OK, here's where we stand on making Google Scholar (aka Schoogle) work much better for distance students. Ross Singer from Georgia Tech has modified a bookmarklet for Google Scholar that works in Firefox 1.0, Mozilla 1.73 (according to my testing), and IE 6.0. His bookmarklet furthers the work of Peter Binkley (U of Alberta) and Art Rhyno (U of Windsor).
In a nutshell, here's what the bookmarklet does. You conduct a search using Google Scholar. Now you click your Google Scholar OpenURL / Proxy bookmarklet and watch the screen change; in effect become localized based on your institutional affiliation. Every result in Google Scholar now has an icon of your choosing, which when clicked will fire up your institution's Open URL link resolver (SFX in all the tested instances so far) and allow it to direct you to the most appropriate copy of the referenced item, rather than allowing Google Scholar to dictate what you have access to (pretty much nothing if you're not sitting on a university campus, probably). In addition to calling the Open URL link resolver, it also incorporates your institution's proxy server, making the whole thing work from off campus as well.
Areas for improvement: It's a pain to customize for each institution. Oh, it can be done, but it's not nearly as easy as it needs to be. We need to have a "build a custom bookmarklet" form. We need to have a page where I can enter my institution's proxy info and Open URL link resolver info and then create a bookmarklet that includes that information. As an added benefit, this would allow users who have multiple affiliations to have a bookmarklet for each affiliation, thus allowing them to easily check for access according to each of those affiliations.
(As an aside, maybe each link resolver window that pops up should have a reminder that Google Scholar isn't necessarily the best place to be searching for a given topic, and should provide a link back to the home library's list of databases)
And this whole bookmarklet thing, while really useful and exciting, still places too much emphasis on the end user. We power users will use it, but I still maintain that the average distance student (or any student for that matter) will not take the time. This is of course in no way a knock on Ross, Peter or Art; they've made an interesting product much more useful. This is a knock on Google's door. Google still needs to make all this work from their front door. Until that happens, this tool will bring more anguish than pleasure to the distance student.
Can't wait to see what next week brings! (besides crappy weather here in Calgary - sorry, couldn't resist ;-)