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Comparing OER Repositories Part 2 - Basic Economic Video Lectures

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Our last Comparing OER Repositories post focused on finding interactive materials related to chemistry. The results were mixed. The different searches revealed different breadths and depths of results, but no one stood out far above the others as the best option. With this post, we are going to run a similar series of tests, looking for thorough and extensive libraries, finding resources at college level (not just K-12), making sure that resources are reviewed. To get a sense of what’s available and where to find it, we will write a series of posts combing through four different OER repositories – OER Commons, Khan Academy, Connexions, and FREE – looking for three very different sets of material and evaluate the results as well as ease of use.

1)      Interactive materials for chemistry students reviewing volume-related concepts
2)      Video lectures on introductory economic concepts
3)      English grammar and style exercises that faculty can use to evaluate and target students’ specific writing issues

This post is focused on the second challenge, finding video lectures to teach and reinforce introductory economic concepts.

OER Commons:
Since OER Commons basic search feature is pretty user friendly, I once again went ahead and simply searched “introduction economics” in the search bar, and then limited the results to “Post-secondary.” These criteria turn up 118 results, scattered between all six of OER Commons’ subject areas. From the results, it’s clear why they fall into so many different subject areas: some are introductions to business-focused economics, some relate to economics and policy, some to environmental economics, some to statistical methods, and many more. While this breadth of material is a good sign, I will narrow the results material tagged as “Business,” since we are looking for that specific area, and narrowing the search with those parameters still returns a solid fifty-five results. The materials are from a number of sources, including major academic institutions such as MIT OpenCourseWare, Utah State University OpenCourseWare, California Institute of Technology and other OER builders and curators like Khan Academy. However, once you narrow the Material Type to “Video lectures,” the twenty-two results are almost entirely from Khan Academy.


Khan Academy:
Our last search of OER Commons would suggest that Khan Academy is probably the right place to look for video lectures on economic concepts. Given that Khan Academy’s main vehicle for material is the video lecture, that result makes sense. Since we know more or less what we’re looking for, instead of conducting a search I scrolled into the “Browse Our Library” section looking for videos on economics. However, under the “Science & Economics” section there are at least three subcategories that might house the material we’re looking for – finance and capital markets, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. Microeconomics, for example, is subtitled “Topics covered in a traditional college level introductory microeconomics course” and includes a sizable number of video lectures on each topic (“Supply, demand and market equilibrium” for example includes fourteen videos). Comparing these results to the Khan Academy videos turned up by OER Commons, I realize that the videos OER Commons pulled from Khan Academy are not, in fact, introductory economic concepts. Instead, they are videos like “Futures Introduction,” “Introduction to Compound Interest,” and “Currency Exchange Introduction.” Between OER Commons and Khan Academy, it seems like a user is better off going straight to the source, and searching Khan Academy directly. Even if the search engine isn’t as advanced, the results are better.


A search for “introduction economics” in Connexions immediately yields 565 results, several of which are obviously not on target. The downside of Connexions, based on the last two searches we’ve tried to use it for alone, is that it doesn’t have much capacity for compound searches, which makes it difficult to narrow down the sizable collection to return the results you really need. Adding the term “post-secondary” to this search causes the results to veer completely off topic, focusing on education-related content instead of economics. Adding “college” has a similar effect. Browsing through specific collections seems to provide slightly better results, but obviously this requires us to know which collections to browse through. And of course, there’s no way to limit our results to video content. Given the relative ease with which we found materials using Khan Academy and OER Commons for this search, it looks like using Connexions for this particular task is the wrong way to go.


The new beta edition of FREE isn’t quite up to this search yet, but the old version (which is easily accessed, until the beta version is ready to go). Conveniently, the old version of FREE lists Economics as one of the topics under Business & Work in the U.S. History Topics category. However, while the newer version indexes from other sites, like Khan Academy, the old version of FREE includes exclusively material from federal agencies. As a result, most of the materials aren’t exactly introductory. Instead, they deal with real life examples such as current challenges of globalization, the structure of the Federal Reserve, and ongoing business and trade information. They aren’t quite video lectures; more likely, instructors might want to integrate some of the material into examples and practice problems.


Conclusions: This round of tests has a clear winner, Khan Academy. Khan Academy is the only one of these indexing sites which is devoted entirely to video lectures, and given its focus on STEM subjects and economics, it is an obvious choice for students looking to self-teach about economics or instructors looking to integrate video lectures to reinforce concepts taught in class.