Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

3.2 Developing your ‘trustometer’

Image showing a close-up on part of a barometer. The word 'fair' can be read around the dial.
Figure 5 Barometer

Often, you are taking a calculated risk when deciding whether or not to trust someone or something online. What you decide to do may depend on how much time you have available and what is at stake. Developing your research and evaluation skills will enable you to weigh up the ‘pros and cons’ more quickly and make good decisions. You could think of the decision-making process as a kind of barometer which changes in response to a variable set of factors – your ‘trustometer’. For the penultimate activity this week you are going to put some of what you have learned into practice.

Activity 7 What would you do?

Manuela, Michael and John are facing some predicaments in their digital life. Listen to the audio recordings and note down the advice you would give to each one of them.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Manuela talks about her digital life
Skip transcript: Manuela talks about her digital life

Transcript: Manuela talks about her digital life

I’ve been a victim of a banking scam through an email. They said that they were from my bank and they asked me to verify all my account details. There was a link to a website where I had to enter my pin number. I was really busy at the time so, unfortunately, I didn’t read the email too closely.

I was new to internet banking and it all looked so convincing, so I followed all the instructions. Later, I found out that they had taken money out of my account. My bank helped me sort it out, but how could I have avoided this happening?

End transcript: Manuela talks about her digital life
Manuela talks about her digital life
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this audio clip.Audio player: Michael talks about his digital life
Skip transcript: Michael talks about his digital life

Transcript: Michael talks about his digital life

My granddaughter was recently diagnosed with coeliac disease. And then I read an article about how the NHS is wasting millions of pounds giving out gluten-free food on prescription, and from my own experience, that just doesn’t sound right. But I’m not sure how to find out for sure. It’d be good to know the truth behind it all.

End transcript: Michael talks about his digital life
Michael talks about his digital life
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this audio clip.Audio player: John talks about his digital life
Skip transcript: John talks about his digital life

Transcript: John talks about his digital life

I’ve started a blog to promote myself as a cook. Recently, in one of my posts, I included a photograph I’d found on the web, and someone contacted me and asked me to remove it because they held the copyright. It’s so difficult to tell what you can and can’t use. How could I have found something that I could have used legally and for free?

End transcript: John talks about his digital life
John talks about his digital life
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Feedback

Manuela now knows that her bank would never ask for her PIN by email in this way. The site that she was taken to looked convincing and professional. However, on closer examination the URL was not quite right. The email itself began ‘Dear Sir or madam’ and contained several grammatical and spelling errors, which would not have occurred in a real communication from the bank, as these are usually carefully proof-read. A useful site that lists scams and hoaxes to be aware of is Hoax Slayer [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Michael could have done a search for information on treatments for coeliac disease, to establish the facts and research behind the article. Using the PROMPT framework would help him here, as it would encourage him to ask questions about the provenance and accuracy of some of the figures quoted. An update to the article Michael read was later published, clarifying that the NHS food prescription bill was for all special diets, not just sufferers of coeliac disease (Daily Mail, 2015).

John could have done an image search using the ‘Usage rights’ filter in Google advanced search, to search for images that are free to use or share. Or he might have found something suitable in an online collection of images licensed under Creative Commons, such as Flickr.

Manuela, Michael and John are generally becoming more sceptical about information they find online, or that comes to them via email. At the same time, they are becoming more open about the possibilities of learning through the many online resources available to them.

Knowing what questions to ask is giving them confidence that in future they will be able to avoid being taken in. As you encounter different information and people online, keeping those questions in mind will enable you to live wisely and safely in a digital environment. Developing a critical mindset helps you to avoid the ‘potholes’ in your information landscape and make the most of life online.

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