Changing the Way Students Perform Online Research

Changing the Way Students Perform Online Research

 

Google and other search engines have changed the way people locate information.  The problem is that online students think of Google as a proper tool to use to perform research for assignments.  Google Scholar may provide access to some scholarly research.  However, most online schools prefer that students use the school’s library search feature.  It is important that students consider the reliability of the type of content that is available on traditional websites.

Pew reported that the majority of students are not able to recognize bias in online content.  This has become frustrating for professors because these skills should be taught in first-year college courses.  Turnitin’s white paper titled What’s Wrong with Wikipedia, reported that in over 37 million papers submitted by students, there were 156 million matches to content found from the Internet.  This means that students use sites like Google Books, May Clinic, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, etc.  These are unacceptable sources to use for college-level courses.

According to Turnitin’s research, the following problems exist with student’s research behavior:

  • Problem: Students value immediacy over quality – Students use sites like Wikipedia to find quick answers.  Wikipedia may offer some valuable resources at the bottom of their site to support the content. Solution:  These sources are usually available through the school’s library search feature.  Schools’ search engines are quite easy to use. They access some of the best material available for free.  Students can easily mark a box for peer-reviewed studies.  This will ensure that their research contains quality information.
  • Problem:  Students often use cheat sites – Students may find sites that offer to write their papers for a fee.  Most of these papers are captured within Turnitin’s plagiarism detecting software. Therefore when students buy the paper and submit as their own, the software will detect it as plagiarized.  Solution:  The time it takes to find and buy a paper on the Internet could have been used to simply write an original paper.  Nothing is gained from submitted plagiarized work.  Students risk getting expelled.  Most assignments are not that long or difficult.  The point of writing them is to gain knowledge.  Students who attend school just to obtain a piece of paper will not be prepared for the working world.  They will spend money on a degree that will not help them if they have not learned the information.
  • Problem:  Research is not synonymous with search – Students may put a lot of faith in the information found on the Internet.  Just because a site allows people to ask and answer questions, does not mean that the answers are correct. Searching for answers on the Internet does not mean that the answers are based on actual research.  Solution:  Using peer-reviewed sources that are available through the school’s library ensures that the information in the article has been reviewed by the author’s peers.  These studies are actual research.

There are times when assignments allow for students to use websites like Apple.com, or other corporate or news sites.  If this is allowed by the instructor, students must be able to recognize if the site is highly regarded. An example might be The New York Times.  If students are in doubt, they should direct questions to their instructor for guidance.

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MOOCs: Top 10 Sites for Free Education With Elite Universities

 

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses.  Although there has been access to free online courses on the Internet for years, the quality and quantity of courses has changed. Access to free courses has allowed students to obtain a level of education that many only could dream of in the past.  This has changed the face of education.  In The New York Times article Instruction for Masses Knocked Down Campus Walls, author Tamar Lewin stated, “in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree.”

Although MOOCs are the latest trend, not everyone agrees that schools should offer them.  Joshua Kim Insight Higher Ed article Why Every University Does Not Need a MOOC noted that offering free material may not make sense for the individual university.  It may be more important to stand out in other ways.

There may also be some issues for students who lack motivation.  Since a MOOC is voluntary and there is no penalty for dropping the program or lagging behind, there may be issues with course completion.  Although a student may have received an excellent education, there will not be a corresponding diploma.

For those who desire a free education and have the motivation, the following includes the:  Top 10 Sites for Information about MOOCs:

