Student SearchThe problem with students using Google is not that the search giant is incapable of retrieving useful educational content. It’s that finding that content using simple search terms is a difficult art to master.

But, a coalition of education-oriented companies and organizations aims to make it easier to find useful educational content amid the detritus of the Web. The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and Creative Commons, the leaders of the group, announced on June  7th that they are forming a working group to come up with more detailed criteria that could eventually be incorporated into the search interfaces for Google, Bing, and Yahoo!

The project, which has funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was prompted by a joint move by those major search engines to help users do more structured Web searches. The idea behind the new education partnership is to determine a common “framework” for narrowing search results for education content, says Charlene Gaynor, CEO of the Association of Education Publishers — by subject area, or source type, or content type, or any number of possible criteria. The goal is also to persuade publishers of educational content, whether open-access or proprietary, to use a corresponding set of metatags to help the search engines categorize their content more easily.

“Searching is easy, finding is hard, and finding relevant is very hard,” said Michael Johnson, an AEP board member who will be serving on a working group devoted to developing the framework over the next six months or so. “The purpose of this effort is to provide a series of tags and tools that allows the search engines to more discretely and accurately expose the educational resources to the people who need it,” said Johnson. The project is aimed at benefiting the publishers of educational content as much as students, he said. By giving publishers better flares and students better binoculars, Johnson and his colleagues hope to up their chances of finding one another in the wilderness of the Web.

“The tricky part is what are going to be the discriminating values by which we’re going to decide the values,” said Gaynor, the AEP head. That is the job of the working group, which will be overseen by Creative Commons. Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, said that while the project is in the very early stages, it could portend a future wherein students and educators can recommend useful or reliable sites and share them with others in a community. But Casserly cautions against putting the cart too far ahead of the horse. “The first phase,” she says, “is getting the vocabulary right so we can get the search right.”


One Response to “Improving Web Searches for Students”

  1. Amy says:

    Great idea – its so difficult to get the right student audience especially when it comes to corporate students! We offer courses for students in China and UK/US but also for companies wishing to learn business Chinese language. We need a simple solution to attract these people.

Leave a Reply to Amy



© 2011