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.


  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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 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!

  • 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 or sharing such a great article and reputable sources! In this day and age of Googling, everyone feels they have all the answers at their finger tips. Like you stated, there is a lot of fake news out there and going to a reliable source is becoming more and more difficult for those that are less informed. I have experience with and I use the with my current students once in a while. It offers them credible and reliable information. Starting my T&D journey, I learning more about and I have found a lot of valuable information on I am glad I ran across this article for I have other sites I can access for more knowledge in the field.

  • I agree that people rely heavily on Google for information versus taking time to conduct a complete research. I remember a few weeks ago I asked my 16 year old son about a school subject that he was having difficulty with and his response was, “I’ll just Google it.” So clearly gone are the days where you spent half the day in the library conducting research on the targeted subject.
    I do believe the internet can be a wealth of information but you must know if your sources are reliable.

  • Learning on the internet has gotten a little out of hand to the degree where people are even diagnosing illnesses themselves on the internet. Anyone can build a website and put information on the internet, it’s up to us to ensure the information is accurate before taking it at face value.

  • I think that this is an important aspect of training to point out and be honest about. It’s critical to provide what’s in it for the learner to maintain their trust and loyalty to reputable training functions as mentioned in the article. As well as allow the learners to embrace what they think they know versus what is validated real information from external websites. I usually allow the experience of the learners and then challenge them or shape them along the way so that we reach a common ground of effectiveness. I like how it shows to provide external pieces of technology like use of and Tedtalks in conjunction with training to allow different attributes of learning and resonate with all learning styles. T&D should not be left in the dark and it’s time to break the status quo, we have to adapt to the new way of learning.

  • Jennifer Costello

    Quality info written concisely. Thank you @KathleenIverson

  • Interesting article. My daughters use the internet to find answers to their homework assignments. The internet allows people to instantly get answers to their questions or concerns. People need to use caution when searching for information and choose reputable sites. Thank you for providing great resources and including important questions one should ask themselves before using a site as their source.

  • I think the key is flexibility when dealing with the demand of the “I want it now” attitude of today. This comes with the style, implementation, and delivery methods of the training or knowledge being offered. I’ve hopes that over the next 5yrs online training programs will become more malleable and there will be education behind them to help users navigate through the layers of information to find those that truly bring value to the scene.

  • Kathy this is a well written and informative article, thank you for sharing all of this ! I loved the integration of “If you can’t beat them, join them” in this generation and age it is almost impossible to ignore the heavy desire of self gratification at a fast pace. I believe social media, including other forms of entertainment such as Tiktock, or what used to be vine have conditioned the younger generations to have a shorter attention span. There desire is to get a result, and get it fast- now this doesn’t apply to all younger kids, but for the vast majority you can surely tell that they are looking for the fast way out, equipping them with the right tools to adapt to their needs is a great idea.

  • Jordan Feinberg

    Thank you so much for writing this article and a great read. I get most of my information in my new position from Google as I do not have a formal training program in my current position as it is newly added to the organization. I think the most important thing you mentioned is making sure the information is from a source that is reliable and credible. I tend to stick to sources such as SHRM but am excited to expand my horizons and research others you have shared! Thank you.

  • Insightful article and accurate! Having search giants like Google provides a plethora of materials for learning; from YouTube videos of how to change oil in your car to how to prepare for an interview. Yet the instant gratification of knowledge in our fingertips may not necessarily be accurate. It’s imperative to critically think about the information we receive and conduct further research if necessary. Thank you for sharing this article, which addresses the importance of having accurate knowledge / being well informed AND providing reliable resources for all readers to utilize.

  • Cynthia V. Guerrero-Burgos

    Dr. Iverson – I think now more than ever educating learners to find reliable sources is very important. Along with the coronavirus pandemic came another which is a pandemic of inaccurate information. So, I think it’s important that we understand, as trainers, that new generations are eager to learn, but they also have access to all kinds of information. Leading, guiding and coaching them to reliable sources is the key.

  • I like training my employees on the differences which I have saw through out my tenure as a boss.

  • Professor Iverson! This is an incredibly well-written article! All students can relate. Especially during this difficult time with the outbreak. Seems like when things get harder and more intense technology steps up and acts as a credible substitute replacement to help students succeed. When i found out about E-Learning during the Fall Semester at Roosevelt, i asked myself why am i pursuing this and not waiting until we return back to the classrooms as normal. However i took the chance and i am gaining more insight than ever on material i was worried about since i cannot ask questions physically. The resources as the saying goes is at our disposal and now i can 100% that its true!

    • I agree this is as relevant now as ever. Fortunately I am familiar with using online resources so the switch to remote classes was not that difficult. I have also appreciated the incorporation of even more information through TED talks, for example, to obtain an even better educational experience.

  • Jenny Lemens Seale

    Nother great article by the esteemed Dr. Iverson! Great info — I had no idea that Google had a scholar subdomain. I will check that out!
    Thank you!

  • I agree it’s much easier to google information that you need, but people need to be careful what they are reading, and like you said fake news versus real news, what to believe and what not to believe. The sources you provided are a great resource to use as well! Thank you!

  • Learning and gathering information has certainly changed since the times you needed to pull out an encyclopedia. I still remember the set of Encyclopedia Britanica books that sat on the shelf in my mom’s office. I can’t agree more about how important it is to identify the source of the material that is being shared. Is this person an expert? Or have that referenced it so that I can be assured it is valid information? I think it can be quite hard to decipher between actual information and marketing schemes as well. This was a great article and I am going to keep those learning resources handy!

  • Well I guess I have a new way to describe myself- an autodidactic learner. Although I am guilty of “googling” everything I think it ultimately stems from being a knowledge seeker. And part of being a knowledge seeker is knowing how to question what you find. Ultimately you really have to pick through information on the internet with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s reputable. As an educator, I don’t think the value of teaching and learning from experts will every truly go out of style, but the delivery should be more accessible to keep up with the instant gratification that the internet brings.

  • Another insightful article Professor Iverson. I learned a new word by reading this. It is hard to avoid using the internet to search for information. Through technology, we have the world at our fingertips. In addition to using our phones, we can use A.I. to help with our searches. I find myself asking Alexa and Siri questions throughout the day.

  • This is something that has leaked into the workplace as well. Many of the people I have interviewed use Google as their answer for troubleshooting any problem they encounter. It is very useful, but also seems to have created a workforce that comes in with less raw skills.

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