2 Definitions and background
A WebQuest, as defined by Dodge (2001), is an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources found on the Internet. These activities must be based on a compelling topic around which teachers and instructors can build a learning task (Alshumaimeri & Almasri, 2012). The concept of the WebQuest itself was originally designed by Bernie Dodge and Tom Marchin in 1995 in an attempt to effectively integrate the World Wide Web into classrooms (Alshumaimeri & Almasri). The standard structure of a WebQuest includes the introduction, a task, information sources, a description of the process, guidance on how to organize the information, and the conclusion (Kurt, 2012). Typically a collaborative venture, a WebQuest requires students to work in groups, often with particular assigned roles (Allan & Street, 2007). WebQuests can be short-term projects, lasting one to three class periods, or long term, ranging from one week up to one month (Kurt).
When properly designed, a WebQuest affords students an opportunity to complete a task or solve a problem by applying judgment, synthesizing information and eliciting higher-order thinking rather than basic information searching and recall (Gülbahar, Madran & Kaleliolu, 2010). By virtue of being well-structured web-based activities, WebQuests provide teachers with an activity they can adapt to suit the needs of their students and the curriculum outcomes as well (Alshumaimeri & Almasri, 2012). Compared to other traditional instruction methods, teaching with WebQuests allows for students to use and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills on a regular basis (Feng & Hannafin, 2008). The research results of Feng and Hannafin fall in line with Dodge (2001), who concluded that WebQuests foster the students' ability to analyze, integrate, evaluate and solve problems in his research.
Students, by their participation in WebQuests, are able to develop skills in evaluating websites, enabling them to differentiate between what is useful and what is misinformation, which it turn helps develop their critical thinking skills (Perkins & McKnight, 2005). Vidoni and Maddux (2002) observed that "WebQuests challenge students’ intellectual and academic ability rather than Web searching skills” (p. 104). Additionally, WebQuests provide an opportunity for participants to be exposed to wider perspectives of relevant issues, giving students a chance for further discovery (Allan & Street, 2007). By working with WebQuests, students realize that different solutions are possible as a result of the members' research, discussions and conclusions (Gülbahar, Madran, & Kalelioglu, 2010).
Students working in WebQuests are able to participate in meaningful discussions, acquire knowledge in an autonomous and self-regulated way and generate explanations for fellow group members (Zacharia, Xenofontos, & Manoli, 2011). By participating in WebQuests, students' learning abilities can be improved by the allocation of individual roles to students, requiring them to share various results within a smaller group (Chang, Chen & Hsu, 2011). Yang (2014) reports the very nature of the WebQuest design lends itself to a change in teaching patterns, often converting teacher-led learning to student self-directed learning. WebQuest activities also afford learners an opportunity to discuss, share and assist each other during the project, which in turn provides the conditions for collaborative learning and a shift toward student-centered learning (Yang).
Teachers in Peterson and Koeck (2001) report that designing and delivering WebQuests allow them to discover new resources, improve technology skills and gain new ideas by collaborating with colleagues. The process of designing and implementing can also help teachers understand and promote student-centered pedagogy (Feng & Hannafin, 2008). As Perkins and McKnight (2005) have described, when teachers increase their use of WebQuests in the classroom practice, they also increase their ability to integrate inquiry into the classrooms. Lin and Hsieh's (2001) research also concludes that teachers who utilize and design WebQuests reflect on their own teaching practices, develop design and critical thinking skills, and become better inquirers of the learning process in general.
While WebQuests show statistical significance in enhancing learning and motivation in students, the results of using them as a teaching tool depends on how well they have been initially designed (Unal, Bodur & Unal, 2012). When the structure of the WebQuest is flawed, it will result in lower-order or surface learning where students use links to visit various websites, quickly scan contents and extract minimal information, never really engaging in the text or developing what the task as a whole is saying (Allan & Street, 2007). Designers who do not fully understand the principles and constructs of WebQuests will have their students miss out on their many benefits (Zheng, Perez, Williamson & Flygare, 2008). As well, having students participate in poorly designed WebQuest activities will not significantly improve the overall learning effect of the lesson (Hsiao, Tsai, Lin & Lin, 2012).
