Webquest 101

What is a webquest?

A webquest is an assignment which asks students to use the Internet to learn about and/or synthesize their knowledge about a specific topic. A “true” webquest, as originally designed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March, requires synthesis of the new knowledge by accomplishing a “task,” often to solve a hypothetical problem or address a real-world issue. Simpler web activities designed for students to investigate and collect new knowledge from web-based sources can also be a more engaging and effective replacement for read-the-chapter-and-complete-the-review-questions.  This tutorial will walk you through the basics to create a simple or more elaborate activity.

The assignment can be given on paper. But an easier method may be sending students to a web page, blog, or wiki that serves as the “home base” for the students’ information search. For an example, click here to see an "on the web" webquest based on Harper Lee's book To Kill A Mockingbird. You could also use a simple blog tool such as Instablogg to create a one-time blog for your project. If you are considering using a wiki and want to learn more, visit TeachersFirst's Wiki Walk-Through. Another idea is to present a webquest using some other multi-media software such as Powerpoint.

The quality of your webquest depends on the ideas and thought that go into it more than on flashy presentation technologies. It’s easy to create a mediocre webquest, and it’s far more difficult to create a quest that really works well.

Why Bother?
Why should you take the time to create a webquest? The best reason is that, like any carefully planned lesson, a good webquest makes learning interesting for your students. Beyond that, however, several other factors make webquests a powerful learning tool.

  • A good webquest puts the power of the Internet behind your topic. You can show students - or let them discover for themselves, not just tell them. Websites can take your students anywhere in the world.
  • Webquests are a way to let students work at their own pace, either individually or in teams.
  • A webquest lets students explore selected areas in more depth, but within limits that you have selected. This makes webquests ideal for classes that combine students with different ability levels.
  • Webquests offer a different, more dynamic approach to teaching the value of research.
  • Webquests can also increase the "comfort level" of students using the Internet for learning activities. While your students are probably already computer literate, a properly designed webquest can help students become creative researchers rather than simply "surfing" from one site to another.