Beacon Learning Center Tutorial
Principles of Website Evaluation
 

The explosion of the World Wide Web presents learners with an unprecedented source of learning. The subsequent emergence of educational Websites—designed specifically to train learners in a specific topic or skill—similarly offers instructors a wealth of materials to enhance and extend their instruction. But not every educational Website is of the highest quality. Many offer out-of-date information. Some show a clear bias that calls into question the accuracy of their content.

For educational Websites to be effectively integrated into classrooms, educators need to develop specific criteria for assessing the quality of Website content and presentation. This tutorial proposes structured guidelines for evaluating educational Websites.

Content Evaluation

Educational Websites must present high quality information that is both current and accurate. These sites must be targeted toward specific age groups. Their language and complexity must be age-appropriate for the targeted learners. Site materials must be organized in small, logical modules for easy comprehension and long-term retention. This is especially true for sites containing large quantities of information. Perhaps most important of all, quality educational Websites must offer links to other equally valuable Web resources, thus beginning the navigation process which will grow into a "web" of resources for learners.

Consider the following questions when evaluating the content of educational Websites:

  • Does the site offer high quality information on the specified topic?

  • Does the site provide a large quantity of information on the specified topic?

  • Does the site present accurate and current information?

  • Does the site provide useful links to related information?

  • Does the site organize content in an easy-to-use format?

  • Does the site enhance text content with graphics and multimedia?

  • Does the site adapt its content to the targeted age level?

  • Does the site show bias (social, ethnic, religious, gender)?

Presentation Format

Educational Websites must present their materials in well-organized, attractive formats. Overly busy Web design distracts from learning, leaving the learner with cognitive overload. Navigation controls must be clearly labeled to guarantee ease of use. Colors and fonts must be chosen for maximum "readability." Graphics and multimedia files must enhance the site's message rather than simply adding "dazzle" to an otherwise dull Website.

Consider the following questions when evaluating the presentation format of educational Websites:

  • Does the site load quickly (even at dial-up speeds)?

  • Does the site provide an easy-to-understand interface (no guesswork)?

  • Does the site present links and navigation controls clearly?

  • Does the site use effective, non-distracting colors?

  • Does the site maintain a clear contrast between text and background colors?

  • Does the site present text in easy-to-read fonts?

  • Does the site use graphics effectively without overuse?

Student Interaction

The missing ingredient in most educational Websites is interaction. Static Web pages of text and graphics can never fully engage the learner in active learning. Online quizzes and games can breathe life into a "dead" Website and reinforce learning. Online journals and student portfolios move an educational Website toward performance-based and authentic assessment. Threaded discussions and chat rooms introduce the kinds of discourse necessary for higher-level learning.

Consider the following questions when evaluating the interaction of educational Websites:

  • Does the site integrate interaction beyond simple navigation?

  • Does the site offer clear instructions for online activities?

  • Does the site provide appropriate feedback for user input?

  • Does the site offer overall assessment, if appropriate?

Online Website Evaluation Form

Practice Website evaluation with this easy-to-use Web form.

 

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