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Improve Your Results with Google’s Advanced Power Searching MOOC

A magnifying glass over shag carpet

At ProfHacker, we’re big fans of all things Google. We like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and even have a soft spot for Google Hangouts, the video chat tool that includes document sharing and editing. Google does so much for us, it is sometimes hard to remember that it all started with its eponymous search tool. (Of course, Google doesn’t really do anything for us; as Amy pointed out last year when Google’s new privacy policy went into effect, we are not Google’s customers so much as its products. Siva Vaidhyanathan has a few things to say about the Googlization of Everything as well.)

Now, you might think that there’s not a lot that you need to know about searching with Google. It more or less does what you want it to: find what you’re looking for on the Internet. But then again, I’m betting that ProfHacker readers know a thing or two more about searching than the average undergrad student. The use of quotation marks, for instance, to search for a specific phrase is invaluable. And if you’ve ever come across a site with a bad internal search tool (as is the case with many universities), you might have found a lot to marvel at in the “site:” command. (In short, put your search terms and follow it with the domain you want searched, e.g., “croxall site:chronicle.com“. [Bonus tip: Set up site searches you use frequently as Text Expander snippets! --@JBJ])

It turns out that Google is pretty concerned with helping people use its tools more effectively and information literacy in general. This is why they created “Google Search Education,” which George covered in two posts last year about teaching students to search and a follow-up on the same. But starting today there’s even more to learn about searching on Google. Today, Google launches its own version of a MOOC, or massively open online course, on Advanced Power Searching. Registration is—of course—free, and according to the site, you will be able to complete the course at your own pace and on your own time. The course will be structured around particular challenges that will require Google searches. For example, this teaser video asks you to find the name of the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, the name of a traffic flow invention that he patented, the patent number, and an image of the device.

By the end of the course, you should have a bevy of new skills: know how to use various search operators (including the AROUND operator, that I don’t know anything about), have the ability to filter content by Creative Commons license, set Google Alerts, and make the most of Google Trends. If you complete the different assignments in the course by February 8, you’ll receive a certificate. Woot?

If you’re still warming up to MOOCs, a subject that Douglas H. Fisher covered this past November, this Google experience might be just the opportunity to try one on for size. If you want to know more about searching but don’t think you’re ready for “advanced” power searching, you could check out last year’s course on plain ol’  ”power searching.” I’ve never had the time to participate in a MOOC before, so this is going to be my first exploration, and I hope to report back in a few weeks about what I’ve learned through my experience.

What are your favorite power searching tips? Let us know in the comments!

(Spoiler: Joseph Strauss, Overhead Crossing Signal, 1,967,380, and here.)

EDITED: Moved the spoiler lower on the page.

Lead image: Magnifying glass / Ivy Dawned / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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