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Updating a Popular Web-Based Inquiry-Oriented Activity

Serhat Kurt

WebQuest is a popular inquiry-oriented

activity in

which learners use Web resources. Since the creation of the innovation, almost 15 years ago, the Web has changed significantly, while the WebQuest technique has changed little. This article examines possible appli-

cations of new Web trends on WebQuest instructional strategy. Some possible integration ideas of new Web trends into the WebQuest method are discussed.


Technology is an accepted part of our lives. As countries continue to invest in technology and place educational technology in schools, teachers are expected to adopt the technology into their teaching. One particular example is the Internet and, more specifically, the World Wide Web (Web). The Web has brought new possibilities for teaching and learning. WebQuests are among the most widely used methods by K-16 educators as a strat- egy for integrating the Web into classroom instruction. The WebQuest technique was created by Bernie Dodge in 1995 with early input from Tom March. A WebQuest has been defined as "an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet" (Dodge, 1997). This technique usually requires students to work in groups and relies heavily on information sources on the Web. Students are guided to visit appropriate Web resources to look for information. It involves, though, much more than simply searching for material. A WebQuest usually includes six steps: (a)the introduc- tion-includes background information about the topic; (b) the task-gives a general description of an assigned task for the learners; (e) information sources-includes mostly Websites that students can investigate to complete the task; (d) a description of the process--explains step- by-step procedures for learners to follow in order to complete the task; (e) performance evaluation-contains

Serhat Kurt is Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey (e-mail:

evaluation criteria to be used to assess students' work· and (f) the conclusion-consists of an explanation of what the learners learned. WebQuests can be a short-term (one to three class periods) or a long-term (one week to a

month) activity. The WebQuests can be designed within single discipline or be interdisciplinary (Dodge, 1997).


WebQuests have become very popular since they were introduced in 1995, have been the subject of numerous journal and magazine articles, and have been widely adopted in K-16 education (Zheng et a/., 2008). Teachers have created numerous WebQuests for

all grade levels (,

2007). A simple

"WebQuest" Google search yields thousands of WebQuests already designed by educators. One important point to mention is that while being applied to a wide variety of different educational settings, the WebQuest technique has changed little (Abbit & Ophus, 2008). Since the creation of WebQuests, how- ever, the Web has changed a lot, shifting from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. This article defines possible implications of new Web approaches (Web 2.0) on WebQuests.

Web 2.0

Web 1.0 was the first and Web 2.0 is the next phase of the Internet. Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 differ on how they present information. Although Web 1.0 was mostly about retrieving information, Web 2.0 represents a more collaborative, interactive, and user-focused approach. Coombs (2007) states that Web 2.0 is "transforming the Web into a space that allows anyone to create and

share information online-a

space for collaboration,

conversation, and interaction; a space that is highly dynamic, flexible, and adaptable" (p, 17). Web 2.0 offers new trends and services. Some of these

are wikis, blogs, multimedia sharing, podcasting, and

social networking.

Internet users now easily build

pages, share photos and videos, and interact with each other. These users are generating most of the content by uploading videos, pictures, and other media, participat- ing in discussions (for instance, making comments on others' writings, videos, pictures), and writing (blogging, wikis, etc.). This is why many call Web 2.0 a more user-powered and democratic approach than Web 1.0. In addition to the new functionalities described above, with Web 2.0, a new design style was introduced. This style is a more easily used approach. In this style, special attention is given to usability, making Website designs easy to browse for Internet users.This includes presenting information in a clear way and not causing confusion for the users. Presenting content is very straightforward. Users do not spend time trying to find what they are looking for from complicated Website layouts. Usually, in this layout, there is content centered in one or two columns, large texts, plenty of white space to direct attention to the content, fewer graphics but more small icons, and solid areas of different content sections.

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOlOGY /September-October 2009


Web 2.0 types of sites have become very popular, especially among young people. For instance, more than 55% of all Americans online between the ages of 12 to 17 use online social networking sites (pew Internet, 2007). Likewise, a U.K. government agency, BECTA (2008) reported that 78% of students surveyed, aged 11-16, reported having uploaded pictures, video, or music to the Web, and 74% of those students have social networking accounts (BECTA, 2008). The majority of students are actively participating as users in Web 2.0 trends because they enjoy what these Web 2.0 sites have to offer them. The possibility of using blogs and wikis in the WebQuest model has been proposed (, 2007). In fact, Dodge (2007) sees the future of this technique as an incorporation of Web 2.0 trends with WebQuests. However, most of the current WebQuests,

if not all, could be found to carry only very basic


teristics of Web 1.0 in terms of functionality and design.

