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OERScout: Widening Access to OER through Faceted Search


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In recent years, the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement has achieved considerable success within the academic community with respect to advocacy of the concept. As a result, many organisations such as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), UNESCO and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in partnership with academic institutions, have produced large volumes of OER. However, due to the disconnected nature and the constant expansion of volume, many repositories hosting these resources are less frequented or completely ignored by OER users. i.e. only the more popular OER repositories such as Connexions and WikiEducator are frequent stops in the search for academically useful resources. This limitation, in turn, reduces the access to high quality resources hidden away in isolated repositories hosted by lesser known sources. Furthermore, the time and labour required to trawl these repositories with a view of identifying the most suitable OER is tantamount to creating ones’ own material from scratch. As a solution to these issues, this paper discusses how the OERScout technology framework uses a “faceted search” approach to locate the most desirable OER from sources spread throughout the globe. It also highlights how focused searching can greatly improve access to OER readily useable in teaching and learning.

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OERScout: Widening Access to OER through Faceted Search

  1. 1. OERScout Widening Access to OER through Faceted Search Ishan Abeywardena, Chee Seng Chan & V. Balaji 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF7) Abuja, Nigeria 6th December 2013
  2. 2. • The Search Dilemma • Faceted Search • OERScout
  3. 3. Curation Content repositories Portal repositories Content and portal repositories McGreal, R. (2010). Open Educational Resource Repositories: An Analysis. Proceedings: The 3rd Annual Forum on e-Learning Excellence, 1-3 February 2010, Dubai, UAE.
  4. 4. So…how do I find the material I need for my teaching?
  5. 5. Google “Advanced Search” results for OER on Chemistry (24th May 2012)
  6. 6. Literature • ...The problem is in finding the resources, and more correctly finding the “right” resources. Using a regular search engine like Google to find content is not always a viable option as it will generate too many answers. There is, hence, a need to easily find relevant content...” (Hatakka, 2009) • “searching this way (using existing search engines such as Google) might be a long and painful process as most of the results are not usable for educational purposes” (Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski, 2010) • No single search engine is still able to locate resources from all the OER repositories (West & Victor, 2011) • One of the major barriers to the use and re-use of OER is the difficulty of finding quality OER matching a specific context (Dichev & Dicheva, 2012) • “…the problem with open content is not the lack of available resources on the Internet but the inability to locate suitable resources for academic use” (Unwin, 2005).
  7. 7. Native search mechanisms perhaps?
  8. 8. Native Search in Repositories Identify which material to look for (e.g. integration, C++ programming) Identify the search queries (e.g. “undergraduate mathematics”) Locate repository (word of mouth, some link somewhere, go to the more popular repositories) Run multiple queries to find resources Read each resource to identify the usefulness (openness, access, relevance) Identify useful resources Repeat steps 3-6 on multiple repositories (hundreds to thousands…..)
  9. 9. Frustrated??
  10. 10. The Declaration i. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER. Encourage the development of userfriendly tools to locate and retrieve OER that are specific and relevant to particular needs. (UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, 2012) UNESCO. (2012). Paris OER Declaration, Retrieved September18, 2012 from
  11. 11. How useful is a resource really?
  12. 12. Measures of usefulness Desirability Relevance Openness Accessibility
  13. 13. What is Desirability? Less useful resources are less desirable for teaching and learning needs….
  14. 14. Free Text Search vs. Directory Search Free Text Directory
  15. 15. Faceted Search OERScout Second Facet “Suggested Terms” First Facet “Suggested Terms” “Astrophysics” Desirability Resources ranked according to the Desirability “Stars”
  17. 17. Advantages of OERScout • Generates ranked lists of relevant OER • Incorporates the Desirability framework • Uses faceted search • Repository and metadata independent
  18. 18. Acknowledgments This research project is funded: • as part of a doctoral research through the Grant (# 102791) generously made by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada through an umbrella study on Openness and Quality in Asian Distance Education. • by the Education Assistance Program (EAP) of Wawasan Open University, Malaysia. Ishan Sudeera Abeywardena acknowledges the support: • by the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada in the form of a grant to attend the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum in Abuja, Nigeria; • by the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he is currently pursuing his doctoral research in Computer Science; • by the School of Science and Technology, Wawasan Open University, 54 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050, Penang, Malaysia where he is currently employed.
  19. 19. • Ishan Sudeera Abeywardena Deputy Dean and Senior Lecturer School of Science and Technology, Wawasan Open University, 54 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang, 10050, Malaysia. e-mail: • Chee Seng Chan Senior Lecturer Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. e-mail: • Venkataraman Balaji Director, Technology & Knowledge Management Commonwealth of Learning, 1055 West Hastings Street, Suite 1200, Vancouver, BC V6E 2E9, CANADA e-mail: