Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


January 2004

Vol VIII Issue I

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What’s a WebQuest?
Students in LIS 566 Learn a New Instruction Technique

By Sarah Bosarge
We distance students can’t hang out in the iSalon, but we still have the opportunity to discuss projects, share ideas, network, and even commiserate through discussion boards and instant messaging. About halfway through fall quarter, several people started “talking” about a particularly intriguing assignment they were working on for the distance section of LIS 566, Young Adult Literature, taught by Dr. Betty Marcoux—WebQuests. I wanted to know more about this Joseph Campbell-sounding adventure that had my cohorts so excited.

A WebQuest, like the famous literary motif it conjures, requires the designer to assemble pieces of information from the Web and organize them into a learning activity. Students, in turn, follow this “map” to learn about the subject. Distance student Tomi Whalen describes them as “online treasure hunts where you learn as you accomplish certain small tasks. It's like a game in which you visit various websites and take from each one a gem of information.”

WebQuests were originally developed at San Diego State University by Bernie Dodge who defines them as “inquiry-oriented activities in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web [and] . . . are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation” ( The Dodge model describes six specific required components of a WebQuest: 

1. An introduction that sets the stage and provides some background information.
2. A task that is doable and interesting.
3. A set of information sources needed to complete the task. Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are embedded in the WebQuest document itself as anchors pointing to information on the World Wide Web. Information sources might include web documents, experts available via e-mail or real-time conferencing, searchable databases on the net, and books and other documents physically available in the learner's setting. Because pointers to resources are included, the learner is not left to wander through web space completely adrift.
4. A description of the process the learners should go through in accomplishing the task. The process should be broken out into clearly described steps.
5. Some guidance on how to organize the information acquired. This can take the form of guiding questions, or directions to complete organizational frameworks such as timelines, concept maps, or cause-and-effect diagrams.
6. A conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds the learners about what they've learned, and perhaps encourages them to extend the experience

Distance student Meryl Geffner also points out that there is often a collaborative aspect to WebQuests. She said, “One thing I noticed . . . is that [many] WebQuests are geared towards students working in groups, which I think is a great idea because it's a way to use the Internet and the Web to set up a collective learning environment, discouraging the isolationism that can occasionally occur when a student is stuck in front of a computer for hours on end.” She remarked that many WebQuests require a collaborative activity in which “the knowledge and insight [students] gain on their subject is reflected and recorded in some format, such as a written or oral presentation, journal, posterboard, etc.” WebQuests have, apparently, taken the education world by storm, but what is the application for library science?

Like many of her classmates in LIS 566, Mary Schroeder hopes to go into Children’s or Youth Services and explained that “It would seem logical that [teachers and librarians] work closely together - but the reality is that, given time limitations and growing specialization, both training and practical experience tend to draw them a part. Anything we can do to gain a better understanding of the habits, techniques, resources and needs of both teachers and students will increase our ability to serve these communities.”

Even for those not specifically focused on Youth Services the assignment proved stimulating. Tomi Whalen has to be a generalist, wearing many hats in her position with the Kitsap Regional Library, and said, “The class has brought the necessity of serving the young adult population to the forefront of my mind.”
Although LIS 566 focuses on Youth Services, WebQuests have been created for all kinds of learning situations and audiences.

Designing WebQuests also proved to be an effective learning activity for the LIS 566 students themselves. Mary Schroeder explained that the assignment required her to draw from previous coursework and also made her “think outside the box.” She even used the technique to design an interactive component for another class presentation on the information behavior of teachers; “Our 510 WebQuest was a natural result of the 566 experience and the fact that our target group was composed of middle school and high school teachers. The role playing aspect of the WebQuest gave us a way to involve our audience in the group's experience while illustrating a technique that this group uses to process information.”

Meryl Geffner appreciated the creativity that the project afforded; “Our WebQuests, fortunately, did not need to be limited to something that would be a lesson plan for school. This was good because we were able to be free-thinking and expansive in the topics we chose.” Geffner chose to do her WebQuest about the decision to become a vegetarian. For her, the project highlighted the way information is evaluated. She said, “The main challenge in the design was not being too biased but finding Websites and resources that would give a teen information to make up their own mind about becoming a vegetarian.”

Overall, the LIS 566d students I spoke with enjoyed the assignment and appreciated the opportunity to learn a technique they may take with them into their careers. Deb Desoer created her WebQuest to accompany an upcoming exhibition at the Independence Public Library where she works and she already has the director’s approval to use it. Desoer said, “I love that we can incorporate our coursework into our jobs. It makes school much more meaningful!”

Check out some of the WebQuests distance students created for LIS 566d:

Snowboarding Basics: A WebQuest for teens who love to go cruisin' down the slopes
Gail Anderson (Libby, MT)

What’s a Lowrider Anyway?: A WebQuest created for the Independence Public Library
Deb Desoer (Independence, OR)

A WebQuest exploring the choice to be vegetarian
Meryl Geffner (Seattle, WA)

Designing the Perfect Bedroom: A WebQuest to learn more about Interior Design
and planning the Perfect Bedroom
Mary Schroeder (Kirkland, WA)

A WebQuest created for a presentation about the information behavior of school teachers for LIS 510d (taught by Dr. Karen Fisher)
Mary Schroeder

An in-library program for teens during teen read week in which they plan a program for elementary school age kids during children's book week.
Pat Stainbrook (Spokane, WA)

Journey to Japan, Past and Present: A WebQuest focused on studying current Japanese culture and the Japanese culture of the mid 19th century
Tomi Whalen (Kingston, WA)

For more information about and examples of WebQuests:
The “official” WebQuest page; includes a portal of links to WebQuests organized by audience and subject.
A short but helpful description
A tutorial for learning how to design a WebQuest.
A rationale from Tom March, one of the originators of the WebQuest model.