US university to teach students how to identify fake news

Students will assess how social media feeds influence their views as part of new programme

February 28, 2017
Truth and lies shown on moral compass
Source: iStock

A US university has created a course aimed at teaching students how to identify "fake news".

The University of Michigan’s new programme, titled “Fake News, Lies, and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction”, will teach students how to find trusted sources of statistics and consider how their opinions, and the opinions of others, can affect the interpretation of news items.

Students on the course will also assess how their social media feeds influence their views and make a plan to adjust those feeds to improve their understanding of the world around them.

The course, which was jointly created by the university’s library and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, will be available to students starting in autumn 2017.

Laurie Alexander, associate university librarian for learning and teaching at Michigan, said that recent concerns about fake news and "alternative facts" led the university to look for ways to help students become “more critical and reflective information consumers”.

"Libraries have a long-standing commitment to helping users build skills to locate, evaluate and effectively use information,” she said.

“In this increasingly complex and dynamic information environment, we hope to further promote and advance information literacy so that students learn to approach information with a critical and questioning mind."

Angela Dillard, LSA associate dean for undergraduate education and the Earl Lewis professor of African and Afro-American studies, said students learned how to be critical in all their classes, but that learning how to assess validity was now “more challenging than ever”.

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