Clearly the web provides access to a vast range of information resources ranging from asking a friend on Facebook or getting information from academic journals. Many non-traditional sources, such as Wikipedia or YouTube videos, can be used effectively for learning while not being highly credible in a formal academic sense. This presents learners with a challenge as they often have to decide on a balance between ease of use and academic credibility.
"Okay it’s just a text, it’s fine. I think it’s because maybe people of older generations are used to using books more. And so like my parents will always go, ‘Well look it up in a book, go to the library.’ And I’ll go, ‘Well there’s the internet just there.’ "
UK, emerging female age 19
Those participants in the Emerging educational stage tended to consider physical books as the most academically credible source but often used what they considered less authoritative information from the web. This usually was because searching online was the most convenient method of discovering what they needed and usually provided more focused answers than alternatives.
"Well pretty much every research paper and things I’ve done have said ‘Use internet sources if you desire, but at least a certain number of hard copy sources’. And, again, I generally would use the hard copy source just to find a speck of information and then go back to the internet because it’s just … it’s so easy. Whereas getting a book this thick and trying to find a quotable sentence that really relates to the context could take two hours."
USA, emerging male, age 18
Participants in the later educational stages (embedding and experienced) had more sophisticated critical evaluation techniques and a deeper understanding of their chosen subject so were prepared to vouch for less traditional sources. However, they still were tentative about citing non-traditional resources in formal work even when they knew the information to be high quality.
All of the students we interviewed had constructed a precise, if conservative, model of what they thought their institution would accept as legitimate practices in their academic work and were adept at only presenting these during class time and in formal assessments. For tutors, faculty, and other academic staff, the notion of what constitutes legitimate practice was far less clear and appeared to be negotiated on an individual basis. See the learning black market.
"She was very direct about certain stuff and wanted me to go to the library. Of course like the library’s like a second home for me, so that’s fine. But the research I needed wasn’t showing up. So I was like okay, I’m going to the internet. And I had to find quotes from books, so I just like was able to go on Google, Google book search, and find the quote I needed. And I didn’t write down it was from the internet."
USA, emerging female, age 19
This tension between using sources which are ‘efficient’ for learning and those which are highly credible in an academic context is useful to consider from users’ perspectives when assessing their engagement with your services. In the context of the visitors and residents continuum, it is interesting to consider how, broadly speaking, Visitor mode practices are generally considered by the emerging stage participants to be more legitimate in a formal academic context than resident forms of practice (White and Connaway, 2011-2012).