Google has announced their own effort at a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): Become a Google power searcher —Inside Search.
The idea is to become a highly competent Google searcher by taking a six 50-minute classes. Somehow, I doubt that anyone will go from incompetent to competent in that short a time, but fairly good searchers should pick up a trick or two.
Being a good searcher is like being a good programmer—it requires somewhat non-standard ways of thinking. Searching, however, is greatly aided by having a large vocabulary and a store of odd factoids and associations in one’s head, since so much of search skill is tied up in finding good keywords to get to relevant documents.
Unfortunately, the description of the course is a little off-putting. They make it sound like it is an ad for Google products, rather than developing real search skills:
The lessons include interactive activities to practice new skills, and many opportunities to connect with others using Google tools such as Google Groups, Moderator and Google+, including Hangouts on Air, where world-renowned search experts will answer your questions on how search works.
I hope that the course is better designed than that, and that it isn’t just an attempt to get people to use Google’s attempt at social media.
According to the home page for the course,
- Registration is open from June 26, 2012 to July 16, 2012. We recommend that you register before the first class is released on July 10, 2012!
- New classes will become available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday starting on July 10, 2012 and ending on July 19, 2012.
- Course-related activities will end on July 23, 2012.
I’ve registered for the course, and I’ll do the first lesson. If it is too much of an advertisement or requires me to use Google’s social media “tools”, I’ll drop it right there. If it is just a low-level intro to Google searching, I’ll stick with it for a couple of lessons to see if it gets better.
Personally, I suspect that the amount of information they’ll get into 6 50-minute lessons would fit in about 15 pages of text that would take me about 15–20 minutes to read. All the real learning will happen in doing their exercises (just as in math and programming classes—it is the problem solving, not the lectures or textbooks, where the learning happens). I wish that they would provide this “textbook” option, for people like me who hate the slow pace of video lectures. But publishing documentation doesn’t get the free advertisement of blog posts like this one, so I suppose that they know what they are doing from a marketing standpoint, even if it irritates me.