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Using SharePoint Search in Education and Schools: Part 1

Posted on by A Pearce

SharePoint is being used more and more in education with schools implementing the product but one of the common things I see it that schools don’t use the full capability of the product.  I’ve had many conversation about SharePoint and that there aren’t many people out there that know everything about the product.  With there both a developer and IT Pro story, SharePoint its bigger than you think.

One of the big feature that really isn’t used in the education space is search.  Search is a great tool and everyone uses either Bing or Google to find information on the internet.

In this series of blog posts we’re going to take a look at how we can use search within your school.

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With SharePoint search we can tell it to search multiple locations in and outside of your SharePoint farm.  Within SharePoint you can search file names and the file content, the content of a webpage or a wiki page.  If you blog in your environment, while searching, it will show the content and the categories.  With SharePoint Search you can search for anything within your farm.

We can also configure SharePoint Search to search other location and these are:

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File Servers

On average a school will have at least 500GB of data stored on their file servers for personal storage as well as shared areas.  Some schools will have other shared areas for curriculum use or an admin/office area.  All this data can be stored in many areas across a network and searching for a bit of content can become very difficult.

Once configured correctly while searching in SharePoint it can locate files within your shared area and show you a link to file for you open it.

Websites/Intranet

Within your school you most likely to have old websites such as your old intranet site or if you are using another Virtual Learning Environment you will have content stored in there.  These sites will have valuable information which can then be found through the search engine/search centre.

We can also configure search to include external websites within your search results.  This can include your schools website, your schools blog site or other website on the internet.

Moodle

In recent months I have a been trying to integrate Moodle and Search in different ways.  In this scenario and the right configuration of both environments will be able to search content such as courses, discussion forums and content within documents.

moodle

What we use to Search

When we search in SharePoint we can do this from many areas across the site.

On each page you will be able to search the site you are in and the search panel is located in the top right of the site but this won’t search everything for you.  As you can see in the image below you are only searching within the site you are in.

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Microsoft have also created a site template that is just for search called the Search Centre.

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With the Search Centre you can search anywhere search is configured and your username has permission to. 

Understanding the search crawler

Through out this series of blog posts I’m going to mention the Search Crawler and its a good idea if I talk about it briefly.

When we configure search to look at different locations we are configuring the search crawler.  For the search to know where things are it needs to crawl that location.  In other words for you to be able to search for a document on your SharePoint farm it needs to know its there and when the search crawler runs it will look at the file and place the location in the search database. 

The crawler is what search’s the location for text and documents.

Look out for the next blog post in the new year as the schools return from their holidays.

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