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Developing an Engineering-Education Community Search Engine for Students to Find, Share and Evaluate Learning E-Resources

Dr Tim Bullough | University of Liverpool

Developing an Engineering-Education Community Search Engine for Students to Find, Share and Evaluate Learning E-Resources

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Engineering students and their teachers use a variety of strategies to find useful learning resources on the internet, to a varying level of success. However the use of Google or similar search engines can fail to place the most useful resources of direct relevance to the discipline on the first page or two of results. The resources that are found are often of variable quality, and for the popular formats such as presentations and animations they are not immediately visible. Students complain of having to spend large amounts of their time searching and evaluating websites, and it is becoming increasing difficult for their teachers to do so. For the last eighteen months we have been working with engineering students on a JISC-funded project to develop a Google custom-search engine, Kritikos (kritikos.liv.ac.uk), that allows students to search for learning resources such as videos, animations, presentations, documents and images which are specific to the discipline they are studying, in this case Engineering. The results are displayed visually as a thumbnail gallery, allowing faster judgments as to potential relevance to be made than for text. The really novel and world-leading aspect of the search interface is that it has been designed to incorporate features common to social media sites, allowing students to rate and comment on the resources they have found in terms of their usefulness and relevance to their modules and degree programmes. The traditional focus of e-learning has been solely on metadata (the description of electronic learning resources), whereas Kritikos is giving consideration of users' comments and preferences to enhance their searching and browsing online. This information is saved and shared with other students. Fellow students can also comment on and rate their fellow students' opinions about resources, or add their own thoughts to the growing body of information. In addition to using a community of students to develop this 'TripAdvisor for e-learners', with the rich intelligence produced being accessible to their teachers to inform them of exactly what resources their students use and find the most useful for their learning.