web continues to grow at a rapid rate ensuing in an overwhelming amount of information available. The article written by Metzgar (2007) assisted me to develop the skills and knowledge to recognise and evaluate credibility of online sources. According to Metzgar’s (2007) survey I would have fallen below the 1.97 % average of students who actually checked the credibility of online sources in 1999. Now I am aware of the quantity of unreliable information online and the importance of using reliable sources in my work.
I would like to think I would be 4.4 % average for checking my information because of my increased awareness surrounding the importance of checking credibility of online materials. Using Metzgar’s checklist and formulating a discussion in week 7 with my group on Wiki we were able to use this checklist to help complete the ‘your critical eye’ activity which contributed to the success of our group assessment by ensuring all group members checked the credibility of their online sources. A valuable lesson I have taken onboard is that Wikipedia is not a viable nor recommended source for academic sources, but can be used as a great starting point as it provides credible references to back up the information presented.
The proficiency in checking resources that I have attained throughout this unit is a life long skill for future use across other units and everyday life. For example I will now use Metzgar’s (2007) checklist when I am researching for information for an essay to find credible and reliable information to support an argument. The activity in week 10 ‘rubrics and critiquing’ on the blackboard provided a clear and concise understanding as to how I am marked on my scholarship and the importance of giving recognition to others work to avoid plagiarism. The rubric cube in the assessment criteria shows that the scholarship is heavily weighted in most assignments so developing evaluation and credibility skills is important to ensure you demonstrate excellent use of supporting literature whether working individually or as a team.
I agree with Weaver et al. (2010) that the introduction of Wiki has opened up a new experience for off campus students studying online. I found that using the Wiki this semester provided me with the opportunity to strengthen my overall communication and leadership skill’s. Working collaboratively online suited my lifestyle by not having to stick to strict deadlines and allowing me to contribute to the assignment in my own time. Completing an online presentation using Prezi and Wiki allowed my ELA to see how much each individual contributed, which I felt encouraged other team members to contribute equally as a majority of it was assessed according to the individual’s contributions.
In order to utilize this advantage I made sure that my contributions were noted on the Wiki to demonstrate that I was fully involved and committed to my group and this ensured that my hard work did not go unrecognised. Since I have started my course with Swinburne I have found the blackboard discussions to be extremely helpful and beneficial from social constructivism by feeding off one another’s ideas. I concur with the Chiong and Jovanovic (2012) observation that online collaboration is a major part of the developmental stages of enhancing each individual’s skills in critical thinking, reflective writing, knowledge building and problem solving. I found that collaborating online has many advantages when I am working individually and limitations usually occurred when working on group collaborative projects.
When working with several group members online I faced several obstacles that were frustrating and lead to loss of time and unfair dispersion of allocated workloads due to members communicating ineffectively or being absent. Inactive members of my group that were unresponsive caused delays on decision-making processes, created a lack of communication. This ultimately resulted in myself and others having to either complete the extra work or face an unfinished end result and possibly lose marks.
I find this to be an extreme disadvantage of online group collaborations, which I think is an opportunity cost that I shouldn’t have to suffer. Not all group members contributed equal amounts of work for various reasons, many of them invalid, and it often left me to pick up the pieces, resulting in a sacrifice of my time and effort. When studying online people are of different ages, may have children and different schedules so it can be hard to accommodate for other people’s needs. Compromise and coming to an agreement between all members can cause some troubles during assessment tasks, as everyone’s vision can be different.
Overall, I believe that online group tasks can be a great way to develop project management and communication skills whilst learning from the differing opinion of others. I definitely feel that I have gained significant experience in finding, using and evaluating online sources. However, at times, online collaboration can be frustrating and difficult due to other team members not contributing equally, being unresponsive and at worst, lack of absence. I feel that to improve these negatives I will choose my collaboration tools carefully whilst continuing to provide strong leadership for my group.
Chiong, R. and Jovanovic, J., 2012. Collaborative learning in online study groups: An evolutionary game theory perspective. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11(1), pp.81–101.
Metzger, M 2007, ‘Making sense of credibility on the web: models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, vol. 58, no. 13, pp.2078-2091.
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Weaver, D., Viper, S., Latter, J. and McIntosh, P., 2010. Off campus students’ experiences collaborating online, using wikis. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(6), pp.847–860.
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