Education Aggregator Sites

“How do you trust what you’re reading is quality?”  “When does quality become quality?” These are recurring themes encountered with regard to some of the websites that offer free content. However, aggregator sites gather content of a certain standard or type which may offer an alternative to some of the more traditional ways of peer review or defining quality.

Academic Earth

This is an excellent new educational resource which gathers video lectures from leading Universities such as MIT, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley.  Lectures are free to use and download and there is plan to include social features for users.  As an example:

Private Equity and the Financial Crisis — Yale University lecture by Stephen Schwarzman Co-Founder of Blackstone Group

For a more detailed description on Academic Earth see also Life in the Fast lane’s Academic Earth Open Source Lecture Series.

Science Blogs

This site features bloggers from a wide array of scientific disciplines and only includes those posts which have reached a high academic standard. Launched in January 2006, ScienceBlogs claims to have the largest online community dedicated to science.

Research Blogging

Research Blogging  automatically aggregates only blog posts about peer-reviewed research, many of which appear in Science Blogs and can be recognized by the green tick telling reader they are reading a blog on peer reviewed research.  If you don’t know this site I can highly recommend having a look – topics covered range from Computer Science to Psychology.

YouTube EDU

Newly launched, YouTubeEdu collects all the educational content being uploaded on YouTube by Colleges and Universities.  However, in this case there is no guarantee being made of educational quality and the standards will undoubtedly vary but it is another excellent resource.

Universities providing free content

Although not aggregator sites as such, it is probable that top Universities offering content on a variety of subjects will have reached a certain standard.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in addition to providing OpenCourseWare recently opted to publish their research articles free online (in addition to sending them to journals for publication) in order to give greater access to the university’s scholarship. Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences have also decided on a similar policy.  The Education Portal lists some of the best free online University courses available.
Overall, does content go through as rigorous a review process compared with more traditional routes – maybe, maybe not. There are new ideas like GPeerReview being developed, however, for sites such as Academic Earth, ScienceBlogs, or MIT to be able to continue to draw traffic by virtue of hosting only the best means they must ensure that content meets their standards – much in the same way as happens in the more traditional routes of peer review.

For more information on the role of blogs as institutional educational tools which also tackles the issue of quality control very well see an article published by PLoS Biol: Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy.