New service helps users search for open online courses

SiteofWeek060210Sifting through archives of open online course material soon could become easier: A new public beta version of a web-based college course library aims to help students and faculty find open curriculum content with a search function designed to narrow their hunt for video and audio lectures.

Einztein, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., launched the beta version of its library with more than 2,000 complete online courses grouped into more than 30 categories, according to a May 25 announcement.

Einztein’s library, curated by scholars and educational experts, features a search engine that helps students and educators drill down to the course they’re searching for, doing the “heavy lifting of cataloguing and indexing the courses into a searchable library,” according to the announcement.

The online library’s users can sort their search by tags, media type, subject matter, and course provider, among other criteria. Students also can see course ratings on the Einztein site.

Web sites featuring hundreds or thousands of free online lectures are often difficult to navigate, and students can struggle to find the next in a series of lessons from the same professor in the same course, ed-tech experts have said.

Einztein officials said they designed their search engine for finding complete courses because even ubiquitous search engines like Google have their shortcomings.

“Search engines have inherent limitations when it comes to filtering content and discovering useful academic courses, and these shortcomings aren’t being adequately addressed elsewhere,” Einztein CEO Marco Masoni said in a statement. “This is why we’ve taken up the task of applying our team’s academic expertise to exclusively selecting courses that meet a quality threshold based on what learners are looking for when they initiate an online search.”

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