I was educated and practiced surgery before the era of the Internet. Books in the library were my main source of information, but it usually required a meticulous search through a book stack to find what I needed. Then the Internet arrived and suddenly the world changed. Miraculously, vast amounts of information was available at my fingertips. But it came at a price: there was just too much.
Why I took this course
With it also came the new technologies such as YouTube, WhatsApp, videos etc. that offered a visual view of knowledge. Tempting as these are, the written word still remains the most important means of conveying information. It comes in many forms from the chit-chat of popular newspapers to the detailed analyses in peer-reviewed scientific journals. But in order to recognize reliable information, the reader must be able to analyze what she/he is reading and identify that which is trust-worthy and that which is not.
FutureLearn’s Critical Thinking at University by University of Leeds sets out to do just that and is directed primarily at the university student. Leaving the protected teaching environment of school, the university student finds her/himself adrift in a sea of information. Faced with an essay or a presentation, what to believe and what to not, is a constant challenge. Being able to recognize reliable, fact-based information from airy-fairy statements is a vital skill that all students must learn if they are to benefit from the unique opportunity that university affords.
In this course, the student is taken step by step though the stages in sorting the wheat from the chaff. By examples the tangle will be undone. Later she/he will be invited to undertake a written project to be assessed by a fellow student. In return she/he will be invited to assess a fellow student’s piece. By the end she/he will have the tools needed to read articles from a wide range of sources and be able to evaluate them logically. With that knowledge will come the confidence to write authoritative, honest pieces that others will be excited to read.