Oct 02, 2007 by
Information Technology Editorial Board
Learn the Net is a tutorial on using the internet for research, working with conferencing, web files, e-business, and we pupblishing. Specifically, this site is a tutorial on library research using boolean operators. This site explains and gives examples of advanced techniques for effective use of WWW search engines.
Type of Material:
For beginners in web research, this is a useful course in conjunction with other tutorials. Supplement a lecture, Prepare a lecture, Assign for concept reinforcement.
Internet connection and browser
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Use of the following to return selective search results: Boolean operators, Phrase, date, field, and media searche. To instruct in the use of boolean operators in research on the web (although this also applies to library searches).
Target Student Population:
College, High School, Graduate School, general population.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
WWW and search engine familiarity.
Evaluation and Observation
Material is current, useful, and, in general, valid. It is clearly presented. Very clear explanations; the author obviously has experience and is enthusiastic about teaching this subject.
Though many search engines work in the ways described, there is considerable variability. Instructions, or even suggestions, on how to check for the refinements available in a particular search engine would be helpful. There are so many advertisements and popout messages that it is challenging to stay focused.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Although libraries in universities and community colleges offer tutorials on web research, they may concentrate more on acamdemic research. This site is geared more to the public use (broader range of consumers). The explanations are short and to the point. The tutorial is straightforward and the example shows that the author approaches the topic with humor (so it is eaiser to learn. There should be more examples, though, specifically with other search engines. Nice screenshots with clearly identified areas pertaining to each step. Material is central to effective search engine use. It is well organized and clearly presented. Practical examples are provided for each topic. Links are provided to a few major search engines.
There is no interactivity. The material would benefit from exercises for the user to try. Since even major search engines vary in the search options, new search engine users are likely to be frustrated when trying these techniques. The lecturer may want to prepare examples from one or two specific search engines. They may wish to recommend that students start by getting to know the options and syntax in one of the major engines. It would also be helpful for a lecturer to demonstrate how to find the features of a given search engine -- often available through help or advanced help link. The amount of advertising is very distructing on the general site; I am not sure if frames make for a better naviagtion on a tutorial, however, it is more of a personal preference. More to the point, the site does not seem to have been updated in a year.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Easy to use other pages in the site; nice short pages with relevant and well chosen images. This is text-only material; there are no technical issues.
The material is relatively short (5 print pages) and no navigation is provided. It is not essential, an introductory statement of covered search engine features could be included. If desired, features could be linked to their location in the material. A link to a chart that compares features on major engines no longer goes to that page. Also the author mentions but doesn't link to instructions on how to use the various search engines. There does not seem to be any way to escape the tutorial and to return to the main site. Click on a commerical by accident (that is possible) and you are lost or your computer freezes. The main concern is too many links and advertisement pop ups that can distruct from the tutorial. The material should be updated once a year.
Other Issues and Comments:
Please see above; in addition, the font is very small (the sidebar with chapters).