WebQuests are very popular teaching tools that require students to search online for information on varied topics. Often, the assignments will ask students to formulate arguments supporting or refuting a position. However, when WebQuests are poorly designed, they serve no purpose and may even mislead students about how to use the web as an information resource.
The author defines the characteristics of a good WebQuest as real, rich, and relevant:
• Real. WebQuests must ask fair-minded questions and not direct students to politically correct answers. As an example of a question that will not elicit wide responses from students, the author provides this: “What should be done to save the wetlands?” Students given that question will not explore competing viewpoints. In addition, students should be required to present the information they have gleaned in an appropriate form. Thus, a poem about wetlands might not be appropriate for a geography project, but it might be for a creative writing project.
• Rich. WebQuests should get students to think on many levelsnot just about their project, but also about the perspectives of others. Superior WebQuests push students to consider their projects from many angles. The example the author provides is a project about African-American history that requires students to design a wax museum. Already, this seems to be a rich project that will require an understanding of history, culture, etc., as well as design issues. But it can do more. Add in a discussion of who might develop such a museum and who might attend it. In which city should it be situated? And so on.
• Relevant. This is as much a function of a teacher’s in-class efforts as it is of the design of a WebQuest. Students need to be engaged right from the start, perhaps through unusual initial questions or a classroom discussion highlighting the relevance of the topic to their lives. Having students use their knowledge to create real-world change locally is another way to introduce relevance, and it can be especially effective on environmental projects.