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Webquests 101

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Do you ever use case scenarios, discovery, inquiry-based learning, problem solving, or group work activities? Do you find textbooks, maps, and other print resources outdate quickly? Do you find that there is a wealth of up-to-the-minute information on the Web? Do you want students to creatively solve real-world current authentic problems? Have you ever considered webquests?

Text of Webquests 101

  • Do you ever use case scenarios, discovery, inquiry-based learning, problem solving, or group work activities? Do you find textbooks, maps, and other print resources outdate quickly? Do you find that there is a wealth of up-to-the-minute information on the Web? Do you want students to creatively solve real-world current authentic problems? Have you ever considered webquests?




  • A webquest is a constructivist and inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. In 1995, Tom March and Bernie Dodge, of San Diego State University, developed the webquest. Students work in groups with roles to solve a real world problem using information from pre-selected websites. Webquests reinforce critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration (Yang, Tzuo, & Komara, 2011). There are six key components to a webquest:


    In the Introduction, the professor sets the stage or the context of the real-world problem and the activity to engage the students. The Task explains what the students must accomplish by the end of the quest, and the Process describes how the students will complete the activity. A list of websites appears in the Resources page. There is an Evaluation rubric for each member, for the group, and for the task. Finally, in the Conclusion students reflect on the quest (Dodge, 2007) (Star, 2011).


    ExamplesUse your imagination. What could your students discover in a webquest? What would be an appropriate webquest for your discipline? Only you know what would be authentic to your field of study, your curriculum, and your students. To get started, consider these ideas:

    Visual ArtsClassify periods of artRe-create a radio playMake a mural or mosaicCreate an interior design

    Health & Community StudiesConduct a career plan analysisWrite a briefing noteCreate a public service announcementDesign an emergency plan


  • Science & TechnologyClassify materials or methodsPredict a technological trendSolve a forensic mysteryCreate an urban planning design

    Business AdministrationWrite a product proposalConduct a mock trialCreate an infomercialDesign a vacation itinerary

    Humanities & Social SciencesMake a time capsuleSolve an anthropological mysteryMake a historical documentaryCreate a literary adaptation

    MeritsBefore choosing a webquest to teach a topic or task, consider the purpose of the activity. Are you teaching something procedural or factual? Are you teaching something current and open-ended? Webquests work best for teaching critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. The sign of a good webquest is when students have different solutions to the same problem (San Diego, 2009a) (San Diego, 2009b).

    Inquiry. When students learn by doing through active, intentional, authentic, real world, applied, collaborative, and learner-centred activities, we see grades, retention, and engagement go up. These types of activities are all a part of constructivist learning - connecting past and present learning experiences through application and reflection rather than memorization. One facet of constructivist learning is inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning includes problem-based learning, case studies, field work, and project-based learning. Webquests are a relatively new form of inquiry-based learning that incorporate gathering, summarizing, synthesizing, and evaluating (Yang, Tzuo, & Komara, 2011, p.21) information found on the Web to solve a real-world problem.

    Higher Order Thinking. Webquests engage students with an authentic real-world problem to solve. This encourages students to think critically and creatively. They build problem solving skills and collaboration skills. As students investigate a solution to the problem, come to consensus on the issue, and/or create the solution, they develop higher order


  • thinking skills. Also, as students surf the Web, they develop information literacy skills (Dodge, 2007) (Yang, Tzuo, & Komara, 2011).

    Group Work. One of the keys to webquests is group work. Each student should have an authentic role (Glasser, 1998) within the group to complete the webquest task. Additionally, each member receives an evaluation as does the group and the task. For students, who struggle with large groups, having a smaller individual duty, within the larger task of the group, can alleviate anxiety. Note that students will go through the five stages of group development: forming, norming, storming, performing, and adjourning (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977).