  1. Udemy Free Courses – Udemy is an example of a site allows anyone to build or take online courses.  Udemy’s site exclaims, “Our goal is to disrupt and democratize education by enabling anyone to learn from the world’s experts.” The New York Times reported that Udemy, “recently announced a new Faculty Project, in which award-winning professors from universities like Dartmouth, the University of Virginia and Northwestern offer free online courses. Its co-founder, Gagen Biyani, said the site has more than 100,000 students enrolled in its courses, including several, outside the Faculty Project, that charge fees.”
  2. ITunesU Free Courses – Apple’s free app “gives students access to all the materials for courses in a single place. Right in the app, they can play video or audio lectures. Read books and view presentations.”
  3. Stanford Free Courses –  From Quantum Mechanics to The Future of the Internet, Stanford offers a variety of free courses.  Stanford’s – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence was highly successful. According to Pontydysgu.org, “160000 students from 190 countries signed up to Stanford’s Introduction to AI” course, with 23000 reportedly completing.”  Check out Stanford’s Engineering Everywhere link.
  4. UC Berkeley Free Courses – From General Biology to Human Emotion, Berkley offers a variety of courses.  Check out:  Berkeley Webcasts and Berkeley RSS Feeds.
  5. MIT Free Courses – Check out MIT’s RSS MOOC feed.  Also see:  MIT’s Open Courseware.
  6. Duke Free Courses – Duke offers a variety of courses on ITunesU.
  7. Harvard Free Courses – From Computer Science to Shakespeare, students may now get a free Harvard education. “Take a class for professional development, enrichment, and degree credit. Courses run in the fall, spring, or intensive January session. No application is required.”
  8. UCLA Free Courses – Check out free courses such as their writing program that offers over 220 online writing courses each year.
  9. Yale Free Courses – At Open Yale, the school offers “free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.”
  10. Carnegie Mellon Free Courses – Carnegie Mellon boosts “No instructors, no credits, no charge.”

 

For younger students, check out the 60 Minutes video about Khan Academy and KhanAcademy.org.  Also check out Ted Ed.

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Famous People Capitalizing on Manic Depression

Manic depression or bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where people experience abnormal levels of high energy or depressive states. While generally thought of as a disorder, there are many examples of people who have this disorder and used it to their advantage.

In the article Manic Depression: The CEO’s Disease, the author points out that many leaders can be successful due to the mania involved.  They also may not even realize they have the disorder.  “On average, it takes 10 years from the onset of the illness for a manic depressive to receive a correct diagnosis. In the interim, some of them do very well in business. And as more and more such sufferers come forward, many psychiatrists are convinced that their good fortune is at least partly a result of their illness. Dr. Sagar Parikh, head of the Bipolar Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, says 10% of those who have manic depression actually perform better in their jobs than a “healthy” individual. “[Manic depression] gives them that extra bit of panache to do the big deal,” says Parikh.”

In Joshua Walters’ Ted.com video, he points out the importance of being just crazy enough. He explains that as a performer, the crazier he is on stage, the more entertaining the audience finds his act.   He decided to embrace his illness and now walks the line between what he calls mental illness and mental skillness.  He points out that there is a movement to reframe the hypomanic part of the illness and to look at it is a positive.  He refers to John Gartner’s book The Hypomanic Edge where Gartner writes about how this edge allows people to compete.  Walters explains that being this way maybe doesn’t mean you are crazy, but that you are more sensitive to what others can’t see or feel. 

In the New York Times article Just Manic Enough:  Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs, author David Segal explained how people could take advantage of being in the bipolar spectrum.  Segal noted, “The attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.”

Tom Wooten, author founder of the Bipolar Advantage, has made it his “mission to help people with mental conditions shift their thinking and behavior so that they can lead extraordinary lives.” He sees it as being bipolar without requiring the word disorder.

The following is a list of famous successful people who have been labeled as having manic depression:

Ted Turner Manic Depression

Jim Carey Manic Depression

Abraham Lincoln Manic Depression

Vincent Van Gogh Manic Depression

Christopher Columbus Manic Depression

Edgar Allen Poe Manic Depression

Steve Jobs Manic Depression

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Manic Depression

Ludwig van Beethoven Manic Depression

Robin Williams Manic Depression

For a more complete list of famous people with manic depression, click here.

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New Study Shows Young Adults Find Power in Debt: Lack of Education to Blame

In recent research published in the journal Social Science Research, the data showed that young adults aged 18-27 actually felt empowered by having debt.  They felt that it increased their self-esteem and made them feel in control of their lives.  Because they were able to attain goals of buying things, they perceived this as a good thing.

