Despite a dread of returning to homework, I had a good experience taking the Mastering Web Searching online course through University of Toronto’s iSchool Institute (no that is not an Apple library school). Two coworkers completed it a few years ago and found it helpful so my manager asked me to take it as well.
The instructor, Gwen Harris, was helpful and active. She responded to all postings with thoughtful and constructive comments, usually within a day or two. She seemed to be constantly revising the course materials; very important for this subject. The first time I tried this course Gwen contacted me when I started falling behind and kindly helped me defer the course to a less busy time. She also writes a blog, Internet News, about developments in web searching.
My fourteen fellow students were from all over Canada, plus one from Australia. Most of us were library staff or researchers, plus one woman improving her research skills before retiring to write. It was interesting to learn from others’ searches, especially when a student shared tricks from his journalism background.
The course lasts seven weeks and is offered twice per year. The next one starts in April and costs $435.00. I spent about six hours per week on it, plus two weeks near the end were heavier. We weren’t graded but students who completed all assignments, paid an extra $50.00, and passed an online exam received the Professional Learning Certificate in Web Search Strategies. We posted work and comments to an online bulletin board. This course usually has a live online chat session as well, but unfortunately it was cancelled this time due to events beyond the instructor’s control. Each week’s reading included links to further resources if one had time and interest to go further. The readings featured video and audio clips as well as text, which added variety and appealed to different learning styles.
I did learn web searching techniques in library tech classes a few years ago, but enough has changed since then and my work involves so much web searching that this course was valuable. Also, this course focused only on searching methods and tools so it was more in-depth. A month after finishing the course I’ve already used its lessons several times.