I’ve enrolled on a course with Google about ‘power searching’ and it’s the end of the first week. Google call it a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) and I suppose it is in name, but there are ways in which I think it does not qualify. The course is well-designed in an understated way – no bells and whistles, just a simple format which goes (so far):
- Lessons which include three or four videos followed by an activity.
- A forum supports the process and offers extension activities.
- Tonight there is a google+ hangout to hear the ‘experts’ and pose questions and there are assignments along the way.
I think this works pretty well, but it does not meet my expectations of a MOOC. Here’s why. The model is ‘expert- student’ and the process is tightly controlled, as you would expect, by Google. None of the usual glorious chaos of a MOOC and the feeling of collegiality and participation.
From the outset I found my own participation was inhibited, knowing it was run by the mighty Google. I wonder what happens to my pretest results? Is my data being collected for other purposes? Is this all a cunning marketing ploy? Or is it just a very clever way for Google to understand their users better? Does it matter?
Whatever the back-story, the approach is a clever one because so far I am getting a lot from the videos. I’ve known for a long time that I should improve my searching habits, but somehow have never got round to it. I suspect that most of the information that we are getting on the course is readily available if I choose to look for it – but the ‘course’ format has a different appeal. Enrolling on a time-limited course like this concentrates the mind and, even though I am not interacting much (at all, to be honest) with others, there is some comfort and motivation in knowing I am part of a larger cohort of learners going through the same things at the same time.
So what have I learned? So far, I’ve really got to grips with drilling down my search results and using the tools that are there but I have never touched. It’s odd how I can use a page every day of my life and simply not notice some of the options that are there. This cognitive screening-out is something I do to survive on the web without getting lost down black holes. Sometimes it helps to have someone give you a big arrow to show what you have missed all these years.
If, like me, you have been a lazy Google searcher, this video opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing. You can still sign up for the course at http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/