Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Criteria for evaluation of educational web resources

Here is another blog posting to satisfy a course requirement. This one lay out some criteria for the evaluation of web-based educational materials.

My list starts off with criteria I lifted from a university library site. This is only natural I think, because educational web resources function much like other media resources. Librarians belong to a profession devoted to material evaluation and selection, organization and retrieval. From the librarians list, the site should:

  • be relevant to school learning goals
  • the site should have quality content. Some indicators of quality include peer-reviewed content, positive reviews from librarians, or an authoritative sponsor.
  • have a significant amount of content
  • be distinguished from sites that cover similar subjects (e.g. in ease of use, or in depth in particular niche)
  • be easy of use
  • be reliable (available), stable, without broken links

Really good sites

  • continue to be updated, and informs the visitor of what is new.
  • allows others to share their great ideas, multiplying the sites usefulness.
  • are easy to navigate
  • from a design point of view, are not cluttered, with a clean design. Visiting the site shouldn't tire the visitor. (While not an educational site, I consider the godaddy.com site a prime example of hyperactive clutter and difficult to use. I like the design of the Mrs. Meacham's Classroom Snapshots site -- thanks again Lindsay.)
  • have no popup ads or other ads that interfere with the content
  • have a way to easily contact the site operator
  • is supported
  • does not use browser specific features (and specifically, will work fine with Firefox)
  • use cookies responsibly
  • are responsive -- they have enough hardware and bandwidth behind them to support their purpose
  • have useful search functions
"Easy to navigate" and "clean" granted are subjective terms, and show my design preferences. I don't like frames, especially when they are poorly implemented.

The above criteria are really independent of the educational purpose of the site, and really apply to any site that intends to inform visitors.

If a site has a social networking feature, it also needs to have some protections for students. Educational sites should be free of advertising, and shouldn't be commercial sites masquerading as educational sites. I'm thinking that the most appropriate educational functions for websites should be either sources of information (search engines, online encyclopedias, archives, newspapers, tutorials, etc.) or places where students can express themselves (e.g. wikis, blogging, cartooning, digital storytelling, postering, etc.) I have mixed feelings about virtual manipulatives -- hands on is generally better. I am suspect of the educational value of role-playing sites and virtual worlds; also of testing or drill sites, and gaming sites. My next post will consider the role-playing/virtual world sites.


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