WebQuests were invented in 1995 by Dr. Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University. As the name implies, a WebQuest is a mode of study where information is gathered primarily from sources on the World Wide Web, which students have to browse in order to successfully complete the assignment. However, despite this technologically-advanced approach, Dr. Dodge based the fundamental theories behind WebQuests on the teachings of classic educators John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky.
Parts of a Webquest
A WebQuest has six standard sections - the introduction, task, process, evaluation, conclusion and credits.
- Introduction: The purpose of the introduction is to familiarize the student with the assignment that lies ahead.
- Task: This is what the student is actually expected to do in order to successfully complete the assignment.
- Process: The can also be referred to as the procedure. It is basically the steps the student will follow in fulfilling the task. It is during the process that learners are given the hyperlinks to the material the instructor has assigned to help them in satisfactorily conducting the assignment. Teachers are advised, due to the plethora of information on the web, to choose sources for a WebQuest that is appropriate for the class it is being assigned to. However, these sources should still be of high quality.
- Evaluation: Next is the evaluation. Unlike general evaluations in an educational setting, the ones used in WebQuests are very precise, allowing students to ascertain, through a table format, how they will be judged throughout each stage of the project.
- Conclusion: The conclusion wraps up the entire assignment, reasserting what its primarily purpose was in the first place.
- Credits: And finally there are the credits, which provide even more links and citations on data students may use in their study. And being that this is indeed the World Wide Web, these records can include links to multimedia. In fact instructors are advised to incorporate pictures, video, etc. to make the quest even more interesting.
In addition to the above, WebQuests can also feature other components, like a teacher’s page where the instructor gives his or her take on why they may have chosen the particular assignment or any message he or she wants to impart on the class in general.
Use in education
Dr. Dodge’s goal in creating WebQuests was to present pupils with “authentic problems”. In other words, he theorized that since students of all levels are usually presented with “textbook problems that aren’t part of the real world”, they become disengaged. However, if assignments are instead based on “real problems with real data about real people”, they will be more vested in completing them.
WebQuests are also built around a model of open discourse amongst students, or as Dr. Dodge puts it “social interaction among learners”. He argues that such exchanges create a fruitful educational environment, whereas “learning alone is less effective than learning in groups”. Dr. Dodge also espouses the idea of intentionally inducing “uncertainty and doubt” in pupils via WebQuests. However, this uneasiness is ultimately mitigated by the “support”, some of which will be mentioned later in this text, that the process gives to the student.
Despite these procedures being unusual in a mainstream-educational environment, WebQuests were intentionally designed with a format that would be easy to replicate. According to Dr. Dodge, the ultimate goal of a WebQuest is to create an assignment that has clear procedures and boundaries yet simultaneously encourages freedom of thought and creativity from the student.
There are additional ways in which WebQuests are an innovative approach to learning. For instance, under a normal study model, students are given a topic and then expected to go out and study/learn about it on their own. In other words, they find their own sources of research. In contrast with a WebQuest, students are given hyperlinks to all of the knowledge they will need beforehand.
Moreover, information gathering for WebQuests is internet-based, thus making the overall process less burdensome. However, as Wikipedia points out, it is not to be confused with standard online-research practices. For instance, the emphasis is on the creative analysis of information, not on collecting it, which allows students to instead focus on the finished product.
As alluded to earlier, WebQuests are designed to induce critical thinking as opposed to absorption, memorization and regurgitation of information. As such, Dr. Dodge advises that the minimum level for which WebQuests should be implemented is the third grade (of elementary school).
WebQuests also tend to incorporate role-playing as a learning tool. In other words, as opposed to being asked to study a particular period in time, a student will instead be instructed to put themselves in the shoes of someone who actually existed during that period and to conduct their study from such a disposition. This has been referred to as a “journalistic approach”. However, the purpose of the role play is not to isolate the student into looking at the study from one viewpoint. Rather, as one site puts it, it is to allow “students (to) learn about a topic as part of a larger framework.”
Sometimes a WebQuest will also feature a physical deliverable which the student must produce as part of the project. For instance, if a pupil is asked to take on the role of a baker who lived in the 18th Century, he or she may be asked to actually bake an edible that was common during that period of time. This part of a WebQuest is referred to as a “hook” and is designed to give students additional incentives to learn - or in other words to make the overall assignment more appealing.
It should be noted that if a teacher does decide to implement a WebQuest, it would be advantageous if he or she at least has some basic knowledge of webpage design and perhaps even website publication. However to make this part of WebQuest implementation simpler designers, including Dr. Dodge himself, have made such tools available online with ease-of-use in mind. Our platform provides a free and easy way to create webquests and does not require any knowledge of html programming. Moreover, there are a number of other resources accessible that can assist WebQuest creators develop great WebQuests.
WebQuests are an innovative way to encourage students to learn. Unlike the traditional format of educational assignments, WebQuests give pupils freedom, flexibility and espouse creativity. In other words, the emphasis is taken away from information gathering, and the focus is instead placed on its analysis and the personal perspective of the student. WebQuests may never replace standard-textbook learning as the primary means in which lessons are imparted in schools. But being that they are more technologically-driven and fun, they will likely be utilized by an increasing number of educators going into the future.