Appendix to Study 5:
Summary of Graduate Student Viewpoints about the Effect of the Internet on Student Work.
June 18, 2000
"Due to the popularity of internet use among students, I feel it often helps in sustaining their interest in a particular topic (i.e., students often see it as more fun and more effective to "surf the net" about an issue rather than go to the library)." - Graduate student
About half (22) of the graduate students in Study 5 said they taught classes.
Based on their experience in teaching undergraduates, I asked this subgroup to rate the Internet's effects on their students' academic work. Eighteen (or 82%) graduate students provided their insights:
First, here is the numerical rating of the Internet's positive influence:
- Number of sources found (66%).
- Quality of the student's written work (22%)
(44% claimed there was "no difference" and 22% did not know.)
- Use of time (56%)
(33% checked "do not know").
- Grade assigned (28%)
(33% claimed "no difference" and 33% indicated not knowing).
Below is a tally of the most common themes drawn from the written responses. Almost all characterize Internet use as a tradeoff:
"The students use the internet a lot, and I think that is inevitable and probably in the main a good thing. It does make them lazy, and often they rely on less academic sources than if they had to go to the library."
On the Plus Side:
Students have access to more information, like on-line reference materials and sources. That extra access, because it is timely, easily gotten to, fun and interesting, appears to expose students to a greater variety of materials and predisposes them to do more reading.
"I don't think the quality of written work is changed by the internet, but the students are better equipped with information with which to write the paper."
The Internet provides improved information on current events and the latest opinions:
"…my students can do a quick search and find out the gist of what is being said on a certain topic by top scholars whereas before many students didn't get to top scholars at all…"
On the Minus Side:
The biggest drawback? Indiscriminate use:
"...students often don't use their critical faculties when accessing net-based material and may be lured by easy access and pleasant presentation without questioning the material's value. Thus, the use of the net sometimes even decreases the quality of the work."
"The "Internet" as a whole can also be detrimental to student's work, as they often do searchers on databases that have less than reliable sources included."
"The internet certainly helps students (and their teachers) to find historical sources and literature. But oftentimes, students are not able to discriminate between valuable sources/lit. and bad ones".
Concern #2: Plagiarism:
"My only concern with students using the web is the risk of web plagiarism. In general however I consider students' use of resources on the web to be a good thing. Anything to get them to read beyond the required texts!"
Several teachers commented that the time saved on the Internet may be offset in the need to weed through a maze of results to find the good stuff.
Nor does the Internet "...teach students how to think, analyze, or write. And that is our biggest task in teaching history."
Finally, two graduate students saw themselves lacking in skills in applying the Internet to the classroom:
(I am) "...still using pre-Internet teaching methods and not requiring the kids to learn anything for the tests beyond what I present in class and what they read in the required texts. I think I'll change this soon, encouraging web (and library) research as part of the curriculum."
Bottom line: There remains a significant opportunity for librarians to work with teachers in making Internet use less problematic.
"... I would say (students) need to be introduced early (i.e., in their freshman year) to the concept that one can't trust everything in print, on the web or otherwise, and one needs to apply the same standards of validity to web documents as one would to any other source."
And, libraries have an opportunity (an obligation?) to continue to serve an important educational role:
"It (the Internet) saves an enormous amount of time, yet I think my students who still do the legwork in the library often are at an advantage. Some students have found sources while browsing the racks and the periodicals that did not appear in their keyword searches."