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.
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.
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.
A long running debate within our team at Twynham has taken place about the most important aspect of a SharePoint Learning Platform. Dave Coleman has always argued that search is the key attribute which makes the learning experience vastly improved within SharePoint. Although I did not agree with Dave that search was key with SharePoint 2007 it has made major steps forward in SharePoint 2010 and in many ways is now comparable with the same search experience learners will find with the Internet.
The diagram below shows a breakdown of the different types of search you can get with SharePoint 2010.
Faceted Search in SharePoint 2010
One of the biggest challenges with schools is the vast amount of information which can end up sitting on the Learning Platform. With SharePoint 2010 search results which bring up a large number of responses now come with a refinement panel which allows you to filter results by site, author, modified data and tag. You can instantly see how a teacher or student will use this to sift through information and find the most relevant resource for them. An example of the refinement panel can be seen below.
Complex keyword search
Of course you want learners to refine the search results but perhaps more importantly you want them to be able to refine their search terms. This is now possible in SharePoint 2010 with the ability for example to use AND, NOT and OR to further specify what you are looking for. To use a History example you may choose a search of ‘Hitler AND Mussolini’ if you wanted to focus on the relationship of the two dictators. This would likely bring up the Pact of Steel or Munich Conference where the two leaders are referenced together. You could also choose ‘Hitler NOT Mussolini’ if you wanted to look at Nazi activity unrelated to the Italian relationship. Finally if you wanted to generally search for the two dictators for research but it did not matter which one (for example if you were looking in general at fascist European leaders) you could search ‘Hitler OR Mussolini’. As Agnes Molnar showed in her recent article on EndUser SharePoint it is possible to then undertake more complex search as you can see below.
Having read around the topic I blogged about yesterday I thought it might be a good idea to furnish you with some resources to look further into the impact of Fast search on the next version of SharePoint. Erica Toelle has speculated on the possible direction of the new development through twitter. She thinks that the next SharePoint search engine will still be based on SharePoint search with FAST on top. If this is the case then FAST will be probably be the base in 15. You can find Erica on twitter here.
If you want to get up to speed with FAST and the impact on MOSS then take a look at this presentation here from last years PDC. Finally Alexander Meijers has written a couple of great blog posts on the topic. His blog in response to the presentation above is here. He has also blogged after the announcement last week and this is really useful. If you want his concise view on the differences between Microsoft Search Server and Microsoft Fast ESP take a look here. Happy reading.