Educators On Web Usability: Info Disorganized, Hard to Find

Using the grant money provided by the Gates Foundation, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative conducted a survey of educators around the country, soliciting their views on what they see as problems standing in the way of doing their jobs efficiently, and finding out what the LRMI can do to fix them. The LRMI, jointly led by the Association of Educational Publishers and the Creative Commons, seeks to organize the education-related web content, using the currently developing markup language, in order to make the available information easier to parse, access and use. The survey results will guide the future efforts of the project, so it may best meet the needs of its stakeholders.

Of the educators surveyed, more than 7 in 10 (72.6%) said they search for instructional resources on the Internet at least several times a week, with 25.8% stating they search daily. Sixty-six percent of educators said they get many "irrelevant results" and 9 in 10 said they would be more satisfied with Internet searches if search engines offered the ability to filter results by standard instructional criteria such as grade level, subject area, and media type.

Nearly half of publishers of education material said that they weren't satisfied with the visibility their products get on the Internet, with 57% explaining that their customers are experiencing difficulties finding or even learning about their content. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they think the LRMI, when released, would go some way towards solving the issue of visibility and as such, they would implement the new standards in order to improve their discoverability.

The survey responders also agreed that the most helpful way to organize the educational web content would be with top-down topography, where it would be sorted first by content or subject area, then by grade level and finally by standards alignment such as CCS or the states' own educational standards.

"The results of both surveys are clear: the sheer vastness of the Internet makes it increasingly difficult for educators to easily find the resources they need, and publishers are unhappy with the online visibility of their content," said Charlene Gaynor, CEO of AEP. "The LRMI specification will allow all types of learning resources to be tagged to a common framework and facilitate searching with greater accuracy and efficiency for improved learning outcomes."

Currently, the LRMI specifications are being drawn up by the LRMI Technical Working Group, and are open to comment from members of educational community. The survey is one step aimed at soliciting input from those who are expected to use the standards the most. Ultimately, the project heads hope that the specifications will be adopted into, and become the de-facto standards for education content tagging on the web.

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