Another constraint associated with WebQuests involves changing the perceived role of educators, who must view themselves as mentors or facilitators instead of authoritative figures for WebQuests activities to function as they were intended (Alshumaimeri & Almasri, 2012). Even when the Webquest is developed and implemented properly, it must be used as a part of a well-balanced educational curriculum (Osman, 2014). Additionally, WebQuests must be supported by the teacher and not delivered in a stand-alone fashion (Kleemans, Segers, Droop & Wentink, 2011).
A final constraint regarding WebQuests posited by Alshumaimeri and Almari (2012) occurs when students feel overwhelmed when they are unable to use the required technology. According to Kleemans, Segers, Droop, & Wentink, (2011), learners can become lost in the abundance of resources available online. Students must become proficient in not only technological competencies associated with WebQuests, but they must also be familiar with self-regulated learning, the inquiry process and cooperative learning before they can experience the full value of WebQuests (Kleemans et al.).
6 Works Cited
Allan, J., & Street, M. (2007). The quest for deeper learning: an investigation into the impact of a knowledge-pooling WebQuest in primary initial teacher training. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(6), 1102-1112. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00697.
Alshumaimeri, Y. A., & Almasri, M. M. (2012). The effects of using webquests on reading comprehension performance of Saudi EFL students. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology - TOJET, 11(4), 295-306.
Chang, C., Chen, T., & Hsu, W. (2011). The study on integrating webquest with mobile learning for environmental education. Computers & Education, 57(1), 1228-1239.
Dodge, B. (2001). Five rules for writing a great WebQuest. Learning and Leading with Technology, 28(8), 6–9.
Feng, W., & Hannafin, M. J. (2008). Integrating webquests in preservice teacher education. Educational Media International,45(1), 59-73. doi:10.1080/09523980701847214.
Gülbahar, Y., Madran, R., & Kalelioglu, F. (2010). Development and evaluation of an interactive webquest environment: "Web Macerasi". Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(3), 139-150.
Hsiao, H., Tsai, C., Lin, C., & Lin, C. (2012). Implementing a self-regulated "webquest" learning system for Chinese elementary schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(2), 315-340.
Kleemans, T., Segers, E., Droop, M., & Wentink, H. (2011). WebQuests in special primary education: Learning in a web-based environment. British Journal of Educational Technology,42(5), 801-810. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01099.
Kurt, S. (2012). Issues to consider in designing webquests: A literature review. Computers in the Schools, 29(3), 300-314. doi:10.1080/07380569.2012.704770.
Lin, B. & Hsieh, C. (2001).Web-based teaching and learner control: a research review. Computers and Education, 37, 377-386.
Osman, K. (2014). Evaluation of webquest in biology: Teachers' perception. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education (TOJDE), 15(1), 75.
Perkins, R., & McKnight, M.L. (2005). Teachers’ attitudes toward WebQuests as a method of teaching. Computers in the Schools, 22(1/2), 123–151.
Peterson, C.L., & Koeck, D.C. (2001). When students create their own WebQuests. Learning and Leading with Technology, 29(1), 10–15.
Unal, Z., Bodur, Y., & Unal, A. (2012). A standardized rubric for evaluating webquest design: Reliability analysis of ZUNAL webquest design rubric. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11 169-183.
Vidoni, K. L., & Maddux, C. D. (2002). WebQuests: Can they be used to improve critical- thinking skills in students? Computers in the Schools, 19(1/2), 101–117.
Yang, K. (2014). The WebQuest model effects on mathematics curriculum learning in elementary school students. Computers and Education, 72158-166. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.11.006.
Zacharia, Z., Xenofontos, N., & Manoli, C. (2011). The effect of two different cooperative approaches on students' learning and practices within the context of a WebQuest science investigation. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(3), 399-424. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9181-2.
Zheng, R. R., Perez, J. J., Williamson, J. J., & Flygare, J. J. (2008). WebQuests as perceived by teachers: implications for online teaching and learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning,24(4), 295-304. doi:10.1111/j.1365- 2729.2007.00261.