Learn to Discern

Learn to Discern

IREX’s Learn to Discern approach builds resilience to manipulative information by empowering those who engage with media and information to navigate it in a safe, critical, responsible, healthy, and empathy-driven way.


Learn to Discern empowers individuals, communities, and institutions to increase awareness, gain knowledge, and develop skills and behaviors for participating in the digital space without harm to their own and others’ wellbeing, dignity, and humanity. It enables them to:

  • Identify and use quality information to make decisions
  • Recognize and mitigate the impact of manipulative information
  • Curb the spread of such information to others

Learn to Discern approach builds emotional control and cognitive reflection, critical and analytical thinking, empathy, and other mental habits to overcome intuitive yet addictive and highly manipulative features of today’s informational ecosystem. It builds technical skills such as cross-checking information and verification techniques. It also provides techniques for overcoming social incentives for negative information engagement, such as the desire for validation or belonging. Our curriculum covers these and other contextually relevant topics.

Learn to Discern based online courses, often called Very Verified or other fun, locally resonant names, are built for today’s busy, information-saturated world. They are engaging, interactive, fun, and can be used as a self-paced learning platform or as part of blended instruction where online learning is reinforced by facilitated workshops.     

How the Learn to Discern Approach Works:

Learn to Discern draws upon media literacy and other fields to create and iterate an approach based on continuous review of internal and external best practices, evidence, and research around human vulnerability to manipulative information and behavior change. The approach is constantly evolving to incorporate these lessons from research and external evidence, as well as findings from Learn to Discern implementation.

Learn to Discern builds resilience in a variety of formats and has been adapted to the context and to audiences in over 20 countries around the globe. It offers multiple pathways to long-term resilience and addresses immediate threats to information integrity for: 

  • In person and virtual peer-to-peer workshops 
  • Blended and self-directed online learning 
  • Integration into secondary and higher education 
  • Gamification and play based methods 
  • Broadcast and social media "inoculation" campaigns

Use and Results

Learn to Discern has been adapted to different operational environments including Ukraine, Serbia, North Macedonia, Jordan, Tunisia, Guatemala, Peru, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and many others. It addresses multiple manifestations of manipulative information across these different settings.

Examples of how Learn to Discern is applied and the impact it produces are:

Building long term resilience through education systems: IREX has worked with schools – integrating L2D into instruction; with universities, enriching existing and creating new courses; by adding high quality extracurricular options; and through a combination and online and blended learning courses.

  • Formal secondary education: In Ukraine, IREX continues to work with the Ministry of Education and Science to integrate L2D competencies into the instruction of history, language, and other subjects in over 1,548 schools and among more than 84,000 high school students.
    • Ukrainian students increased their ability to analyze and engage with media and information critically by 70%.
  • Higher education: In the Baltics, we worked with 13 universities to integrate information resilience skill and competencies into the curriculum and train 951 journalism students.
    • University students increased likelihood to crosscheck information by 51% and their confidence in recognizing information by 46%.
  • Extracurricular activities: In Jordan, we integrated information resilience into extracurricular activities and trained 230 students in 10 underprivileged Jordanian schools.
    • Jordanian students increased their information behavior, knowledge of the media landscape, analysis skills, and sense control over their information environment by 42%.
  • Online learning: In Kosovo, self-learners who have used IREX’s online course on media literacy, Very Verified, increased their awareness and knowledge of media and information structures by 27%. In North Macedonia, Very Verified self-learners increased their understanding of their news media environment by 21%. And in Albania, supplemented with practical workshops led by a facilitator, Very Verified learners increased their ability to analyze and evaluate information by 24%.

Peer-to peer trainings through community-based trust networks. To reach out of school audiences – youth and adults, IREX works with local community networks to build skills through peer-to-peer formats.

  • Youth: In Jordan, through IREX’s youth-led peer-training model for Learn to Discern skill-building, young people improved their skills and abilities to analyze information in their traditional and social media streams by 97% and their confidence and sense of control in navigating these spaces by 41%. In Tunisia, youth participating in a similar training model improved their information behaviors by 32% and their sense of control of media influence and consumption by 35%.
  • Adults: In Ukraine, IREX’s local key influencer led trainings reached over 90,000 people in nine months. An assessment 1.5 years after the trainings, demonstrated that Learn to Discern has imparted a long-lasting ability to recognize misinformation among participants—participants continued to be 25 percent more likely to check multiple news sources and 13 percent more likely to discern between misinformation and a piece of objective reporting.

Rapid and at-scale campaigns to curb the spread of manipulative information and trigger resilience habits:

  • Online campaigns are an effective way to quickly reach audiences at scale. We have utilized them to curb the spread of manipulative content in Serbia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. In addition, a 2020 randomized control trial conducted by the RAND Corporation tested IREX’s media literacy social media materials in the U.S. and found them to be effective in reducing engagement with Kremlin propaganda by even the most partisan news consumers.


Learn to Discern has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Columbia Journalism Review, Journal of Media Literacy Education (PDF, 836 KB), NPR, Slate, and other media outlets.


Theo Dolan
Global Lead for Innovation in Countering Disinformation

Katya Vogt
Senior Advisor, Learn to Discern

Misha Mirny
Senior Director of Information and Media Practice