Searching for OERs Online: the challenge of usability


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This is a paper given at the annual conference of the Association of Learning Technology in Leeds, 6 September 2011.

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Searching for OERs Online: the challenge of usability

  1. 1. Searching for Open Educational Resources Online: the challenge of usability<br />Isabelle Brent: C-SAP (Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics)<br />
  2. 2. Open educational resources<br />Background and description of project<br />The contrast between describing an ideal methods resource and what is done in practice<br />Quality and usability<br />Conclusion and some suggestions for learning technologists<br />Outline<br />
  3. 3. Open Educational Resources<br />Open educational resources (OERs) are defined by a report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as:<br />"teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others.”<br /><br />
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  5. 5. 1 year, JISC funded project aimed at improving the discoverability of OER materials to support research methods teaching<br />2 phases:<br /> 1. Exploring how teaching staff search and use methods resources through:<br />Survey of practices, focus groups with teaching staff and user testing<br /> 2. The creation of a social science methods website –<br />The project<br />
  6. 6. Draws on the first phase of the project exploring online search practices and how academics describe their ideal resource<br />Focuses on an apparent contradiction between descriptions of an ideal resource and what academics actually do when searching for resources<br />Focus of Presentation<br />
  7. 7. Three themes:<br />High quality<br />Fit for purpose<br />Usability<br />Describing the ideal resource<br />
  8. 8. Despite the emphasis on quality and concern with vetted materials, how people describe their current search practices is very different.<br />How People Currently Search For Resources<br />
  9. 9. 9<br />Sites used most often to search for resources by survey respondents<br />
  10. 10. When describing what is important during actual searches the following criteria were identified: <br />Usability<br />Relevance<br />Transparency<br />(Quality)<br />What is valued when searching online?<br />
  11. 11. The gulf between the ideal resource and actual practice reflects shifts in online behaviour<br />The ‘vetted gateway’ model is indicative of an older model of educational searching<br />New ways of searching break down barriers between academic and non-academic<br />Transparency more important than quality in practice – people happy to make quality judgments if they have the indicators to do so<br />Contrast between described ideal research and practice<br />
  12. 12. Librarian controlled gateways or portals followed the example set by journals and books to ensure quality assurance<br />Today people expect academic online searches to conform to other searches<br />Non-academic sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon have increased the confidence that online users have in contributing and making quality judgments themselves<br />Defining ‘Quality’<br />
  13. 13. ‘Quality’ is of central importance to academic practice, however relying on top-down vetted materials is an outmoded concept<br />Users are happy having access to a larger range of resources and make more quality judgments<br />In order to make these judgments online searches need to be highly usable with results being easy to assess<br />Conclusion<br />
  14. 14. Look at what people actually do online – usability testing with academics important<br />Recognise permeability between academic and non-academic searches (E.g. Google, Amazon)<br />Develop systems that help academics judge resources by providing transparent indicators of quality (e.g. Amazon’s Review and star system, ‘customers also bought’, ‘you may be interested in’)<br />3Suggestions for Learning Technologists<br />
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