These WebQuests do not interact with learners. One of the major weaknesses of the current WebQuests

is that the design structure of this method is not interac- tive with learners. Interactivity here means the extent to which learners can actively participate in the process

and collaborate with

other learners. That means this tech-

nique relies heavily on written content. It does not fully take advantage of current Web technologies, which may increase interactivity and learners' engagement dramatically. WebQuests should embrace the benefits of Web 2.0 in order to engage today's learners with the information we introduce through this method.

Use of Blogs in WebQuests: BlogQuests

BlogQuest here means use of blogs in WebQuests. A blog can be defined as an online journal. Blogs make online publishing very easy. To create a blog, an online service (e.g., or software (e.g., wordpress. org) can be used. Blog users create content via an Internet browser without needing much technical knowl- edge. Blogs increase collaboration and critical thinking through their feedback systems. A blog can be authored

individually or as a group. Blogs

are primarily textual,

but pictures, ideas, and audio can easily be added. Blogs can be integrated into WebQuests. For example, (a) a blog service or blog software can be used to create interactive and effective WebQuests easier and faster than designing WebQuests using traditional methods; (b) BlogQuests enable students to collaborate on the Internet, for example, learners can publish questions they come across at any point while completing WebQuest tasks, and other group members or teachers can respond; (c) students may keep blog journals during their WebQuest activities; and (d) blogs have a modular structure. This means that many dynamic features can be easily added in addition to standard features. Some of these are: polls, picture galleries, and discussion boards.

Use of Wikis in WebQuests: WikiQuests

Similar to the definition

of BlogQuests, WikiQuest

here means

use of wikis in WebQuests. A wiki is a

Webpage with content that anybody can add to, edit, or delete. Wikis can be public-accessible to every-

one-or private-just


people who have registered.

Wikis provide unique collaborative opportunities. Groups can collaboratively work on the content of a site

using a standard Web browser. When a group member makes a change, the old version is stored and can be

restored at any time if necessary. There can be


review process implemented before something new is posted online. Every page may have a separate talk area to discuss proposed improvements to the page. Wikis can also be used in implementing or designing WebQuests. Some of the ways they can be used are (a) learners/teachers in groups can collaboratively create

WebQuests using wikis on the Internet; (b) wikis, apart from the WebQuest site itself, can be utilized for learners to manage and organize information, share resources, make decisions, and discuss work during the WebQuest activities; (c) WebQuests may include projects or tasks that could be done better using wikis, such as collabora- tively creating a class newspaper; and (d) teachers can monitor students' activities. Wikis have a revision history feature. This means whenever there is a change, wiki

saves the before and

after versions. This lets teachers see

the progression of the content students are creating.

Help from Rss Feeds

Rss stands for for sharing Web

Really Simple Syndication. Rss is used content. How this works is that a site's

contents can easily be syndicated as an rss feed to


wants it. This is especially

useful for

frequently updated content, as it allows site

readers to

stay informed. Rss feeds can be read using rss reader

software, which can be Web-based or desktop-based. Some of the popular feed readers can be found at,, and reader! . Today, many popular media sites (e.g., news- paper sites, social networking sites, video and picture sharing sites, etc.) and many academic sites (e.g.,

article databases such as ERIC) have rss feeds that can be used for educational purposes. Many blog and wiki tools have the rss feed feature

built in to syndicate content, and an rss reader be added easily as a separate module. Rss can

can also


the effectiveness of BlogQuests and WikiQuests. Rsscan be implemented in a number of ways. Some of these are: (a) educators can create automatically updating WebQuests with the help of rss (for instance, an rss collection can be used for the information sources part of the WebQuests, such as syndicating recently published articles from the ERIC database); (b) teachers



can monitor WebQuest activities via rss feeds (for instance, teachers can set up a separate bloglwiki to syndicate students' works; this bloglwiki would auto- matically update every time a learner changed or added content to their BlogQuests or WikiQuests); (c) students

can keep up with their peers' actions (for instance, when

a student posts a question on

a BlogQuest, other stu-

dents and/or the teacher can be notified that a new


is posted via rss feeds so that they

can respond to this question in a timely manner).

