Does search need rescue?
In a world awash with vast volumes of information at the click of a mouse, how do we actually learn stuff we need to? Perhaps Google isn't quite the source of all knowledge we take it to be. Recently, the European Commission began investigations into allegations that Google abused its dominance by promoting its own services in search results - services like YouTube, Blogger and Google Maps.
In a recent survey carried out by Brightwave, Google / the power of search was voted the most influential trend from our personal lives that would have the greatest influence on the future of workplace learning. Yet research from Forrester has found that 97% of internet searchers never look beyond the top three results and similar studies show only 5% look beyond the first page. If we add these findings together we have a picture of learning based on information of very limited and questionable provenance.
The fact is that the way Google searches, and on what basis it presents its results, is far from transparent. Broadly speaking, we assume that the results are based on popularity. But would you trust the Sun over the Economist as a source of accurate, impartial knowledge? Hello magazine over Harvard Business Review?
The volume and popularity of information sources do not help us learn efficiently. Far from being a quick way of learning, we actually need to be skilled researchers and spend lots of time to get to accurate and comprehensive sources of learning. Even then we have to trawl though endless dross to get the occasional nugget of knowledge we need. What I really want are the answers to questions that I can trust in a form that's relevant and just the right depth for my purposes. I want knowledge and know-how to help me understand and do things better.
Now, I'm quite prepared to accept that the much maligned 'course' is not always the best way of achieving this. More informal ways of learning might well provide more colour, depth and insight. But time is money. I'm prepared to pay for usable knowledge packaged in a way that makes most efficient use of my time. To do that it needs to be sourced from experts then structured and contextualised in a way that directly meets my needs.
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