Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nevermind the Width feel the Quality

Search, discovery and qualification are key value services in the digital world.

Many automatically assume that the search engine omnivores, will eat all before them and we will all use their services. They are currently ploughing what many would regard as vast sums of money but what they see as ‘chump change’ into their programs and are currently scanning and indexing everything and anything they can get their hands on.

It is therefore very interesting to read about the Intute program, which was launched earlier this year by universities and colleges' UK developer JISC. Some believe that Intute is quickly establishing its reputation and potential to be higher education's answer to Google.

Academics, researchers and students can now search for the obscure and access relevant reference material through this powerful new online tool. Intute can help discover books, journals or research materials from university libraries and collections right across the UK and is available on university virtual learning environments (VLEs) and their virtual research environments (VREs). It is also compatible with popular academic platforms such as Moodle and Blackboard. It is also a free open access service.

Importantly, Intute offers quality and relevance. Its training suite is available in 60 subjects and teaches students how to make judgments on quality as well as introducing them to the key resources they should be using. It is very important that the material is not out of date, has good and proven provenance and is of sufficiently high quality and simply listing results with little academic reliance or qualification is not a service.

In addition, Intute's not only provides access to material but also supports students through its virtual training suite, which is available in over 60 subjects and provides users with the skills they need to be able to make judgments about the quality of resources.

It is not difficult to see other specialist areas and communities where reliance and quality count ,but it is difficult to see where the money is going to come from to make it happen.

Many have thought that Secondary Publishers who provide similar services are under threat in the online world but perhaps Intute teaches us that the value of search discovery and qualification is even greater than we ever thought and that merely aggregating everything and offering limited relevance isn’t good enough.


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