GEN-CORE - Generic Critical Online Reasoning in Higher Education

The project measures the ability of students to find and evaluate information on the internet and form coherent arguments out of them. In a longitudinal study design, participants use the free internet while their behaviour is measured via log data, e.g. websites visited and search engine entries.

Students learn in very diverse learning environments, with the internet in particular becoming increasingly important as a means of obtaining information. There, students are confronted with an ever-increasing number of materials and media from which they can freely choose. Internet-based learning is one of the most important components of studying, which brings with it both new opportunities and challenges, for example due to inadequate sources, contradictory information or a lack of transparency about the interests behind a source. Students therefore need specific skills to acquire and use high-quality online information during their studies. They need to be able to assess relevance, credibility and accuracy to determine the quality of the information used, while avoiding the use of distorting or misleading sources and protecting themselves from deception, error or bias. However, there is little research on the medium to long-term relationship between the individual use of online information in studies and study-related learning outcomes. Critical Online Reasoning (COR) summarizes the various skills needed to deal with information on the internet in one construct. The DFG-funded research unit CORE deals with these skills and their development of students in a longitudinal study in several study domains. Within the CORE  research unit, which is a cooperation between DIPF, Goethe University Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, the GEN-CORE project deals with the generic part of COR competencies, for which no domain-specific professional knowledge is required. The students recruited from programs (medicine, sociology, economics and physics) take part in four measurement points during their studies, during which they answer generic and domain-specific information problems using the Internet. Their behavior during the research is recorded and a statement is to be formulated so it can be tracked which students visit which websites, why they decide for or against certain sources and which criteria they use to assess the credibility of a website. CORE is designed as a longitudinal study to reliably measure the level of development of general and domain-specific COR skills over the course of undergraduate study and their relationship to higher education learning outcomes.

Project Objective

For the assessment of generic COR skills, the project aims to develop indicators for COR skills based on the log data collected and free-text responses and to build a measurement model for these. The relationship between generic COR skills and other cognitive abilities will be investigated. The project compares the generic COR skills of students from the four study programs surveyed and follows their changes during their undergraduate studies in order to gain insight into the development of COR skills.

Funding: DFG-project

Cooperations: among others, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Ludwig-Maximilians-University München (LMU)

Duration: ongoing

Project team: Philine Drake, Frank Goldhammer, Carolin Hahnel, Johannes Hartig, Jannick Illmann, Carmen KöhlerMarcus Schrickel

Contact: Frank GoldhammerJohannes Hartig