The Internet is the largest source of information in the world. Search engines help people navigate the huge space of available data in order to acquire new skills and knowledge. In this paper, we present an in-depth analysis of sessions in which people explicitly search for new knowledge on the Web based on the log files of a popular search engine. We investigate within-session and cross-session developments of expertise, focusing on how the language and search behavior of a user on a topic evolves over time. In this way, we identify those sessions and page visits that appear to significantly boost the learning process. Our experiments demonstrate a strong connection between clicks and several metrics related to expertise. Based on models of the user and their specific context, we present a method capable of automatically predicting, with good accuracy, which clicks will lead to enhanced learning. Our findings provide insight into how search engines might better help users learn as they search.
This work has been accepted for publication at the 7th ACM Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) in New York City.