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WebQuests - An Introduction

Definition | Attributes | Examples | Creation

A WebQuest Defined

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet. There are at least two levels of WebQuests that should be distinguished from one another.

Short Term WebQuests
The instructional goal of a short term WebQuest is knowledge acquisition and integration, described as Dimension 2 in Marzano's (1992) Dimensions of Thinking model. At the end of a short term WebQuest, a learner will have grappled with a significant amount of new information and made sense of it. A short-term WebQuest is designed to be completed in one to three class periods.

Longer Term WebQuest
The instructional goal of a longer term WebQuest is what Marzano calls Dimension 3: extending and refining knowledge. After completing a longer term WebQuest, a learner would have analyzed a body of knowledge deeply, transformed it in some way, and demonstrated an understanding of the material by creating something that others can respond to, on-line or off-. A longer term WebQuest will typically take between one week and a month in a classroom setting.


Critical Attributes

WebQuests of either short or long duration are deliberately designed to make the best use of a learner's time. There is questionable educational benefit in having learners surfing the net without a clear task in mind, and most schools must ration student connect time severely. To achieve that efficiency and clarity of purpose, WebQuests should contain at least the following parts:
  1. An introduction that sets the stage and provides some background information.
  2. A task that is doable and interesting.
  3. A set of information sources needed to complete the task. Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are embedded in the WebQuest document itself as links pointing to information on the World Wide Web. Information sources might include web documents, experts available via e-mail or realtime conferencing, searchable databases on the net, and books and other documents physically available in the learner's setting. Because pointers to resources are included, the learner is not left to wander through webspace completely adrift.
  4. A description of the process the learners should go through in accomplishing the task. The process should be broken out into clearly described steps.
  5. Some guidance on how to organize the information acquired. This can take the form of guiding questions, or directions to complete organizational frameworks such as timelines, concept maps, or cause-and-effect diagrams as described by Marzano (1988, 1992) and Clarke (1990).
  6. A conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds the learners about what they've learned, and perhaps encourages them to extend the experience into other domains.

Some other non-critical attributes of a WebQuest include these:

  1. WebQuests are most likely to be group activities, although one could imagine solo quests that might be applicable in distance education or library settings.
  2. WebQuests might be enhanced by wrapping motivational elements around the basic structure by giving the learners a role to play (e.g., scientist, detective, reporter), simulated personae to interact with via e-mail, and a scenario to work within (e.g., you've been asked by the Secretary General of the UN to brief him on what's happening in sub-Saharan Africa this week.)
  3. WebQuests can be designed within a single discipline or they can be interdisciplinary. Given that designing effective interdisciplinary instruction is more of a challenge than designing for a single content area, WebQuest creators should probably start with the latter until they are comfortable with the format.

Examples of WebQuests

There are many WebQuests already "out there" just waiting to be used. But before you can select an effective webquest for your classroom, you need to understand the essentials of a "good" webquest:

A WebQuest About WebQuests - Middle and High School - A great teaching tool!
A WebQuest About WebQuests - Elementary School - A great teaching tool!

Below are just a few of the available resources. Take a look around and get comfortable. While it is possible to create your own online WebQuest, it is also much easier (and less time consuming) to just use one that is already made. Remember, you can always tell your kids not to do a certain task or to complete an additional task. Or, looking at the already available WebQuests may give you ideas for your own.

Search for Webquests - A great site by Bernie Dodge that allows you to search by keyword or subject.
BestWebQuests.com - A great collection compiled by Tom March
WebQuests from Teachersfirst

Don't forget: You can also do a search for a WebQuest on a particular subject.


Create Your Own WebQuest

Before you create your own WebQuest you will need some basic knowledge regarding Webpage Design. You should also review some basic design concepts for WebQuests. You can do this at the following links:

Building Blocks of a WebQuest - Each Critical Attribute is described fully.
The WebQuest Design Process - Step-by-step guide to designing your own WebQuest.
Creating a WebQuest: It's Easier Than You Think - A nice essay with links about reasons for and way to create a WebQuest.
WebQuest Creation - Helpful hints to keep in mind
WebQuest Templates - Download free templates that are available for you to manipulate and make your own.
WebQuest Design Patterns - More free templates that cut creation time.
Little Things That Make a Big Difference - Important details of refinement

Remember, you can also create a simple paper-based WebQuest, but direct your students to particular Internet sites. This saves you the trouble of determining if a resource a student uses is accurate and it also saves the student the hassle of finding appropriate websites. You direct his/her learning.

Information for this webpage from the following website:
The WebQuest Page at San Diego State University

~ Special thanks to Bernie Dodge, the guru of WebQuests. ~