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    Using Google Search to find publisher test banks on the...
    question posted December 12, 2012 by Richard E Lillie 
    3572 Views, 2 Comments
    Using Google Search to find publisher test banks on the Internet -- Do your students do this?


    I teach several online courses.  I use timed exams for some of the courses, while others are open-book, research-type exams without time limits.  Sometimes, I use publisher provided test banks as a source of multiple-choice type questions.  I tend to select questions that are rather difficult and not readily found in text material.  In other words, students have to really think in order to answer the questions.

    I'm fully aware that many test banks are readily available via the Internet.  Until recently, this did not bother me too much.  However, this past term, a couple of grad students showed me how to search for specific questions using Google Search.  The students simply copy/pasted a test question into the Google Search line or typed in the question.  The search process quickly opened the test databank for a specific chapter and damn near took students right to the question and suggested answer.

    I'm reasonably savvy when it comes to technology.  However, I did not realize the extent to which test banks and other supposedly restricted publisher-provided support materials were readily available online via Google Search.  To see how pervasive this situation might be, I applied the Google Search technique to several questions from several exams.  Each search result produced the test bank by chapter, question, and answer.

    I've used a variety of techniques to protect exams (both traditional and online formats) and overall course assessment strategies and I've felt pretty comfortable with test results.  However, this latest approach to using Google Search has caused me to rethink how I approach testing in traditional, blended, and online course formats.

    I am interested in your experiences with this issue.  I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

    Rick Lillie (CSU San Bernardino)

    Anonymous Student Comment -- Interesting



    • Robert E Jensen

      "Why 'Hummingbird' – Google's First New Search Algorithm Since 2001 – Is A Huge Deal," by Gerry Brown, Business Insider, October 3, 2013 ---

      Google's new Hummingbird algorithm could create a more even playing field for ‘the long tail’ of website publishers, and help Google to rival Apple Siri in voice search, says Ovum analyst Gerry Brown.

      Last week, Google announced a brand new algorithm for its search engine, called Hummingbird. Although Google often produces updates and enhancements (such as the “Caffeine Update” in 2010, and “Penguin” and “Panda” since), the last time Google introduced a brand new algorithm was 2001, so it is a big change.

      Although Google has not given away many details, it said that Hummingbird is focused on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests. As Internet data volumes explode we increasingly have to type more and more words into Google Search to gain greater accuracy of results. Often we need to conduct multiple searches to find the information we are looking for, which is frustrating and time consuming.

      This is because the Search results we currently receive reflect the matching combination of key words that a search phrase contains, rather than the true meaning of the sentence itself. Search results produced by Hummingbird will reflect the full semantic meaning of longer search phrases, and should in theory produce more accurate results.

      For example Hummingbird will more greatly consider question words like “how” “why”, “where” and “when” in search phrases, in addition to content keywords. Hence Hummingbird moves the emphasis of search from “results” to “answers”.

      Google also has acknowledged that the number of mobile and voice-based searches is increasing. Such voice searches are in natural language, and may not therefore contain the keywords we might finesse on a computer keyboard. These ‘on the fly’ searches are likely to return poor results using a keyword search system.

      The semantic search capabilities of Hummingbird aim to address this need. It should be noted however that the most-used medium for mobile voice-based search is Apple iPhone’s Siri, which uses Yelp and WolframAlpha rather than Google for semantic search. WolframAlpha has had a semantic search capability since 2012, so there is undoubtedly a competitive response angle to the Hummingbird move.

      The future is therefore “conversational search” or “hot wording” as Google refers to it. By this Google means that a user can simply voice prompt the Google search engine by saying "OK, Google". The latter is also the voice catch-phrase used to operate the wearable Google Glass spectacles.

      In a separate move announced by Google in September 2013, the company will seek to accelerate the movement from Google keyword search to Google semantic search. Google will encrypt all future Search results, which means that keywords used by publishers will increasingly produce ‘not provided’ results in Google Analytics.

      This means that publishers will have less idea where the web traffic to their website comes from. An underlying commercial motivation maybe that Google’s premium products will continue to provide some keyword detail, hence encouraging upgrades from free to paid-for Google products.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's search helpers are at


    • Robert E Jensen

      Sci-Hub ---

      Sci-Hub Home Page ---
      For example, enter the search term "Accounting" and then be very patient until 10 pages of hits appears on the screen.

      "The Research Pirates of the Dark Web," by Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic, February 9, 2016 ---

      There’s a battle raging over whether academic research should be free, and it’s overflowing into the dark web.

      Most modern scholarly work remains locked behind paywalls, and unless your computer is on the network of a university with an expensive subscription, you have to pay a fee, often around 30 dollars, to access each paper.

      Many scholars say this system makes publishers rich—Elsevier, a company that controls access to more than 2,000 journals, has a market capitalization about equal to that of Delta Airlines—but does not benefit the academics that conducted the research, or the public at large. Others worry that free academic journals would have a hard time upholding the rigorous standards and peer reviews that the most prestigious paid journals are famous for.

      Some years ago, a university student in Kazakhstan took it upon herself to set free the vast trove of paywalled academic research. That student, Alexandra Elbakyan, developed Sci-Hub, an online tool that allows users to easily download paywalled papers for free.

      . . .

      But the investigation that took down the Silk Road took up countless government resources. It’s unlikely the new Sci-Hub website would attract the same amount of negative attention, so the website is likely safe behind the many layers of encryption that protect sites on the dark web.

      "Online Piracy of Academic Materials Extends to Scholarly Books," by Goldie Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 12, 2016 ---

      University presses have become aware in recent weeks that unauthorized copies of hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of their books are available on pirate websites, and officials are still struggling with how to respond.

      Several press leaders said they wanted to be sure any stance they take against piracy isn’t perceived as an attack on the open-access movement, which is gaining popularity among some academics and librarians. It also appears that few, if any, presses have formally notified their authors that digital copies of their books are available free on an illicit website.

      "Many of these books are our best sellers," said Dean J. Smith, director of Cornell University Press. "This is really painful to a university press."

      The unauthorized copies are available through a site called Library Genesis, which also offers more than a million popular books from commercial publishers.

      The site appears to be a sister site to Sci-Hub, an unauthorized collection of scholarly-journal articles created by Alexandra Elbakyan, a graduate student in Kazakhstan. While the workings of the two sites aren’t exactly clear, several press directors said they believed Sci-Hub is the tool that also powers the Library Genesis database.

      Both sites were ordered shut down last year as a result of a lawsuit filed by a commercial journal publisher, Elsevier.

      Other versions of the sites, which feature instructions in both Russian and English, subsequently reappeared under slightly different web addresses. A kind of manifesto posted on the sites argues that the information in the articles and books should be free from commercial restraints.

      A Dawning Awareness

      The Cornell press publishes about 100 new books a year. Nearly 500 of its titles were listed on the Library Genesis site as of Monday. The site also listed more than 800 books from the Johns Hopkins University Press, nearly 2,000 from Harvard University Press, and more than 4,800 from MIT Press.

      The New Education Landscape

      The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Re:Learning project provides stories and analysis about this change moment for learning. •Sign up for our weekly newsletter •Join the discussion on Facebook •Listen to the podcast

      More than 17,000 items from the biggest of all university presses, Oxford University Press, are on the site (including a book by this reporter), but it could not be immediately determined if that count also tallies some of the 380 journals it publishes.


      "Librarians Find Themselves Caught Between Journal Pirates and Publishers," by Corinne Ruff, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 18, 2016 --- 


      Bob Jensen's Search Helpers ---