    ChallengesSome topics and tasks are ill-suited for webquests. While a scavenger hunt activity might be a fun way to find facts on the Web, a webquest is much more than just a long list of web addresses on a page. In the true spirit of a webquest, topics and tasks should be open-ended, and maximize the currency of the web. An inspiring webquest improves and informs learning by encouraging inquiry, collaboration, and information literacy. When students come up with unique solutions, you know that you have a good webquest (San Diego, 2009b).

    Inappropriate Topic. According to Dodge, some topics are ill-suited for webquests. Any single-faceted topic that lacks multiple viewpoints is a poor choice for a webquest. Facts that are well-covered in the textbook make for a weak webquest. Procedures that are better taught in a demonstration also make hollow webquests. A good webquest should be open-ended and maximize the currency of the Web (2009b).

    Inauthentic Task. Dodge also specifies that some tasks are unsuitable for a webquest. The task should be authentic to the real-world rather than things typically done in school. Essays and quizzes demonstrate recall but lack the genuineness of what students will do in their future jobs. Tasks that involve know, tell, and remember are low on the webquest taxonomy. A good webquest has bona fide roles for students to play in their genuine and contemporary task (2009b).

    Instructional DesignUse a backwards design approach. First, start with your learning outcomes. Second, create your assessments. Third, plan your instructional activities. Finally, choose a technology to enhance the lesson.

    Design. Consider your curriculum; look carefully at your accreditation standards, graduate attributes, program learning outcomes, course learning outcomes, and lesson learning


  • outcomes. Will a webquest fulfill the learning outcomes? How will you evaluate what the students learn on a webquest? What technologies will you and your students need to learn in order to go on the webquest? Will a webquest enhance the learning experience?

    Develop. Browse the Internet or textbook providers for sponsored webquests. NASA has a large collection of webquests about astronomy and aeronautics. An exemplary NASAQuest is the Future Flight Design complete with video, career sheets, and resources for K-16. One of the major textbook providers, McGraw-Hill, has webquests that accompany their publications such as Cyber-Shopping. Find webquests by subject, grade, and language on QuestGarden.

    March and Dodge have compiled some great resources to help you create a webquest. First, March has a tool for generating topics and research questions to guide a webquest: Topic-o-rama (2009). Start with an idea and rephrase it as a research question; pose answers to the question to create the webquest task and process. According to Dodge, there are 12 types of equally good tasks beyond simple retelling: compilation, mystery, journalistic, design, creative product, consensus building, persuasion, self-knowledge, analytical, judgement, and scientific (2002); he also suggests using the verbs decide, design, create, predict, or judge (San Diego 2009b).

    Alternatively, create your own webquest from real-world websites. Any educator can create their own webquest such as Clarissa Labors Bones and the Badge. To create your own webquest, you will need to start planning your webquest early on in your course development. You may want to partner with other colleagues or departments to create something really innovative; you may even want to collaborate with community partners. Campus Pack also has a Webquest Template.

    Deliver. Decide what students will do before, during, and after the webquest. Before the webquest, you may preview and review vocabulary through a crossword puzzle; concepts through a mind mapping activity; or demonstrations through a lab experiment. On the webquest, you may have tasks, processes, roles, websites, videos, podcasts, and career profiles. After the webquest, you may require that students perform a mock trial, present a product, or produce a design after their webquest. The webquest should be authentic, active, and applied.

    Plan how your students will explore a webquest. You may want to use a sponsored webquest. Likewise, you may want to create your own webquest using hyperlinks. Alternatively, you may want students to create their own webquest to share with the class in a virtual fair. On the other hand, students could review various webquests and suggest


  • adaptations. Consider whether you want to create a short webquest that may take one class or a longer webquest that may take several classes?

    TechnologyIn keeping with the truest form of a webquest, we present it as a website. However, it could be a simple print or electronic document. To create a web-based webquest, we can use the original template at WebQuest.Org. The Campus Pack Content tool has a Webquest template with the six components of a webquest already built in. Alternatively, we an use Microsoft Word if we save the file as a webpage, Adobe DreamWeaver; a wiki, or even a content file in the content editor in the learning manag

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