Technical Aspects and Visual Design

Research studies indicate that many teachers believe

that they have limited expertise in using technology at all grade levels (Albirini, 2006; Mumtaz, 2000; Pelgrum, 2001). Creating "old-fashioned" WebQuests requires technical knowledge. Designing HTML pages with hyperlinks and then uploading them to the Internet may seem very difficult to many teachers who have limited technological knowledge. This may cause teachers not to use WebQuests or feel uncomfortable trying to use them. BlogQuests and WikiQuests, however, can make the creation of WebQuests simpler. One of the reasons for blogs' and wikis' popularity is that they simplify Internet publishing. A person with a very basic Internet knowledge can establish an online blog or wiki presence. BlogQuests and WikiQuests can

be set up by following

a few simple and quick steps.

Once they are set up, teachers can create numerous

quests. Teachers can easily submit content through a Web browser without technical knowledge of HTML or the uploading of files to the Internet. As stated above, there is a contrast between the

design of popular sites that are frequently used by students and current WebQuest designs. This contrast may negatively influence students' motivation during

explained briefly above. Teachers can use these tem-

plates to easily make nice-looking

Web 2.0 style

designed WikiQuests and BlogQuests that would attract more interest from today's learners than the original style of WebQuests.


In the WebQuest technique, students employ the Web to learn about and/or synthesize knowledge.

Studies show that WebQuests can be an effective


for teaching and learning. However, it seems that WebQuests have changed little since the creation of the technique, while the Internet has changed considerably. WebQuests should catch up with current Web tech- nologies. More dynamic and user-focused WebQuests

can be created easily by teachers with the help of Web 2.0 tools and services described in this article. There are numerous studies examining the impact of WebQuests on students' learning (for a review of

studies, see Abbit & Ophus,

2008). However, there are

not enough research studies regarding the relationships between the visual aspects of WebQuests (the way a WebQuest looks, or its design) and the effectiveness of the WebQuest technique. More studies should examine

this in order to create more effective WebQuests.



Abbit, J., & Ophus, J. (2008). What we know about the impacts of WebQuests: Review of research. AACE journal, 76(4),


Albirini, A. (2006). Teachers' attitudes toward information and communication technologies: The case of Syrian EFL teach-

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BECTA. (2008). BECTA report shows benefit of Web 2.0 in

the classroom; uk/display. cfm ?res



To overcome

this obstacle,


WebQuests can be created using Web 2.0 style.


Coombs, K. A.

(2007). Building a library Website on the pillars

Furthermore, designing a Website's visual appearance

of Web 2.0. Computers in Libraries,27,16-19.

can be very difficult. There are so many elements to con-


B. (1997).

Some thoughts

about WebQuests;

sider. Without going into details, some of the elements

Lynch, P. J., & Horton, S. (2008). Web style guide (3rd ed.):

are simplicity, consistency on and between pages, page .

layout, ease of navigation, and regard to users with older/different hardware and software (Lynch & Horton,

Mumtaz, S. (2000). Factors affecting teachers' use of informa- tion and technology: A review of the literature. journal of

2008). Current WebQuests are being built by teachers

Information Technology for Teacher Education, 9(3), 319-

with little Website design experience, and as a result


often have substandard designs elements.

Pelgrum, W. J. (2001). Obstacles to the integration of leT in

Another advantage of using blogs and wikis as a basis

education: Results from a worldwide educational assess-

for WebQuests is that they can simplify the design

ment. Computers and Education, 37, 163-178.

aspects of this technique by making use of templates,

Pew Internet and American Life Project. (2007). Social net- working Websites and teens; http://www.pewlnternet.

which are pre-developed Website page layouts. There

org/~/media//Files/Reports/2007 /PIP_SNS_Oata_Memo_

are numerous blog and wiki templates available on the



Internet to download and use for free. Installing these

Zheng, R., Perez, J., Williamson,

J., & Flygare, J. (2008).

templates on

blogs and wikis is a very simple process.

Most of them are designed by Web design professionals and are consistent with the Web 2.0 design elements

WebQuests as perceived by teachers: Implications for online teaching and learning. journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(4), 295-304.

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY /September-October 2009