For two weeks in July, we ran Power Searching with Google, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) similar to those pioneered by Stanford and MIT. We blended this format with our social and communication tools to create a community learning experience around search. The course covered tips and tricks for Google Search, like using the search box as a calculator, or color filtering to find images.

The course had interactive activities to practice new skills and reinforce learning, and many opportunities to connect with other students using tools such as Google Groups, Moderator and Google+. Two of our search experts, Dan Russell and Matt Cutts, moderated Hangouts on Air, answering dozens of questions from students in the course. There were pre-, mid- and post-class assessments that students were required to pass to receive a certificate of completion. The course content is still available.

We had 155,000 students register for the course, from 196 countries. Of these, 29% of those who completed the first assessment passed the course and received a certificate. What was especially surprising was 96% of the students who completed the course liked the format and would be interested in taking other MOOCs.

This learning format is not new, as anyone who has worked in eLearning over the past 20 years knows. But what makes it different now is the large, global cohort of students who go through the class together. The discussion forums and Google+ streams were very active with students asking and answering questions, and providing additional ideas and content beyond what’s offered by the instructor. This learning interaction enabled by a massive “classroom”, is truly a new experience for students and teachers in an online environment.

Going forward, we will be offering Power Searching with Google again, so if you missed the first opportunity to get your certificate, you’ll have a second chance. Watch here for news about Power Searching as well as some educational ideas that we are exploring.