I have been doing a lot of research lately on UC Berkeley and my web searches have returned some helpful information, but only the basics really: the institutional website, wikipedia entries, local information, etc. And this, of course, all came from page 1 of the 52,800,000 Google results (and I am not even exaggerating).
But I was really trying to get a sense of Berkeley from a educational perspective – what sorts of ideologies do they hold, how cutting edge are they, what are some of the projects going on there? I am sure all of that is on the institutional website but it’s tough to get a true sense of the flavor through that site. And I definitely didn’t find that information in page one of my millions of Google results, and let’s be honest, how many of us ever go past page one? Not me, it’s too intimidating!
Naturally, I also did my search on Scholar®. I got back 25 results and they all were focused around education. Now this is what I am talking about! I learned that Berkeley has begun offering some classes through YouTube and iTunes – very cool, very cutting edge. There are also sample course descriptions and insights into some really exciting projects and more.
I have noticed this a lot with Scholar. I can search for something on Google and peruse page one of my billions of results and find general information, spend time browsing through the results or take some guesses on how to refine my search…or I can simply search on Scholar to find a much more manageable set of resources that are almost all related to education. It makes the web much more relevant and manageable for my needs.
That’s really what Scholar is all about. The whole idea is to enable academic resource storing and sharing among people with the common focus of education…a "validated network", if you will. All Scholar users are instructors, students or staff from educational institutions and therefore you can consider most of the resources on Scholar "vetted". It certainly saves me time and effort in a lot of the research I do everyday.
Now of course, Scholar is based on an architecture of participation. The more people actively use it, the more valuable it becomes. So therefore, sometimes there aren’t many resources for a particular topic I search for. So in those instances, I go back to Google and refine my search and when I finally find a resource, I use the Scholar It! bookmarklet to add it to my Scholar collection with one click and then go on browsing for more. That way I am not only saving those resources, that I did the work to find, for future use, but I am helping to build out Scholar and sharing resources that other people can use and benefit from. Scholar is a very rewarding give take relationship for me.
Now you might be asking why a Senior Manager of Operations at Blackboard is researching Berkeley? Great question. I actually just found out that I was accepted there for graduate school in Information Architecture / Experience Design! Fun exciting stuff, I will definitely keep you posted.