Retrieval of educational resources from the Web: a comparison between Google and online educational repositories

Carlo De Medio, Carla Limongelli, Alessandro Marani, Davide Taibi

The retrieval and composition of educational material are topics that attract many studies from the field of Information Retrieval and Artificial Intelligence.
The Web is gradually gaining popularity among teachers and students as a source of learning resources. This transition is, however, facing scepticism from some scholars in the field of education.
The main concern is about the quality and reliability of the teaching on the Web. While online educational repositories are explicitly built for educational purposes by competent teachers, web pages are designed and created for offering different services, not only education.
In this study, we analyse if the Internet is a good source of teaching material compared to the currently available repositories in education.
Using a collection of 50 queries related to educational topics, we compare how many useful resources for learning a teacher can retrieve in Google and in three popular repositories.
The results are very insightful and in favour of Google supported by the t-tests.
For most of the queries, Google retrieves a larger number of useful web pages than the repositories (p < .01), and no queries resulted in zero useful items.
Instead, the repositories struggle to find even one relevant material for many queries.
This study is clear evidence that, even though the repositories offer a richer description of the learning resources through metadata, it is time to undertake more research towards the retrieval of web pages for educational applications.