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Learning & Finding Information Online

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Section Overview Questions to Consider Recommended Websites to Learn Online Best Practices for Learning Online Effectively Finding & Evaluating News Sources Finding & Evaluating Health Information Avoiding Information Overload

Learning Online Overview

In 2018, 22.4 million users visited online news sources. Over 6 million Americans have enrolled in an online course to gain new skills. With all the information and sources available online, how do we choose good sources that meet our needs?

The majority of people access at least one online news source, find health information online, take professional development courses, learn new hobbies, find do-it-yourself projects, and use online forums to find answers to all of life’s great mysteries. So how do we learn online? How is it different than learning in person?

This section dives into how to connect library patrons with the tools to succeed in online learning in different ways, and for a variety of reasons.

Questions to Consider

While reading this guide, consider these questions. Start brainstorming how to connect your community with the resources to use the internet as a tool for learning, and succeed in an increasingly digital world.

  1. Where do you go to learn online?
  2. What does your community want to learn?
  3. Are people in your community comfortable learning online?
  4. How is learning online different from learning in person?
  5. Can there be a mix between online and in-person learning?
  6. Do people learn better together, or independently? Can this be done digitally?
  7. What kind of information do people access most often?
  8. Can people tell the difference between good and bad information sources?
  9. Do you trust everything on the internet?
  10. How do you assess the quality of the education? What were you trying to achieve?

Recommended Websites to Learn Online

There are a million places to learn new skills online. Some learning options are paid while others are made available as a free resource. Not every learning environment works for everyone. There is no perfect system. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find what works best for you!

Here are some popular options to hop online and learn nearly any skill or hobby:


GCFGlobal (Goodwill Foundation): Offers a collection of tutorials and learning modules for everyday life skills like cooking, health and safety, personal finace, and a variety of technology skills. This includes everything from setting up emails accounts and social media to specific skill sets.

Alison offers free courses from leading experts in technology, language, science, health, humanities, business, math, marketing and general lifestyle. The variety is incredible.

Kadenze: This site focuses on STEAM education from some of the world's leading univeristies and industry partners. There are free and paid monthly options.

Coursera offers courses from universities around the world in arts & humanities, business, computer science, data science, information technology, health, math, personal development, physical science and engineering, social sciences, and language learning. Many courses can be audited free, or upgraded to a paid option for certification. There are some degree options available as well.

EdX is similar to Coursera and offers courses in many of the same categories with the same option to upgrade to a certification option. It is recommended to try auditing the course to make sure the format and course goals suit your needs before putting money into the course.

FutureLearn is similar to both Coursera and edX. It includes some courses from specialist organizations like Raspberry Pi and other non-profits.

Skillshare: Offers a variety of courses in business, technology, the arts, and more. There are several free courses, but the full catalog is subscription only.

LinkedInLearning formerly offers courses in nearly every category imaginable. This is a paid subscription service.

Udemy offers courses from instructors with various experience levels in arts & humanities, business, computer science, data science, information technology, health, math, personal development, physical science and engineering, social sciences, and more. These are low-cost courses with frequent sales.

Udacity offers courses to grow tech skills, like programming and development, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, data science, business, autonomous systems, and more. There are options for beginner, intermediate and advanced level users.

Khan Academy: This is a resources for school-age students, and people trying to refresh themselves on skills learned during K-12 and early college. Nearly everty subject is represented on this site.

YouTube: Try going on YouTube to find tutorial videos. These are all crowdsourced and aren’t regulated for quality control, so you might have to try a few videos before finding the best information.

Best Practices for Learning Online

Online learning is gaining popularity, but not every course will be the perfect fit. Study habits online will also look very different from in-person study. There are different distractions while studying at home and there is also a wider selection of available courses that cater to different audiences.

Help your patrons find resources to develop good study habits, and shop around for the right learning materials. Some people like videos, others like written instruction. Some instructors are effective for some, but not for others. Help patrons get used to learning online.


Ten Study Tips for Online Learners: E-Learning Industry provides these tips for learners to succeed in online courses.

How to Choose the Right Online Course For You: FutureLearn provides a guide to choosing the right course. This guide is applicable to every site online.

Completing an Online Course: 13 Time Management Tips: e-Learning Industry helps us out with these helpful tips to successfully complete online learning courses.

Finding & Evaluating News Online

With fake news running rampant, it is more important than ever to help patrons find quality information. Finding news sources can be a controversial issue for some, and confirmation bias will come into play for nearly everyone. Confirmation bias is essentially believing what supports our existing beliefs. We believe the facts we want to believe. It helps to consult multiple news sources to verify sensationalist headlines. However busy schedules and too many information sources can make this difficult. We do the best we can to consult good information and not spread misinformation.

Consult the following resources to find out how to verify the accuracy of news sources, identify fake news, and overcome confirmation bias.


How to Spot Fake News: BBC provides a video and other resources to spot fake news.

(Infographic) Idenfity Fake News: This infographic can be printed and made available during workshops and for patrons at the reference desk.

(Video) Confirmation Bias: Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News? This video was featured by PBS Learning to teach students grade 6-12 about confirmation bias. It works well for adults as well.

Fake News, Propaganda, and Misinformation: Learning to Critically Evaluate Media Sources: Cornell University Library provides this resource to help identify and prevent the spread of fake news.

Finding Health Information

Health information is one of the most common pieces of information people search online. This is one topic where quality information is key. The resources in this section will help your patrons ask the right questions to evaluate health information and avoid fake news sites. NebraskAccess has a set of librarian approved health information resources patrons can consult at any time.


Finding and Evaluating Online Resources: The Department of Health and Human Services provides this guide to help people evaluate health information resources.

NebraskAccess: Provides a collection of online heath resources. Some are Nebraska-specific, others are general information sources.

Avoiding Information Overload

Having too much information is definitely a thing. Here are some resources to help you and your patrons prioritize what absolutely needs to get done on the internet, what can be put off until later, and what can be skipped altogether. There are also some tips for avoiding internet research rabbit holes.


10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload: This Forbes article offers some great tips to help keep our priotities straight and get things done online.

Overcoming Information Overload: This article has some tips for dealing with too much information and setting limits for yourself as you research new topics online.

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