Search functionality is a critical part of higher education websites due to the diverse audiences that these sites serve. Current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other communities come to these sites to seek a wide range of information. Even with the best navigational scheme, it is a challenge to make all of this information findable, which makes accurate search a huge boost to website effectiveness.

Google Apps adoption in higher education has been steadily climbing (3 million users and counting), and we're really excited to see more and more universities using the Google Search Appliance (GSA) to power high-quality search on their websites. Like, the search appliance can search public pages on a website, but it can also find information in databases, content systems, business applications, and other sources, which opens up a whole range of options for making all kinds of information easily accessible. For example, Illinois State University uses the Google Search Appliance to create a "Course Finder" tool for their current and prospective students. This tool delivers up-to-the minute course information to more than 20,000 students, 1,000 faculty members, and the public at-large. It provides users with a friendly, easy-to-use interface for finding class and schedule data stored on the university's mainframe. Students can easily fine-tune searches to specify departments, time slots, and instructors, all using the familiar Google interface.

When Campus Technology, a leading publication addressing technology trends in universities, invited us to showcase the capabilities of the Google Search Appliance in an upcoming webinar, we immediately turned to our friends at Illinois State to share their great example. We invite you to join us online on Wednesday, January 21st, at 11:00 am PST, to hear Illinois State University talk about their experience with GSA. We'll also be sharing information about Google Apps for higher education, so if you're interested in that front, be sure to mark your calendars as well.