The Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU Mainz) hosted a two-day kickoff meeting from 05-06.12.23 for the DFG-Research Group CORE, a project dedicated to the study of critical online reasoning (COR) skills in higher education. The CORE project aims to explore the online learning behaviors and online information landscapes that students in medicine, physics, economics, and social sciences use for their studies.The event brought together a the CORE project partners as well as the international advisory board to discuss the project’s goals, achievements so far, and future directions.

Inclusion of International Advisory Board Members

The kickoff meeting was enriched by the presence of members of the CORE project’s international advisory board, these esteemed members provided valuable insights and recommendations for the project’s advancement, stressing the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation in the study of COR skills.

Welcoming Remarks

The meeting kicked off with a warm welcome from Prof. Dr. Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President of JGU Mainz, who emphasized the University’s commitment to fostering innovative research and its dedication to promoting critical thinking skills among students. He expressed his enthusiasm for the CORE project and recognized the potential it holds to better understand and nurture COR in higher education.

Introduction of CORE and Its Steering Structure

Dr. Olga Troitschanskaia, Principal Investigator of the CORE project, provided an overview of the project’s goals, structure, and steering mechanisms. She highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of the project, bringing together experts from fields such as educational psychology, educational technology, computer science, linguistics and digital media studies. She also emphasized the project’s collaborative approach, fostering partnerships between universities and research institutions across Germany and beyond.

Briefing on Current Activities and Project Overview

The meeting delved into the project’s current activities and progress. Prof. Johannes Hartig, Co-Principal Investigator of the CORE project, provided an overview of the research undertaken by the project’s working groups, focusing on the development and measurement of COR skills, the analysis of online information, and the exploration of task-solving processes and strategies.

Presentations from the A, B, and C Projects

The meeting featured presentations from the three main research areas of the project: A – Generic COR Skills, B – Information Landscape and Narrative Framing, and C – Task-Solving Processes, Data collection and analysis. Researchers from each area shared their findings and insights, highlighting the diverse perspectives and approaches brought to the project.

The team presented their work from Project CO8 on an advanced assessment environment that collects all used internet resources as well as the interaction data generated by the participant during the assessment. The software runs in the Azure cloud and also allows participants to utilize generative AI to solve assessment tasks. Sebastian, Gianluca, and George were awarded with Nuremberg Lebkuchen for enabling the CORE research group to release this new assessment software in less than two months. At the kickoff, the first participants had already begun working on the assessment tasks, which is a significant accomplishment given the ambitious timeline. In the close future we will analyse the unique data set with the CO8 partners from the Text Technology lab.

Presentations from the Co-ordinating Project and Initial Taskgroup Results

Dr. Jennifer Fischer and Dr. Lisa Santos, members of the Coordinating Project, provided an overview of the project’s overall structure, coordination efforts, and planned activities. They also introduced three emerging taskforces within the CORE project that incorporate latest development in the world of critical online reasoning: TF Scoring, TF Annotation, and TF Working with ChatGPT.

Future Direction and Prospects

The kickoff meeting marked the beginning of an ambitious and innovative research endeavor in the field of critical online reasoning. The interdisciplinary collaboration and the emphasis on innovative approaches hold substantial promise for gaining an unique and rich data set to better understand critical online reasoning skills in higher education.

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