How to train a search team – and what does it cost?

Search is a complex field and in order for your team to succeed they will need a range of different skills. What are the options to train a search team – and what can they cost?


OSC created our Think Like a Relevance Engineer (TLRE) training course back in 2018, originally inspired by the book Relevant Search. At the time, most search trainings covered just technical subjects – how to stand up a search engine, index data and search it. This wasn’t enough for us – we wanted to offer training that covered both the business aspects of search relevance (how to collaborate, how to measure search quality) and the technical aspects (how to use the features of Apache Solr and later Elasticsearch to build great search experiences). TLRE was very popular and our public trainings, at that time offered in person, often sold out weeks in advance. We were also the first to offer training on Learning to Rank, following on from TLRE with help on how to use machine learning to re-rank search results. Hundreds of people working on search have taken our training.

Five years later there are now a raft of different options for training your search team which we’ve listed below, with costs where we could find them. It’s been fantastic to see the growth of search training over this period, giving many more options for how you can train a search team.

We’re also pleased to announce a new, self-led option for TLRE and an entirely new training we’ve created on Search Result Quality, going deeper than TLRE on delivering the results users really want.

Not all training is equal

In our opinion, training is best delivered by experts in the field. Some of the providers below are also expert search consultants and we would recommend you consider these courses before the more generic IT training companies, many of which just provide pre-recorded videos. The latter are often much cheaper of course, but you are unlikely to get the same quality of training materials, advice or help.

Search Experts

We’d put the following providers in the ‘expert’ category: ourselves at OpenSource Connections, Cominvent, Sease & Sematext. These companies are specialists in search, so you’ll be trained by people who live and breathe search, know up-to-date information about the technology and can answer questions outside the training material. The trainings may be focused on the provider’s areas of expertise (e.g. at OSC we focus on Search Relevance, Cominvent can train you on Solr Operations).

Costs for these training courses range from $500-$2500 per seat depending on duration and topic and most providers will offer custom training for your team or be able to visit your site if you’re in range of their offices. Courses usually last between 4 hours and 2 days for small groups.

Generic training companies

Companies like Pluralsight, Udemy and Edureka offer training on pretty much anything in IT, from databases to coding to operations. They do offer courses on search topics like Solr or Elasticsearch, these tend to be either online or pre-recorded videos.

The advantage of this option is that it can be a lot cheaper: we’ve seen prices as low as $100 per seat for 4 hours of materials – but “you get what you pay for” applies here.

Vendor training

Several vendors offer training courses, obviously focused on their own technology. Elastic offers courses on Elasticsearch for around $2500 per seat on average. Lucidworks offer training on their Fusion product (actually based on Apache Solr, although that’s seldom mentioned by them these days).

If you are heavily tied to a particular vendor or technology this may be a good option – you’re getting information “from the horse’s mouth” – but there may be some bias, and the training may be a sales channel for the vendor.

Learning platforms

There are now courses on search offered by some of the new learning platforms, for example Co:rise and Sphere. These companies usually employ experts in the field, so you can be trained by industry luminaries like Doug Turnbull, Grant Ingersoll or Daniel Tunkelang. Some of the courses run over several weeks with a combination of self study, recordings and live sessions and you may be in a relatively large trainee group.

Costs are around $800 for a one-off course but there are also subscription models.

Another recent option is a Manning Live Project, a short course where you create an Elasticsearch-backed Search API, created by expert Jettro Coenradie, this costs $60 and linked to several of Manning’s Elasticsearch books including Relevant Search.

What have we missed?

We’re pretty sure this isn’t an exhaustive list – so please do let us know if we’ve missed a great search training option.

A new way to Think Like a Relevance Engineer

At OSC our mission is to Empower Search Teams and training is an important way to do just that – but we needed to scale up how we delivered training.

We have thus spent the last few months creating a new way to take our flagship TLRE course – via the online platform Moodle. This combines prerecorded video from members of the OSC team, slides, labs and quizzes so you make sure you’ve covered all the material. You can see an example lab on the right.

Here’s a sample of the videos in this new training: Daniel Wrigley talking about Ranking and TF/IDF.

When you buy the new course you will also be invited to online meetings with an OSC instructor where you can ask questions about the training (or indeed, other related topics).

Instructor-led sessions will take place every Tuesday 9.30-11.00 am EST. We estimate that going through the course material and the labs will take 8 hours per week.

Our in-person trainings are still available for private classes (for example to train your company’s search team) and cost around $2000 per seat – get in touch if you want this option or would like to discuss a custom training. However our public trainings will now only be available on Moodle – this helps us reach more people with a relatively small training team. We’re offering this option at $750 per seat but we will be discounting the first few courses as an introductory offer.

At the moment we are offering TLRE (Solr) and TLRE (Elasticsearch) on Moodle, but we’re working on Hello Learning to Rank and other trainings – we hope this new platform will let us quickly roll out new trainings. You can see all the ways we can help you train a search team here.

But there’s more!

Beyond Search Relevance: Understanding and Measuring Search Result Quality

Imagine a search for “laptop”. Your search engine, carefully tuned for maximum relevance, returns over 100 candidates, all of which are relevant to that query. How can you rank these results according to other criteria: the laptop the user likes the most, that the business wants to sell, that’s available, in stock and nearby for delivery or collection?

Search result quality is more than just relevance. No matter if your search engine is indexing computer hardware, music tracks or internal documents, you need to consider how to put the very best results at the top of the list. Join the OpenSource Connections team for Measuring & Understanding Search Result Quality, a brand new training to be launched at Haystack US 2023, covering ways to understand and measure search result quality, user behaviour analysis and explicit feedback collection, A/B testing and more, complete with hands-on exercises. 

Suitable for relevance engineers, search product owners and search analytics professionals. Attendance at a previous OSC Think Like a Relevance Engineer training is not a prerequisite, but if you have already attended TLRE this will help expand and deepen your knowledge.

This in-person training will be held just after the conference on Thursday 27th April (all day) and Friday 28th April (morning only) and will be offered at a discounted price combined with a ticket to Haystack US. Places are limited to 12 – book your place here.

If you have any questions about how to train a search team – get in touch today.

Image by Training Vectors by Vecteezy