New service helps students pinpoint search for open online courses

Einztein's library includes more than 2,000 complete online courses.
Einztein's library includes more than 2,000 complete online courses.

Sifting through archives of open online course material could soon become easier. A new public beta version of a web-based college course library aims to help students find open curriculum 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 a library with more than 2,000 complete online courses grouped into more than 30 categories, according to a May 25 company announcement.

Einztein’s library, approved of and curated by scholars and educational experts, features a search engine that helps students and educators drill down to exactly 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 online lectures are often difficult to navigate, and students struggle to find the next in a series of lessons from the same professor in the same course, education-technology experts have said.

Einztein officials said the site designed its 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.”

A student or faculty member searching for online history videos and lectures on the Einzstein site can click the “History” tab in the list of available subject areas, then whittle down their search by clicking on a college or university name. Clicking on Stanford University will bring students to a page of common history courses from Stanford, including “Ben Franklin and the World of Enlightenment,” “Historical Jesus,” and “The Modern Freedom Struggle,” among a host of others in the university’s history lessons.

An Einztein user also can click on the type of educational material they’re looking for: video, audio, or documents. The company–which takes online course submissions that will be reviewed by Einztein’s scholars–said on its site that it would release more online tools for students later this year.

Einztein’s beta site launches four months after an annual report tracking the latest trends in educational technology focused on open content–a trend buoyed by MIT’s Open Courseware Initiative and the Open Knowledge Foundation, among others.