ScienceDaily reported, “The study involved 3,079 young adults who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 — Young Adults sample. The NLSY interviews the same nationally representative group of Americans every two years. It is conducted by Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The young adults who had less money to begin with, felt more empowered by this new found ability to purchase things.  “Results showed that those in the bottom 25 percent in total family income got the largest boost from holding debt — the more debt they held, both education and credit card, the bigger the positive impact on their self-esteem and mastery.”

The study found that as young adults became older, they had a more realistic idea of what this debt was doing to their lives.  By age 28-34, the stress caused by the debt was starting to be felt.

The results of this study back up what has been called a movement toward an instant gratification society.  The Arizona Republic reported, “Many young adults might feel good about incurring debt because it lets them purchase desired items without having to delay gratification.  They are happy they can actually get credit and feel more like adults now.  .  .But they don’t actually understand what that entails.”

Eventually the bills start piling up and these young adults will have to face the consequences of paying off what they have charged.

How did this generation get to this point?  Lack of education may be to blame. Here is a reprint of an article I wrote several years ago that addressed this problem:

Lack of Education to Blame for Financial Crisis 

The current financial crisis is entirely our fault.  We are a nation of financially-ignorant people doing crazy things like buying a $450,000 home on a $40,000 a year salary with a 120% loan. How in the world did we think that this was OK?  What are we doing to be sure that this won’t happen again?  People are sick of reading about bad news and the economy. They’d rather just put their heads in the sand and hope Obama is here to save the day. Well I’m here to tell you, if we don’t change the way we teach personal finance to the youth in our country, we will have learned nothing from this economic disaster and future generations are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

FROM AN EDUCATOR’S PERSPECTIVE

Having taught college business students for many years, I am horrified by the lack of personal finance training our youth receives.  Should it be up to the young adult to learn this on their own? There are a lot of books on personal finance out there.  If you hang out at a bookstore and watch the type of people who are reading them, however, you will notice it is not the young generation purchasing them.  It is usually the 30 and older crowd that has now found themselves in financial straits and want to know how to get out of it.  The younger generation doesn’t realize that they need this knowledge yet.  Their parents probably never taught them because they probably have a limited understanding of personal finance themselves.  How can we expect parents to teach children something they never learned in the first place?

Shouldn’t personal finance be something we learn in high school and college to prepare us for our financial futures?  Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business has a good reputation.  I use that as an example because that is where I received my BS in Business.   Business Week lists ASU in its 2007 rankings as 66th out of the top 100 business schools.  I am not trying to pick on ASU because it is a wonderful school.  However, last semester they offered only one course that addressed personal finance and retirement planning.  Only three sections of this course were even offered.  For one of the largest business schools in the US, there was not much of a focus on educating our youth to be financially savvy.   ASU only required that business minors take this course.

I recently ordered the textbook that ASU uses for this course. I love to read all I can read about personal finance; I realize that I am not typical in that regard.  However, even with my keen interest in the subject, just looking through this text, I was so bored!  If I see the words “net present value of money” . . .  even I want to run.  I just don’t think that it teaches the types of things young people need to know in a way that would spark their interest.  This text is busy with charts, pictures, numbers and balance sheets.  A young adult that isn’t savvy in math might get immediately turned off by that.  To be fair, this course is offered to business majors who are probably decent in math.  However, what about the rest of the students who are not?  Why are we only teaching personal finance to business majors?  Granted, it is a class that is open to everyone, but it is not required.  To me, this text would be a “next level” type of teaching tool for those who understand the basics already.  Unfortunately if ASU is typical of what other schools offer, they are missing the boat of what it takes to reach the average student.

Even if some form of money management is taught before college, part of the problem stems with allowing kids to be able to advance through school without passing tests to prove their personal finance knowledge.  Dr. Danielle Babb, author, entrepreneur and professor who appears frequently on national television and radio claims, “Kids shouldn’t be allowed to move on if they haven’t mastered the basics.”  Unfortunately many are learning about finance the hard way.  Right now that may be through watching the collapse of the current economy. As Dr. Babb pointed out, “Right now an entire generation is learning about markets; that they don’t just go up – they can go down, too.”

