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IT: Information
IT: Information

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6 Trust

6.1 Reliable information

Information is worthless if you have no trust in it. This has always been the case, but there are issues of trust that arise specifically in the context of modern information and communication technologies. Think about the following:

  • You do a search on the Web and get results from several different sites. Do you trust the information in them all? How do you decide which are the most trustworthy?

  • You get an email, a letter or a phone call purporting to come from your bank, recommending a change to your account. Do you follow the advice that you are given?

  • You read a story in a newspaper, hear it on the radio or see it on TV. Do you believe it? Does it make any difference if it is accompanied by a photograph?

  • In each of these cases there are two elements to your trust:

    1. The authority of the information source. Do you trust the BBC, ITN or someone you've never met writing a weblog? The Guardian or the Daily Mail? Your bank?

    2. Authentication of the message – does it really come from whom you think it does? Is it really the BBC's website you are looking at? Does this person writing a weblog really live in Iraq? Is the email, phone call or letter really from your bank?

Authority of OU teaching material

It may be dangerous to raise this question … but do you trust what you read in OU courses? What grounds are there for trusting us?

I hope that you do trust the OU – but not unquestioningly because we do get things wrong sometimes. The Open University 'brand' comes with some authority, and there are mechanisms within the University procedures to ensure the quality of OU material. These procedures include:

  • Team working. This course, for example, has emerged from course team discussions, and drafts which have been read and criticised by the whole course team.

  • External consultants. Experts from outside the University are asked for advice and contribute in various ways.

  • External assessors and examiners. OU regulations require that senior academics from other universities approve courses both during the production phase and annually during the course's presentation.

Further procedures operate at higher levels within the OU structure and formally the quality of all university education in the UK is monitored by the QAA: Quality Assurance Authority for Higher Education [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

It must also not be forgotten that when the course is in presentation large numbers of Associate Lecturers and students read the material and provide feedback if they identify problems.