Training in the age of Google

By: Kathleen Iverson, Ph.D.

The internet has created a generation of autodidactic learners–those who would rather “Google it” than rely on formal learning. Their favorite teachers are YouTube, Buzzfeed, Facebook, Quora, and Reddit; sites that pop up when you enter the search term, “How do I . . .” followed by almost anything from “find a job,” “deal with a difficult boss,” or an all-time favorite, “choose a career?”

Self-directed learning (SDL) has many advantages: it empowers us to take control of our learning with web-based tools and expand our knowledge, skills, and abilities quickly and often effectively. We can readily share our own knowledge and expertise with others and join “communities of practice” around common areas of interest. But there is a dark side to SDL: the web is filled with fake news, misinformation, and “expert” opinions from those who really have no expertise. How do we as learning professionals compete with the superficial “tips and tricks” delivered up in an instant by Google?

One way to do this is to focus on good training: that which is relevant to the learner, objectives-based, engaging, and offers both practice and feedback. Learners are naturally motivated by training that meets their educational needs.

Of course, if you can’t beat them, join them: educate learners on credible resources for information, education, and research on the web and incorporate such resources into your training programs either as pre work or post work.

Here are reputable information and educational sources on the web to share with learners and to also use as resources for your own learning needs:

Videos and Education

How to Videos: Lynda  or now, LinkedIn Learning offers thousands of videos and courses on topics mostly related to technology, business, and design. Many local libraries offer a free subscription to cardholders.

Online Courses: Coursera has both free and cost-based courses taught by top educators on a variety of topics.

Ted Talks: this site needs no introduction, but you may not know about TedEd a site devoted primarily to k-12 students, but some can apply to any age (i.e. How to Spot a Liar) and include learning resources.


Science Daily is a database of the latest research offered up in brief, easy-to-read summaries. If you need a quick fact, it’s a more reputable alternative to Reddit or Buzzfeed.

Google Scholar is a search tool for scholarly literature. Yes, it’s still Google, but the information you access is from published books and journals. It providesabstracts for most citations and many complete articles are available if you log into your University library account.

Harvard Business Review is a rich resource for articles and ideas on leadership, management, technology, and learning.

Pew is a nonpartisan think tank that disperses an array of information about current world topics.

T & D Industry-specific

Here are just a few to get you started:

Associate for Talent Development (ATD) offers extensive information about training, workplace, learning, and talent development. Some content is free, some free with registration, and some requires membership.

E-learning: There are many great blogs and sites for e-learning.

I realize that I have barely scratched the surface of reputable web-based learning resources. To add to this list, consider the following questions you should ask about all sources:

  • Who wrote it? Does this person have credentials in the field?
  • Are there references or sources?
  • Who published it?
  • How current is it?

Please add a comment to share additional resources that you find helpful or that would benefit workplace learners.



  • This is a great article. I am always using Google for answers to everyday questions in life. I prefer to use it to find other reputable websites that may be of interest to my topic of research. I agree about teaching others to use it to do the same thing instead of just using the Google answer or the first link they click on after googling. I know we can’t get everyone on the bandwagon for it, we can persuade students a nd learners hopefully. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing this! It’s so important in this day and age to make sure the information we read is from a credible source. I teach students how to research for Congressional debate and the bulk of our work focuses on research. We started analyzing different pieces of research from several sites and realized that we can use a media bias chart (available by google image search!) to see what kind of political biases are reflected in the articles we read. We also try to keep research relevant to our current reality, so we put a cap on keeping all statistics from the last 3-5 years, max.

    A growing annoyance has been seeing people who gain their “facts” from the comment section of a facebook post and using that to spread information that isn’t necessarily true.

    Think tanks like Cato, Brookings, and Heritage are pretty solid, credible sources!

  • I completely agree! In the legal professional development world, we rely heavily on news specific to law practice, legal trends, and law firm/in-house counsel updates. It was enormously helpful to me, when starting out as a new professional, to have guidance from my manager on what the reputable news and insight website were to turn to, as well as who the accredited and respected professional organizations & research groups were to follow. We do so much knowledge sharing in our niche of the training world that knowing where and where not to turn is critical. I’ve told every new person I have trained since I joined the field which sites to bookmark, which to avoid, and where to go for the kind of updates we look for. So I would add that, in addition to learning-specific sites and sources, knowing what the industry-specific news & updates sites are is helpful as well.

  • Thank you for writing on this topic!
    I had a conversation with a co-worker earlier this week and she asked why would I invest in paying for another degree when the internet has the same information. I added while the internet does have a lot of information I would like to learn where the information comes from. How do I know the source is reliable?
    I went on to share that within my program I am getting the basis from where everything started. By doing this, I understand where the information is coming and I can further my knowledge and curiosity by searching the internet.

    I can use the resources in the future to learn about new things introduced in the field as I progress.

  • Thank you for this list of reputable sources! When sharing links, I always try to identify if it’s a reputable source, but sometimes it’s hard to discern. Even reputable news sources now-days write clickbaity headlines filled with half-truths to lure readers into opinion pieces stated as fact. It is really hard sometimes to know if the information you are sharing is considered fact or an actual best practice. I think with the learning industry, that a lot of best practices are subjective and that there are so many different variables to training, that training is best delivered as a tailored and customized solution to the specific needs of the targeted audience. I think reading blogs and other articles, even if not one of the top sources in L&D, could provide some creative solutions or an alternative perspective, even if it’s not a widely-accepted best practice. Also, coming from client services, generally best practices are developed through trial and error and a baseline result is first developed before creating benchmarks and KPIs, so it is a very customized approach. We generally lean on our own internal best practices developed from years of working with clients as “best practices” and do not seek information from outside our own experiences.

    Your list is pretty extensive. I suppose for change management you could add Prosci: and generally I like to follow companies on LinkedIn who are leaders in the space and read their thought-pieces. My company recently were part of a Forrester Study for Customer Experience:

    I suppose my question to you is, are there any companies who are considered leaders in the L&D space? I would be interested in seeing that list too and following their thought-leadership.


  • Hi Dr. Iverson,
    What a great informational article about the credibility of sources and the easy of Googling.

    I must admit that it is so easy to Google things for information however; I agree with the fact that everything on the internet is suspect and can be far from the truth. We all think we are the experts, right?

    However, because I work with the youth in middle and high school and I tell them all the time to check their sources and not everything online is the best information. It might be so easy to just Google, Bing, or Yahoo, we owe it to ourselves to make sure the information is credible.

    The list provided by Dr. Iverson is great, and I am a big fan of the Lydia site. However, I would like to add that you can trust .gov, .edu and .org sites as well but you still need to review what sources they use. This is just a good habit to have.


    Gigi Moore

  • I agree. If you can’t beat them join them. We have to have them practice with the tools they will actually use. The most important parts of training remain real practice they can use. The course correction of a trainer facilitating a class can be powerful. That is the one thing this new on-demand resource model can’t support. The trainer has to adapt and pull in tools and reference sources learners can go back to too. One major challenge is including these new tools in the training solutions in order to meet learners where they really are, day in and day out.

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