Paula Zobisch, Ph.D., a well-respected professor who teaches business at ten online universities, agreed that this issue needs to be addressed.  When asked how she felt about the personal finance education that our youth is receiving she responded, “Sure, let us lean on the high educational institutions to teach financial management, but let us not also forget high school. And even more importantly, let us remember parents who could teach financial management by giving younger children an allowance and then guiding the management of that allowance. Financial management begins long before college.”

 

Fox News (2009) reported 48% of high school seniors correctly answered finance and economics questions.

This is not to say that more colleges and universities aren’t realizing the importance of teaching personal finance.  In fact, universities such as Lynn University, University of Cincinnati, Kent State, Fairfield University, Scripps College and Texas State all are among the colleges offering courses in personal finance and money-management.  However, some universities have had some convenient relationships with credit card companies which seem at odds with teaching fiscal responsibility.

New York Times recently featured a story about how colleges profit from marketing credit cards to their students.  Michigan State University came under fire as it was noted that they allowed Bank of America to offer advertising items to their students to sign up for banking and credit services.  In fact, according that the New York Times (2008) “Bank America’s relationship with the university extends well beyond marketing at sports events.  The bank has $8.4 million, seven-year contract with Michigan State giving it access to the students’ names and addresses and use of the university’s logo.  The more students who take the banks’ credit cards, the more money the university gets.  Under certain circumstances, Michigan State even stands to receive more money if students carry a balance on these cards.”

If we step back to look at our children’s personal finance education even before college, it is interesting to check out the National Standards (2007) in K-12 personal finance education.  The standards define financial literacy as “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage one’s financial resources effectively for life time financial security”.  The standards include areas such as financial responsibility, planning and money management, credit card and debt, as well as saving and investing.  Some of the 12th grade goals include having the ability to “analyze how economic, social-cultural, and political conditions can affect income and career potential” as well as “explain the effect on take-home pay of changing the allowances claimed on an employee’s withholding allowance certificate (IRS form W-4).  What they don’t really cover is how much time they are devoting to these topics.

 

The National Standards are created by the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy in Washington, DC.

There are educators and organizations set up that are trying to do something about educating our youth.  The DuPont Fund is one of these organizations. In 2008 this organization created a presentation to increase awareness of the lack of financial literacy.  In that program, the author addressed the areas that required attention.  “There are three parts to a successful financial literacy education program. (1) Quality Financial Education Products (2) Qualified and Trained Financial Educators (3) Evaluation Program in Place to Measure Results” (Lindfield, 2009).  If we do not have quality financial education products, then we are limiting the educators’ ability to reach this group of students.

FROM A YOUTH’S PERSPECTIVE

Having two grown daughters and after teaching for 6 different universities online, I personally have not found too many students who can meet many of the required standards.  If we have set guidelines for what seems to be admirable goals in educating our youth, why haven’t the graduating high school and college seniors learned these important lessons?  There are several reasons.  These schools may only be devoting a small amount of time to very important topics.  It is also quite possible that personal finance is the last thing on their minds while attending school.  They can’t even relate to it yet.  Lastly, when and if they actually do receive personal finance training, it is usually in a format that is hard for them to digest.

Many financial websites like Charles Schwab’s have some interesting statistics on how our youth view the importance of personal finance training. “Among the ideas tested, young people believe providing incentives for states to mandate financial education in schools is the most important step the Obama Administration can take to improve financial literacy.” (Schwab, 2009).  In fact, studies are showing that facing future demands without a financial education is a source of serious concern for young adults.  “Seven in 10 (71%) are “very concerned” about the country’s economic future. More than half (53%) are “very concerned” about their personal financial future” (Schwab, 2009).

The US Census Bureau (2009) predicts there will be 18.4 million college students this fall.

Part of the problem with educating our youth about personal finance is that books on the subject are written in an unfriendly or boring manner.  Even the books that are aimed at a young audience can be in question and answer format or simply read like text books.  When something is so far-removed from what they deal with on a daily basis as personal finance is in those early years, it must be taught in a way that allows young people to picture themselves in situations that they could relate to. It’s critical to sell them on the idea of the importance of understanding personal finance.

