1 University of Jyväskylä (FINLAND)
2 European Schoolnet (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 627-635
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Open Educational Resources(OER) of today are most commonly accessible through Learning Object Repositories (LORs) or data bases allowing teachers to search by the metadata records (e.g., information on contents, target group, legal aspects) attached to the resources. As these initiatives get a lot of research attention from the technology point of view, the voice of the end users is rarely heard: Why do we need repositories when teachers can find resources to their lessons by the efficient search engines like Google? Which is the best search mechanism for teachers?

Our study looked into the opinions of teachers (n=44) around Europe regarding additional benefits of using repositories to search for educational content. We organized a series of workshops with a mixed method approach in order to monitor the teachers’ behavior when searching preparing lesson plans. As our sample of teachers was limited, in addition to gathering data by questionnaires, we complemented the findings by interviewing the teachers in order to get an explanatory perspective on teachers’ views.

Our study shows that less than 40% of teachers use repositories regularly whereas most teachers use Google every day. The study used Learning Resource Exchange (LRE) as an example portal for comparison. LRE is a portal which harvests resources from other repositories. It currently holds the records of over 39 000 learning objects and 90 000 assets. LRE was selected as it uses many of current top edge functionalities for such a repository, including a standards compliant application profile, automatic vocabulary banks and efficient search mechanisms, but also user-centered features like rating, tagging and commenting.

Our findings include that most teachers are used to searching via keywords, but especially those teachers who are not highly skilled in ICT, were happy to be offered an option to Google, where search results were a) always educational and b) clearly licensed. Teachers also said that by using a repository “They didn’t get lost” in the unlimited pages that Internet provides, saving them time. Repositories allow teachers to search by subject and by certain age group of students. These features were appreciated by the teachers as it made them find resources they required faster. When using just the keyword search, search engines cannot be beaten. Country comparisons show that teachers who knew about the LRE before the beginning of the tests found resources using the LRE quicker than with Google. On the other hand, being able to find the resources quicker did not translate into actually being convinced about the resources quality, neither in Google nor the LRE. In the study we also found out that many features of repositories are relatively unknown by teachers and therefore they don’t fully see the benefits of using them. Also because the teachers are used to using Google, it provides them resources for their purposes much faster than a repository like LRE. In our study it became clear that repository functionalities are not enough to challenge search engines’ power to reach millions of resources with one search.

We conclude that Learning Object Repositories provide additional value especially to teachers with low skills in ICT. However, the only way to really challenge search engines for users’ attention, repositories need to provide highly relevant content which the users can trust to be high quality.
Open educational resources, Learning Object Repositories, Learning Resource Exchange, Search engines, Google, Teachers.