Editorial Pick 2015: New Google –like search technology is curbing course dropouts

Using Ultimate Course Search

Using UCS is much like using Google Search, only targeted for students.

First, students are given a web link to UCS, and presented with an authentication screen for login. Once the system has verified the student’s authenticity, the student is asked to select their institution (since UCS debuted last year and is still considered a prototype, only students at Montclair State University part of the beta study have access). Once an institution is selected, the student then chooses their course.

For example, say a student chose his/her course on Career Counseling. The student would then type in their desired keyword—for instance, “community college”—then select either the “Slides/Video” tab or “Textbook” tab to narrow the multimedia search.

If the student chose “Textbook,” search results would present a scroll-down list of hyperlinked references in one book or multiple books where the keyword was mentioned. Clicking on one of the hyperlinks on the left-hand side of the page, the student would then have a scroll-able box to the right, showing the scanned online pages of the book where the reference is made.

Search results under Textbook. (Click for a larger view)

“Because of copyright agreements with textbook publishers, we can currently only provide a scroll-through of around 5 pages before and after where the specific reference is made within the text,” said Hardik Dasadia, software development intern at ADP NJIT and NJIT MS graduate student. “The text pages are also watermarked for security and inhibit copy and pasting. But there is a print option for students.”

If, however, a student chooses the “Slides/Video” tab after entering the keyword, presentation slides, as well as any video presentations mentioning the keyword, are listed. Presentation slides are also listed in order of relevancy.

Search results under Slides/Video. (Click for a larger view)

“We determine relevancy of information by how many times the keyword term or phrase is mentioned, as well as where the term is mentioned,” noted Dasadia. “For example, if the term is within the title, it counts for more in the system. It’s a numerical statistic called TF-IDF, or Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency, and it’s the same statistic used by Google.”

(Next page: Is it helping learning?)