A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. These can be created using various programs, including a simple word processing document that includes links to websites.
A WebQuest is distinguished from other Internet-based research by three characteristics. First, it is classroom-based. Second, it emphasizes higher-order thinking (such as analysis, creativity, or criticism) rather than just acquiring information. And third, the teacher preselects the sources, emphasizing information use rather than information gathering. Finally, though solo WebQuests are not unknown, most WebQuests are group work with the task frequently being split into roles.
The task is the formal description of what the students will produce in the WebQuest. The task should be meaningful and fun. Creating the task is the most difficult and creative part of developing a WebQuest.
The steps the students should take to accomplish the task. It is frequently profitable to reinforce the written process with some demonstrations.
The resources the students should use. Providing these helps focus the exercise on processing information rather than just locating it. Though the instructor may search for the online resources as a separate step, it is good to incorporate them as links within the process section where they will be needed rather than just including them as a long list elsewhere. Having off-line resources like visiting lecturers and sculptures can contribute greatly to the interest of the students.
Time set aside for reflection and discussion of possible extensions.
Use in education
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Teachers use WebQuests to:
- Keep students on-task while online. (Student activities are organized by the WebQuest and they can stay focused on using information rather than finding it.)
- Extend students' thinking to the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy; analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
- Support critical thinking and problem solving through authentic assessment, cooperative learning, scaffolding, and technology integration.
- Introduce a unit, conclude a unit, or provide a culmination activity.
- Foster cooperative learning through collaborative activities with a group project.
- Encourage independent thinking and to motivate students.
- Enhance students’ technological competencies.
- Differentiate instruction by providing multiple final product choices and multiple resource websites. Using multiple websites as reading content allows students to use the resource that works best for their level of understanding.
- Encourage accountability Specific task guidelines and/or rubrics are provided from the beginning of the WebQuest project, so that all students are aware of exactly what is expected of them 
- Enhance the development of transferable skills and help students to bridge the gap between school and "real world" experiences.
- Provide a situation in which students acquire information, debate issues, participate in meaningful discussions, engage in roleplay simulations and solve problems
- Encourage students to become connected and involved learners.
- Move themselves into the role of coach and adviser rather than the sole source of information.
Limitations of WebQuests
WebQuests are only one tool in a teacher's toolbox. They are not appropriate to every learning goal. In particular, they are weak in teaching factual recall, simple procedures, and definitions.
WebQuests also usually require good reading skills, so are not appropriate to the youngest classrooms or to students with language and reading difficulties without special design and effort (for example, bringing in adults to read the screens out loud.)
How WebQuests are developed
Learners typically complete WebQuests as cooperative groups. Each learner within a group can be given a "role", or specific area to research. WebQuests may take the form of role-playing scenarios, where students take on the personas of professional researchers or historical figures.
A teacher can search for WebQuests on a particular topic or they can develop their own using a web editor like Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver. This tool allows learners to complete various tasks using other cognitive tools (e.g. Inspiration Software, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Access, Excel, and Publisher). With the focus of education increasingly being turned to differentiated instruction, teachers are using WebQuests more frequently. WebQuests also help to address the different learning styles of each students. The number of activities associated with a WebQuest can reach almost any student.
WebQuests may be created by anyone; typically they are developed by educators. The first part of a WebQuest is the introduction. This describes the WebQuest and gives the purpose of the activity. The next part describes what students will do. Then is a list of what to do and how to do it. There is usually a list of links to follow to complete the activity.
Finally, WebQuests do not have to be developed as a true web site. They may be developed and implemented using lower threshold (less demanding) technologies, (e.g. they may be saved as a word document on a local computer).
Developments in WebQuest methodologies
WebQuests are simple webpages, and they can be built with any software that allows you to create websites. Tech-savvy users can develop HTML in Notepad or Notepad++, while others will want to use the templates available in word processing suites like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. More advanced web development software, like Dreamweaver and FrontPage, will give you the most control over the design of your webquest. Webquest templates allow educators to get a jump start on the development of WebQuest by providing a pre-designed format which generally can be easily edited. These templates are categorized as "Framed" or "Unframed," and they can have a navigation bar at the top, bottom, left, or right of the content.
There are several websites that are specifically geared towards creating webquests. Questgarden, Zunal, and Teacherweb all allow teachers to create accounts, and these websites walk them through the process of creating a webquest. OpenWebQuest is a similar service, although it is based in Greece and much of the website is in Greek. These websites offer little control over design, but they make the creation process very simple and straightforward.
Alternatively, teachers can use one of a number of free website services to create their own website and structure it as a webquest. Wordpress and Edublogs both allow users to create free blogs, and navigation menus can be created to string a series of pages into a webquest. This option offers a greater deal of flexibility than pre-made webquests, but it requires a little more technical know-how.
- "WebQuest.org". Department of Educational Technology, San Diego State University. 2008. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
- "WebQuests Explanation". Concept to Classroom Workshop: Webquests. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Linda Starr (2012-02-28). "Meet Bernie Dodge: The Frank Lloyd Wright Of Learning Environments". Education World. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
- "What are the essential parts of a WebQuest?". Concept to Classroom Workshop: Webquests. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Dodge, Bernie (1995). "Some Thoughts About WebQuests". Distance-Educator.com. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
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- "What are some critical perspectives?". Concept to Classroom Workshop: WebQuests. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Vickers, Howard (2007-10-15). "SurReal Quests: Enriched, purposeful language learning in Second Life". The Knowledge Tree. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- "webquest.sdsu.edu". webquest.sdsu.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "www.educationaltechnology.ca". www.educationaltechnology.ca. 2004-07-23. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "www.listofwebquests.com". Retrieved 2013-01-06.
- Dodge, B. (1995a). "Some thoughts about Webquests". retrieved November 16, 2007 from About WebQuests at webquest.sdsu.edu.
- Dodge, B. (1995b). "WebQuests: A technique for Internet-based learning". Distance Educator, 1(2), 10–13.
- WebQuest.org, Bernie Dodge's WebQuest site.
- OpenWebQuest platform, Open source webquest platform (in Greek).
- Questgarden.com, QuestGarden, by Bernie Dodge.
- Create a WebQuest at createwebquest.com.
- eric.ed.gov, education search engine.
- WebQuest at Discovery School website
- Online Webquest Generator developed by University of Alicante.
- MHSebQuests at eduscapes.com.
- HSWebQuest at aacps.org.
- Zunal.Com, Zunal Free WebQuest Application and Hosting, by Zafer Unal.
- Webquest.es, Free WebQuest Application and Hosting with drupal, by Silvia Martinez.