Features of a SharePoint 2010 Learning Platform- The power of search for learning (2 of 3)

August 5, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: e-learning, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010 

In the last post we started to cover the elements of search which have the potential to impact on learning. You can pick up that post from here if you missed it. As well as different ways of refining searches today I wanted to look at federated search and the ability to instantly review search queries and results within the browser.

Federated Search

SharePoint 2007 contained federated search but this has seen improvements within SharePoint 2010. The key premise is the ability to search others sources beyond resources living within your SharePoint. This has the potential to be a major application within education as the ability to bring in search results from search engines and sites like Wikipedia and Youtube will allow students to complete research from multiple sources all from within SharePoint. From a collaborative perspective it also allows searches to be performed across multiple SharePoint sites so that federations of schools can share their data quickly and easily. External databases can also be searched so that many of the administrative elements of a school can be enhanced by the ability to use SharePoint as a central search point.


Image from http://www.scolab.ch/kat/technologie/sharepoint-2007/page/12

Search Suggestions

As well as federated search students will benefit from the ‘Google type’ experience of suggestions. These come in two forms with the pre query suggestions as you are typing and the  ’did you mean’ responses when returning a search result. Pre-query suggestions are based on previous searches so the more SharePoint is used the more suggestions appear in a similar way to Google. The ‘did you mean’ suggestions are based on the content in the indexing and although some might argue that this aids students too much it more closely reflects the web world they live in.

Pre-query suggestions

Post query 'did you mean' suggestions

SharePoint Best Practices Posts, Day 4 of 10. The Power of Search with Federated Searches.

Guest post by Dave Coleman- Network Manager Twynham School

One of the sessions from The Best Practices Conference was titled “Implementing a search infrastructure – Do’s, Don’ts and considerations” presented by Daniel Wessels. The aim of the session was to show the power of the search UI in SharePoint. It is often overlooked as a major tool in SharePoint and this is because of a lack of awareness of federated search and how to configure the search options within it.

At Twynham we went through the pain last year of putting on the infrastructure updates for SharePoint which enabled us to utilize Federated Search  (it is essential that you get this update from here) and we have also recently configured this update at The British School of the Netherlands and shown them the possibilities of using it in an educational establishment. We have witnessed an explosion in the use of YouTube videos as a teaching resource and this very much brings the whole search experience into one location rather than searching your local SharePoint and then switching tabs to use your favourite Internet search engine to locate resources outside the school.

An example of federated search

In the session Daniel talked about an organisation that has managed to come up with a solution that enabled them to search their Exchange mail boxes as well and this for me would make my search experience complete. This is now very high on my wish list for Office 14 and is something that we will be feeding back through the Office 14 TAP programme that Twynham School is part of. This feature would be fantastic as I am sure we have all spent time trying to think where/when we saw a particular document and whether it was a SharePoint team site, file share or attached to a mail but can never find it without checking all these locations.

The focus of my previous post covered our plans to retire our file servers and although we can index file shares and display the results in SharePoint the limitations of file shares are clear. The failure to be able to index your Exchange mailbox and present the results of that search along with the MOSS search, internet and Youtube results is the final hurdle in creating the perfect search. In case you want to research Federated Search further here are some additional resources:

  1. Andy Dawson’s blog from August 1st
  2. MSDN article giving an overview of Federated Search
  3. Brenda Carter’s article on Federated Search for geographical locations