In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have moved to distance teaching formats. Besides the direct changes in teaching and learning behaviors, students need to cope with a very challenging situation per se: they need to handle a vast amount of online information on the pandemic to be as well informed as possible. In this context, they are also confronted with online information that has the potential to lead to confusion, emotionalizations, or disinformation. Based on psychological approaches on online collaboration, we investigated whether collaboration with peers can reduce emotional stress and can promote the critical elaboration of evidence when dealing with conflicting information about COVID-19.
In an online experiment, university students were exposed to conflicting texts regarding COVID-19 testing that contained current scientific information. They were asked to reflect their dealing with conflicting information and emotions either individually or collaboratively via chat. The experiment was conducted in April 2020, during the beginning of the lockdown in Germany.
First insights into the analysis of the data suggest that an effective way of coping emotionally as well as cognitively with conflicting information might be to handle such information rather together with others than alone. Deeper analysis shall show which specific strategies the students applied when dealing with COVID-19 information. Based on these findings we will draw conclusions on what to consider in the future to support students in dealing with conflicting and emotional stressful information in digital environments. The publication of this experiment in a scientific journal is in preparation.
Elisabeth Mayweg-Paus, Maria Zimmermann & Claudia Lefke, 2020-2021 (publication in preparation).