George Mason University Launches Search Engine for Open Source Textbooks
George Mason University (GMU), in collaboration with Deep Web Technologies (DWT), has just launched Mason OER Metafinder. Wikipedia explains that OERs, open educational resources, are “freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.”
Mason’s OER Metafinder is the brainchild of Wally Grotophorst, Associate University Librarian for Digital Programs and Systems at George Mason University. Grotophorst explains the motivation behind collaborating with DWT to bring his idea to fru
What we want to do is help faculty identify open resources that they can adopt for the courses–and thereby save the students some money and still provide quality instruction. To support that desire, I had the idea of developing a search engine that would go across the various OER sources and help a curious faculty member quickly see just what sort of things might be available.
Grotophorst also noted:
We believe so much in OER that we’re giving small stipends to faculty who want to produce open texts (which we’ll publish through our Mason Publishing imprint). And, the Office of the Provost is also encouraging faculty to adopt OER texts.
Mason OER Metafinder supports the vision of the Mason Publishing Group, which aims to make textbooks more affordable. Their web page on Open and Affordable Education Resources explains their vision:
At Mason, we want to make your courses accessible to all students. One way to do that is to reduce the costs of the textbooks and other educational materials you use—and University Libraries can help. We offer support for reducing the cost of textbooks and for making library-licensed e-content available to your students. We’re also ready to help you discover, use or even develop and publish your own open educational resources.
Mason OER Metafinder searches fifteen of the leading OER repositories with a single query. Users can perform broad queries across all sources or they can search for terms in full record, title, or author(s). They can also specify a date range and narrow their searches to a specific date range.
A full record search for “calculus” identifies over 322,000 resources and displays the 623 most relevant ones. Results are clustered by topic, author, source, document format, and document type, making it easy to drill down to explore results of a particular type.
GMU is a long-time customer of DWT. GMU built Mason OER Metafinder using DWT’s “Search Builder” technology, where customers can create a search engine with custom search fields and sources.
My niece just started her freshman year at UC Davis. She spent $500 on textbooks. Her parents sure hope the OER movement continues to grow!