Having been in sales for over 25 years, I learned many tricks for things to do to “sell my point” so that customers would want my solution.  When I was in pharmaceutical sales, part of my sales training was to paint a picture in the doctor’s mind. If our youth is taught personal finance through picture painting or storytelling, perhaps they will learn more. Techniques like placing images in their heads are important for the person to get the point you are trying to get across.  If I told the doctor to prescribe my drugs because they were good, I got nowhere (this is what the traditional personal finance book does).  If I told them that their patient would be calling them at midnight complaining about migraines or inability to breathe if he didn’t prescribe my drugs, then he had a picture and more reason to do it because he didn’t want to be disturbed in the middle of the night. We need to paint the picture of why personal finance is important in students’ minds.

It is important to get the message of personal finance responsibility in front of the next generation so that they don’t end up the way previous generations are now, having to file bankruptcy or losing their homes.  By targeting our high school and college students with education that delivers the message in a picture-painted storytelling format to explain the importance of personal finance, perhaps the next generation will avoid the tragedies that we are all dealing with now.  To do this, we need to focus on creating educational materials that are delivering the message in a way that allows us to meet the standards that we have set for our youth.

FROM A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE

Every day there is another article or news story about families facing foreclosures or bankruptcy.  According to Realty Trac there were more than 3.1 million foreclosures filed in 2008.   Even if people were able to keep their homes, suddenly they are upside down, owing more than it is worth.  We have over 3.5 million homeless people in the US.  If we are fortunate enough to still have a job . . . that may be all we have.  Those of us who had our retirement savings in a 401k are now wondering what we will do when we retire.  As we watch our life savings dwindle away with the falling stock market, shouldn’t we be thinking about how we got here and how we could have avoided this in the first place?

 

RealtyTrac (2009) data shows a steep include in foreclosure activity.

There are foundations and coalitions that focus their attention on such issues.  The New America Foundation addresses challenges facing future generations. Their site has had articles addressing the importance of utilizing what we have learned throughout this crisis to teach our youth.  “Such moments of financial trouble are teachable opportunities for children and youth to learn about personal finance, and to improve their own money management skills.  However, comprehensive strategies for educating children and youth about personal finance so that they can successfully navigate a complex financial market place have not yet emerged.” (Lopez-Fernandini & Murrell, 2008).

The problem is that changing the education system is no easy task.  Proposals must be made.  Money must be spent.  I recently sent a letter to Arne Duncan with the U. S. Department of Education, explaining my concern about the current lack of personal finance education for our youth. I explained I would like to propose a solution.  What did I get back?  I received a form letter commending my interest in education but politely stating that I should check out the Excellence in Economic Education (EEC, 2009) program already in place.  At the site, you can download current information about national programs currently in place.  According to the EEC, there was $1,447,267 worth of appropriations available for 2008 allotted to personal finance education.  Making grants available is a good start. But what about addressing the problems in the school’s curriculum?

Obviously the current programs are not working.  If we are not open to looking at alternative solutions to our current lack of education our children are receiving, aren’t we doomed to repeat our past mistakes?  I realize the government has its hands full with the current crisis.  However, our government may need to learn from its past mistakes.  Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?  By not addressing the problems within our educational system, we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes.

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Famous Business Failures: Is It As Gloomy As It Sounds?

Many hopeful entrepreneurs secretly have concerns about failure.  Although the failure rates are often misquoted, they are a natural concern.  It is not unusual to hear someone say 9 out of 10 businesses fail within 2 years. That statistic may sound impressive, but it is probably inaccurate.  According to smallbusinessplanned.com after 4 years, 50% of small businesses are still open.

There are a lot of successful business owners out there that didn’t necessarily make it on their first try.  The good news is that they didn’t give up and eventually found success.  For a list of 50 famous people who failed before they became successful, click here.

That is not to say there haven’t been some incredible blunders.  Accountingdegree.com has an interesting article about 13 of the biggest business blunders of all time. That list includes:

  • Enron
  • Charles Ponzi
  • Pan American
  • British Petroleum
  • SwissAir
  • Woolworth’s
  • Rafaello Follieri
  • Toyota Recalls
  • Washington Mutual
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Fashion Café
  • Bernie Madoff
  • Napster

To read the full article and find out more about how these business blunders occurred, click here.