What are WebQuests?

Webquests are student-centered, inquiry-oriented lessons that challenge students to explore the Internet for information to use in completing a task or answering a question. WebQuests are designed to use the students' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support students' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Webquests help ensure that students stay on task while online. The model was developed in early 1995 at San Diego State University by Bernie Dodge with Tom March.

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of WebQuests?

The use of webquests definitely applies to the constructivist learning theory because when using this educational tool, learners are analyzing a body of knowledge, synthesizing it, and then demonstrating this knowledge. The teacher provides guidance on the thinking process they want students to follow and students are exposed to a broad range of information, examples, and opinions; enabling them to construct their own meaning which connects with their prior knowledge and experiences.

What are the Benefits of Using WebQuests?

One of the benefits of WebQuests is that they provide opportunities for cooperative and collaborative learning.
Yesnet lists the following reasons/benefits why teachers use WebQuests:
1. To begin a unit as an anticipatory set;
2. To conclude a unit as a summation;
3. As a collaborative activity in which students create a product (fostering cooperative learning);
4. To teach students how to be independent thinkers;
5. To increase competency in the use of technology; and6. As a motivational techniques to keep students on task.

What are the Challenges of Using WebQuests?

Some of the challenges teachers may face when trying to use WebQuests is limited computer resources in the school. This activity really works best if each student can use his or her own computer, but students can also work in pairs or in threes if the number of computers in your school is limited.
Another challenge is finding time to make creative and functional WebQuests. But you can use WebQuests that others have developed or work on creating new ones while your students are already engaged in a WebQuest. There is a lot of up front time you will need to devote to creating a WebQuest, but the can easily be reused without needing much time.
The ever-changing nature of the Internet is another challenge you may face when using WebQuests. You may rely on a website one day, and the next day find that the link is broken or it is no longer up and running. This problem can be avoided by "whacking" the websites you wish to use, meaning you can download them to a hard drive.
Lastly, a challenge to using WebQuests is that your students may not be accustomed to using this tool. Make sure you provide clearn directions, guidance during the activity, and give them time to adjust to this new educational tool.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of WebQuests?

Teachers who incorporate WebQuests into their curriculum should follow these easy steps:
1. Give an introduction with background information to stimulate interest.
2. Ask a question or give a task and describe what the learner will do.
3. Provide some direction by giving links to resources.
4. Provide step-by-step guidance.
5. Outline your expectations and means of evaluation through a rubric or scoring guide.
6. Conclude by summarizing learning goals.

Teachers/Instructors should also go to http://projects.edtech.sandi.net/staffdev/buildingblocks/p-index.htm to get a web tutorial of the building blocks of a WebQuest.

What is the Current State of the Research on WebQuests?

There are many graduate students world wide conducting thesis and dissertation research on the effectiveness of WebQuests. Google Scholar tracks many kinds of publications ranging from research journals to practitioner magazines and online papers. There are over 3000 articles cited that use the word WebQuest.

A search of the ProQuest dissertation database reveals a number of studies conducted on WebQuests. Two examples and their abstracts are detailed below.

1. A case study of the use of an inquiry-based instructional strategy with rural minority at-risk, middle grade students
Swindell, James Wilson, Jr., Ph.D., Mississippi State University, 2006, 183 pages

Abstract: This qualitative case study examined the influence that an inquiry-oriented technology-rich classroom environment had on eight economically disadvantaged African-American middle-grade males categorized as at-risk for academic failure. The technology tools used were WebQuest activities designed to focus students' learning on using information rather than looking for it. Two additional significant effects of the WebQuest activities were to develop and support students' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Dodge, 1997).
This study was conducted at a rural high school (grades 7-12) with a 100% African-American student population located in a low socio-economic, predominantly African-American community in Northeast Mississippi. The study suggests that providing a structured, active, hands-on, and technology-rich cooperative classroom environment for at-risk African-American males produce these positive results: demonstrated leadership roles with their peers, improved behavior, self-motivation to learn, and academic achievement

2. Computer use in context: Looking through the lens of language socialization
Talamantes, Mona Loya, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, 2006, 228 pages;

Abstract: The purpose of this study was three fold: first, to understand the meaning particular students made of computer use as demonstrated in peer-to-peer communicative practices, while using a WebQuest Internet activity; second, to understand how local and nonlocal forms of social organization and culture related to the students' meaning construction in this context; and third, to understand how technology mediated the process.
I employed the lens of language socialization to analyze the specifics of the actions taken by, and the meaning-perspectives held by, the students in order to understand what sense they made of this computer application and how the WebQuest activity, as well as the computer itself, mediated student social action and learning as they worked together on the computer.
Three themes became evident as students worked on the WebQuest: negotiation of task, negotiation of knowledge, and off task behavior. Findings showed that within each of these themes of interaction, language served as a medium of socialization to norms, preferences, and expectations that reflected local and nonlocal forms of social organization and culture. Through this socialization, continuity and coherence were maintained, in the face-to-face encounters between the students as well as in the larger contexts of school and society. That is to say, students actions reaffirmed and sustained established forms of social interaction that reflected prior socialization in other contexts. Students competently communicated and interpreted the meaning indexed in the language usage of their group, as their acts and stances instantiated particular social activities and identities in order to achieve particular social ends. The technology mediated this process by providing a context in which the students could enact learned forms of social interaction, and by providing the means through which they could demonstrate and construct their social and academic competence within the group.
Recommendations based on the findings of this study are provided regarding considerations for the make-up of student groups, computer set up, and considerations for WebQuest use specifically.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using WebQuests?

Instructors can use WebQuests for almost any unit or topic. Check out http://www.yesnet.yk.ca/schools/wes/webquest_collection.html to get some ideas of WebQuests on themes ranging from Ancient Egypt to Australian Animals. WebQuests can also be used in every subject: math, science, social studies, English...you name it!

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using WebQuests?

Instructors should go to this website http://webquest.sdsu.edu/webquestrubric.html to view a rubric designed in part by the creator of webquests himself!

Teachers can use the following template found at www.eduscapes.com to begin the process of creating their own WebQuest.
WebQuest Template: Your Title
Throughout the template you will find text in the color red. Replace this text with the information for your unit. Remove any other text that does not apply to your project.
Your introduction goes here. Provide a catchy introduction that will motivate, set the stage, and gain the attention of your learners. It may also provide some background information. Consider a quote, statistic, scenario, or problem. Create a motivating introduction.
Task: Provide a clear, concise, active statement of the activity. The task should be something doable and interesting. For example, it could be a series of questions, summary to be created, problem to be solved, position to be debated, or creative work. It should require thinking and doing. Use the
Taxomony of Tasks for ideas. Create a couple sentences stating the task.
Process and Resources
  1. What process will students follow to complete the task? Will you provide them with a list of activities, step-by-step instructions, or a timeline? Create a step-by-step description of what you expect students to do during the project.
  2. What resources will students need to complete the task? Select specific, appropriate resources such as web documents, experts available via Internet, searchable net databases, books and other documents, and real objects. Create a list of resources.
Project Guidelines
Use the following guidelines for completing your project:
  • Do you have any other advice for students? Do they need to know how to organize information? Will you give them guiding questions, directions to complete, checklists, timelines, concept maps, cause-effect diagrams, or action plan guidelines? How will students be evaluated? Will you provide checklists and other evaluation tools? Brainstorm advice that might be helpful for students in completing the project.
How will the project conclude? Will you remind learners about what they've learned or encourage learners to extend the experience? Describe an interesting culminating activity that allows students to reflect on the experience and share their skills and knowledge with others.
This template is based on
Bernie Dodge's WebQuest ideas.