Effective Learning Online: The Three Literacies We Need

The Web has become one of the biggest sources for gathering and providing information in our society and an invaluable resource for students in all tiers of education (Walraven, Brand-Gruwel and Boshuizen, 2009). This means that digital literacy is as important as ever to practice and develop to ensure the information we gather online is reliable and authentic. A major aspect of digital literacy is learning to manage, access and evaluate the information we find online. We can practice these skills by developing our own learning networks (the way we use a range of sources), which means developing three major literacies: information, media and data (University of Southampton, 2018).


Created using Canva by Luke Gibbins (2018)

Media Literacy

Media literacy is best described in this video as it introduces the concept of ‘the media’ and ‘media’ forms we see online.

One of the most important aspects of media literacy is having the awareness that what we see needs to be evaluated. The infographic below refers to three forms of media which gives us unreliable/inauthentic information.


Created using Canva by Luke Gibbins (2018)

Information Literacy

Information literacy is the concept of growing your learning network, being increasingly aware of checking and evaluating the information you find online in many different forms through checking multiple sources. This includes in data visualisations and media formats.  There are seven pillars of information literacy which are useful to read through here (SCONUL, 2011). SCONUL have also applied a ‘digital literacy’ lens onto their study which you can find here (SCONUL, 2015).

Here is a resource which can help you spot ‘Fake News’ and false information.

Data Literacy

Data literacy concerns how we visualise the data we see online, we are all ready to believe in data visualisations straight away without thinking about whether or not the data visualisations can be reliable. An article by Collins (2015) shows how data visualisations can be formed in a way that purposefully or accidentally confuses the reader.

An example taken from Collins (2015) article.

Unclear and needs an X and Y axis.


This one is better, but the Government couldn’t get proper data sets and so manipulated the data (Collins, 2015).

The best way to become data literate is to check your information from multiple sources and read reports directly instead of relying on visualisations.


The three literacies are all connected, data is visualized and shared through utilizing the information and the media. The media is used as a communication tool for both data and information. The most important point to developing how to gather reliable and authentic data is to be aware and develop these literacies.

Word count: 330

Reference List

CrashCourse. (2018). Introduction to Media Literacy: Crash Course Media Literacy #1. [Online Video]. 27 February 2018. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD7N-1Mj-DU. [Accessed: 11 March 2018].

Collins, K. (2015). The most misleading charts of 2015, fixed. [online] Quartz. Available at: https://qz.com/580859/the-most-misleading-charts-of-2015-fixed/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].

Dissevelt, L. (2015). Escape the Filter Bubble – ZEEF.org. [online] ZEEF.org. Available at: http://zeef.org/2015/02/04/escape-filter-bubble/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].

SCONUL (2015) ‘Digital Literacy Lens on the SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy’ [online] Available at: https://www.sconul.ac.uk/publication/digital-literacy-lens-on-the-sconul-seven-pillars-of-information-literacy [accessed: 12th Mar. 2018].

Sloggett, C. (2015). Research reveals Facebook ‘echo chambers’. [online] Theday.co.uk. Available at: http://theday.co.uk/technology/research-reveals-facebook-echo-chambers [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].

The SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy (2011) ‘The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy’ [online] Available at: https://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/coremodel.pdf [Accessed 12 March. 2018]

Thoman, E., & Jolls, T. (2005). Media literacy education: Lessons from the center for media literacy. In G. Schwartz & P. U. Brown (Eds.), Media literacy: Transforming curriculum and teaching (Vol. 104, 2005, pp. 180 -205). Malden, MA: National Society for the Study of Education

University of Southampton (2018) ‘Learning in the Network Age’ [MOOC] Available at: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D. and Aral, S. (2018). ‘The spread of true and false news online.’ Science, 359(6380), pp.1146-1151. Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146

Walraven, A., Brand-Gruwel, S. and Boshuizen, H. (2009). How students evaluate information and sources when searching the World Wide Web for information. Computers & Education, 52(1), pp.234-246. Available at: https://research.utwente.nl/en/publications/how-students-evaluate-information-and-sources-when-searching-the-

Ifla.org. (2018). IFLA — How To Spot Fake News. [online] Available at: https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174 [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].




7 thoughts on “Effective Learning Online: The Three Literacies We Need

  1. Hi Luke.

    Great post, taking a different look at how we gather information online. I particularly like your look at media literacies, something that is often not examined in our field of Web Science. If media literacy is the overarching process of evaluating and fact-checking any information, do you think there is a key way to learn and apply this online, or do you think it is more down to a more general skill that cannot be taught? I am of the opinion that much of your identification can come down to your digital literacy as you hint at, but I am also aware that people are capable of identifying whether news is fake or not offline, and I, therefore, wonder if the processes they use here could be extrapolated to the web?

    I think one of the best ways to do this is by understading the mptives behind fake news creation, as the game “Bad News” (https://www.getbadnews.com/) attempts to do – I was wondering if you agreed?




    • Hi Tom.

      Thanks for the kind comments. I agree we haven’t touched upon the subject in much detail on the course even though I think you’ll agree it is very important. I think its a general skill that can be taught and practised through habit. However it is an extremely hard skill to practise as it is time-consuming, much different from finding information online without being critical. I think that actually even in newspapers, you find Clickbaited headlines and opinion pieces that have been framed to look like fact. As well as data visualisations that have been manipulated. So I definitely think that the literacies are valid on and offline.

      From reading your comment and viewing the link I definitely think creating games to help people understand how to do so is a brilliant idea to try to make the concept of authenticating ‘fake news’ more accessible and teaching the literacies/ improving skills without using any jargon an everyday person may not understand.

      Thank you!



  2. Hi Luke,
    I liked how your blog post was able summarise the different types of literacies. I’d like to expand on your point regarding how data visualizations can be used to mislead the reader by showing incomplete information. (Kwapien, 2015) gives some example of how by removing data points on a graph you can change how the overall trend of data appears. So you could for instance have a graph where there appears to be a continual upward or downward trend in the data by deliberately not including certain data points that don’t fit into the trend you want to suggest.

    Kwapien, A. (2015). Misleading Data Visualization Examples. [online] BI Blog | Data Visualization & Analytics Blog | datapine. Available at: https://www.datapine.com/blog/misleading-data-visualization-examples/%5BAccessed 15 Mar. 2018].


  3. Pingback: Reflection post- Topic 2 – Living and working on the web

  4. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the comment! Ah thats interesting information, thanks for sharing! It is pretty dispicable that companies would do this to graphs to fit their own agenda. It makes checking and authenticating the data we find online to be even more difficult.




  5. Pingback: Reflection Topic 2 – ‘Fake News’: Who is responsible? – uosm2008rd

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