WebQuest: An Inquiry-oriented Approach in Learning
The rise in online learning brings renewed interest in WebQuests. As an authentic, scaffolded, and inquiry-based activity, a WebQuest is an educational superstar. It utilizes essential resources and captures the attention of the students. Not only are students able to reflect on their own learning, but they also develop a richer understanding between topics.
The origins of WebQuest can be traced all the way back to 1995, when Bernie Dodge, a professor at San Diego State University, dreamed of using the newly accessible Internet as a tool in education. He thought that students could research ideas online in order to solve problems by summarizing the information found. WebQuest is treated as “an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet, optionally supplemented with videoconferencing” (Dodge, 1997). He believed that they would need to follow six modules in order for this technological application to be successful: Introduction, Task, Resources, Process, Evaluation, and Conclusion. The instructor will first present the topic (Introduction) while providing details of the activities to be completed by the students (Task). Then, web links will be provided to ensure that all information is accurate and reliable (Resources), and the instructor will list the steps to complete the task successfully (Process). Finally, instructors provide a rubric to evaluate a student’s performance on the task (Evaluation), and the outcomes are summarized after everyone reflects on their learning journey (Conclusion). As March (2004) put it:
A WebQuest is a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of a central, open-ended question, development of individual expertise and participation in a final group process that attempts to transform newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding. The best WebQuests do this in a way that inspires students to see richer thematic relationships, facilitate a contribution to the real world of learning and reflect on their own metacognitive processes (p. 2).
See also: Teaching with Blogs
This process can be lengthy, so Dodge classified WebQuests into two levels: long-term and short-term WebQuests.
Long-term WebQuests can be used for:
- Summative evaluation
- One specific idea within a bigger concept
- In-depth analysis of one topic
- End of unit assessment
A long-term WebQuest is a big project that would usually be assigned towards the end of a unit. The learner should have had the opportunity to thoroughly analyze information and make conclusions on the topic. They will typically demonstrate their understanding with an essay, an assignment, or a creative artifact.
As the name suggests, Short-term WebQuests were meant to be completed in a smaller amount of time. They are used for a brief review of a large amount of information or as an introduction to new topics in class.
Short-term WebQuests can be used for:
- Technology skill building
- Link analysis and reflection
- To introduce a new topic
- To explore a new idea
- Review of anterior knowledge
- Review for an evaluation
See also: Using Wikis in Education
Why should you want to use Webquests? There are three invaluable benefits to implementing a WebQuest in your classroom.
- WebQuests promote collaboration. They are often done in small groups and students must share the responsibility in order to complete the task. Students learn conflict-resolution strategies as well as critical thinking skills, which is currently a key goal of the American state standards in public education.
- WebQuests are versatile. This tool can be used in many ways: as a review, a summative evaluation, or an exploratory activity. Students become more competent at using technology and are motivated to complete the work. WebQuests also eliminate the need for some pre-teaching of skills, as the web links and resources have already been vetted.
- WebQuests can easily be differentiated to support various students. As inclusive classrooms become the norm, the instructor may find that their class consists of students with various levels of exceptionalities. WebQuests can be modified to accommodate basic tasks for some students and expand on the expectations for others.
Building a WebQuest
Section 1 – Introduction
Just as an author would write a juicy introduction to hook their audience, the instructor is attempting to pique the attention of their students with a small paragraph. This is where they would outline the Guiding Question (also known as Essential Question or Big Question) that will direct the course of the WebQuest. One way to pique the interest of the students is by creating a scenario that they must solve, which draws them into the lesson. For example, the instructor might set the scene by stating that the students are now detectives looking to find the author of this mysterious and compelling poetry.
Section 2 – Task
The task is essentially the learning goal that the students are trying to achieve. After the instructor captures their interest in the first section, they outline the task, which is the performance that will guide the entire learning journey. It is important that the instructor clearly describes the expectations for the activities. If the learner is unsure of what the final result should look like, they will not be successful.
Section 3 – Process
This section outlines the steps that the students will take in order to achieve the WebQuest. In order to answer the Guiding Question, learners must research online using the resources supplied by the instructor. This means that the process itself must include clear explanations, steps, and the appropriate tools for them to accomplish the task. Students will not be successful in this step unless the teacher also provides instructions on how to appropriately organize their research.
Section 4 – Evaluation
If the instructor explicitly stated the criteria for the task in section two, there should be no surprises when the students arrive at the evaluation section. The instructor will have already prepared a rubric or a set of standards by which a student’s performance will be marked. Students should be aware if their grade is dependent on a group or an individual performance, and know what needs to be demonstrated in order to meet the standards. Gaps in learning should be clearly outlined, and both the student and the instructor should be aware of the next steps in order to meet the learning goal.
Section 5 – Conclusion
The WebQuest finishes with a conclusion, which offers both the teacher and the learners a chance for reflection. They are able to review the knowledge gained throughout the process and summarize their newfound understanding. It is possible to extend the activity with further questioning, but a simpler option would be to encourage them to make connections to other ideas.
Optional Section – Teacher Page
At the end of the WebQuest, an instructor may choose to add information related to the lesson that may help other teachers implement the same activity. This could include rubrics, possible learning goals, student work, and challenges that came up throughout the learning journey.
See also: How to Use Concept Maps
- Dodge, B. (1997). Some thoughts about WebQuests. https://webquest.org/sdsu/about_webquests.html
- March, T. (2004). What are WebQuests (really)?