The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide – Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources

I delivered a presentation on The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide e Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources at the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning 2008 conference which was held in San Jose, September 2008.

Presentation Summary

It is no surprise that integrating Web 2.0 tools to learning is an innovative practice that is catching on quickly. Pushing the Web’s potential for democratizing information, Web 2.0 social computing practices are well aligned with constructivist learning strategies. Enabling learners to develop multiple perspectives can foster analytical and critical thinking.

What is worrisome is the transition from a spoon-fed model of education to a self-directed and discovery model without reconfiguring the approach to learning. Are individuals applying fact-checking rigour to the content they access? What criteria are they using? What do they consider to be expert knowledge? Are they simply looking for other sources to confirm what theyeve found or are they actually analysing the source of the information? Are they aware that information, correct and otherwise, spreads like memes on Web?

My presentation was largely be based on research I have done for my M.A. in Educational Technology thesis which is a qualitative study of people who write blogs on training to be used in the professional development of people who work in the field. The question lies in the authority and credibility of these blogs, and by extension Web content in general.

A Qualitative Study of Five Authors of Five Blogs on Training and Development

A qualitative study of five authors of five blogs on training and development is my thesis which was defended on August 26 2008 and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts (Educational Technology), Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Abstract

This study analyzed what it means to be a blogger in the field of training and development—an edublogger—as well as the credibility of blogs intended for the training community. The specific research questions were posed from the insider’s or emic perspective. The objective of this study was to attempt to paint a portrait of an edublogger and uncover areas for further research.

A phenomenological qualitative research design methodology was used in an attempt to observe the connections between edubloggers and their readers, which is in harmony of the spirit of the blogs as well as to understand the essence of experiences in the blogosphere. A grounded theory was constructed from a cross-case analysis—case studies were developed using interview transcripts of the 5 bloggers and artefact analysis of each of their blogs over a 4-month period—with the intention of identifying key phenomena.

Common themes related to the edubloggers’ motivations, writing style, community building and other general practices were uncovered as. In addition, a substantial set of emerging questions specifically relating to readership and the qualitative assessment of blog content were noted.

Update March 1, 2010: My thesis has been published into a book entitlted Edublogging: A Qualitative Study of Training and Development Bloggers

You Just Might Digg This!

What makes a blogger credible? What gives them authority? How do we measure their success?

In a blog post entitled Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success, Avinash Kaushik, a Web Analytics Practitioner, writes about 6 ways to measure the impact of your blog. In summary, they are:

  1. Raw Author Contribution
  2. Holistic Audience Growth
  3. Conversation Rate
  4. “Citations” / “Ripple Index”
  5. Cost
  6. Benefit (ROI: Return on Investment)

His post is actual a very informative read. The approaches he discusses are however purely quantitative, except for a certain degree of qualitative metrics that might be included in the ROI analysis. He addresses non-traditional or unquantifiable values, which is similar to what I discussed in my blog post on consultants 2.0.

Digg.com
Digg.com

However, Tools that gather opinions on the quality of content have been emerging on the Web. An example of such a tool is Digg, a social media application that enables Internet readers to share the content they discover from anywhere on the Web with others. The way Digg works is that readers submit or “Digg” their appreciation of a Web resource. Other members of the Digg community will have access to the review and will either ignore it or “Digg” it themselves. When a resource receives a substantial amount of “Diggs”, it gets promoted to front page status. Digg explains its vision in the “about” section on the Digg Website:

And it doesn’t stop there. Because Digg is all about sharing and discovery, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for our community to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on Digg, you’ll always find something interesting and unique. We’re committed to giving every piece of content on the web an equal shot at being the next big thing.

It would be interesting to find out how will tools like Digg affect the way content will be perceived on the Web? Even if the tools for critical analysis are available, will readers have the necessary critical analysis and thinking skills to utilize them properly?

I recently defended my thesis in which I analyzed what it means to be a blogger in the field of training and development—an edublogger—as well as the credibility of blogs intended for the training community. The specific research questions were posed from the insider’s or emic perspective.

The objective of this study was to attempt to paint a portrait of an edublogger and uncover areas for further research. This is one of those areas.

Informally, I’d find it very helpful to have your opinions now. What is your take on the potential of such tools? How does it relate to the raison d’être of blogging?

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