In what I like to call the good-old bad-old days university students visited actual libraries to enrich the information contained in prescribed textbooks. They were required to identify themselves to vaguely intimidating librarians of both sexes, who, when not otherwise occupied did a useful job of making sure the books in their collections were published by reputable sources, and that the information they contained was up to date.
These days that has all changed for ever, and students are doing internet research instead in the great library in the sky that we call the world wide web. The problem not hitherto addressed is that there are no consistent ways of rating the value of the data, uploaded onto so many unmoderated wiki-sites and blogs.
Thanks to a website called sophia.org this is all changing as we speak. This free social learning platform backed by Capella Education Company has a mission to ensure that everybody has access to education and knowledge. It wants to tap technology for the betterment of the world’s students as a whole - by encouraging learners, teachers, subject specialists and parents to help each other learn.
In a new development volunteers can now participate by creating virtual learning packets using a combination of video, audio, slide shows and text from sources pulled anywhere in the course of internet searches. Others can access this information for free, in the knowledge that somebody else has thought about the quality of the information carefully before republishing it. Still others, who have identified themselves as subject experts in terms of teaching experience and qualifications, have the opportunity to comment on these virtual learning packets further – once three have certified that a packet is academically sound, sophie.org labels it as such.
No doubt in time this hugely valuable process will be commercialized and access to it sold to universities for a fee. In the meantime though, sophia.org is a compellingly free way to verify the quality of information that's out there on the internet and roaming free.