To be published in: H. Adelsberger, B. Collis, & J. Pawlowski (Eds.), (2000), Handbook of Information Technology in Education and Training.Berlin: Springer: Verlag.

WWW in Education

David Mioduser, Rafi Nachmias, Tel-Aviv University, Israel; email


Less than ten years since its release, the World Wide Web has become a prominent new space for people to communicate, work, trade, or spend leisure time. And increasingly, too, a place to learn. Aware of the potential of the WWW for education, an increasing number of educational agents (e.g., schools, community centers, special interest groups, organizations, homes), enter on a daily basis the community of producers and users of Web-based learning materials or Web-based learning environments (WBLE). In this chapter we present an overview of the development, actual state, and emerging trends in the implementation of the WWW in education. First a succinct historical account is presented, then a series of main educational functions and implementation models are reviewed, followed by a survey of current research on Web-based learning, and finally a series of novel trends emerging from the actual practice in the field are outlined.


Less than ten years since its release, the World Wide Web has become a prominent new space for people to communicate, work, trade or spend leisure time. And increasingly, too, a place to learn (Berenfeld, 1996, Sherry, 2000). Its growth-rate is impressive: from a few dozens of servers/sites in the beginning of the 1990's to more than ten million servers today; from a predominantly text-based environment to a sophisticated multimedia delivery tool; from a limited and clearly defined population of users (mostly dealing with academic, research, or institutional tasks) to a large and varied world community of users (an estimate of about 300 millions) across diverse countries, age-levels, occupations, interests, and purposes. Aware of the potential of the WWW for education, an increasing number of educational agents (e.g., schools, community centers, special interest groups, organizations, homes), enter on a daily basis the community of producers and users of Web-based learning materials. Educators’ attempts to wrap together Web-technology features (e.g., information manipulation, communication, and creation tools) to serve their educational and pedagogical beliefs and learning goals have resulted in the creation of the growing population of educational Websites, or Web-based learning environments (WBLE) (See for example, Chapter 39).

Accompanying these developments, essential questions have emerged regarding curricular, learning, and implementation aspects. Examples of emerging issues to be addressed are the cognitive processes afforded/demanded while working within the WWW (e.g., navigating the information space, collaborating with distant peers in asynchronous mode, see Chapter 3); new didactic and curricular solutions with the new technologies (e.g., the hypercurriculum, assessment in Web-based learning tasks, see Chapter 14); or staff development and organizational changes required for effective Web-based instruction and implementation.

In this paper we present an overview of the development, actual state, and emerging trends of the WWW implementation in education. First a succinct historical account is presented, then a series of main educational functions and implementation models are reviewed, followed by a survey of current research on Web-based learning, and finally a series of novel trends emerging from the actual practice in the field are outlined.

WWW In Education: Precedents and Landmarks

In September 1969 the first host-to-host message was sent from UCLA to Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Two more nodes were then added (at UC Santa Barbara and University of Utah), and by the end of 1969 the four hosts computers conformed the initial ARPANET network. Internet seeds germinated.

In time, more networks developed; personal computers entered the scene; people with varied interests (e.g., scientific, educational, commercial, political) expanded the initially limited population of users; and by the early 1990’s the World Wide Web was born bringing with it the widespread and rapid adoption of browsers and sophisticated communication tools, and easy access to information linked throughout the globe. On October 1995, the following definition was presented by the US Federal Networking Council in consultation with members of the Internet and intellectual-property rights communities: "Internet refers to the global information system that (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein" (Leiner et. al, 1998).

Since its inception, the development of computer-communication technology was accompanied by attempts to assimilate it into education, in pursue of teaching and learning goals. In the first stages, two particular features of the technology were implemented in educational projects: messages exchange (e.g., email, bulletin boards) and information search, retrieval, or delivery (Chandler & Loosley, 1997).

Particularly interesting experiences coming out during those pre-Web and text-based times were environments that allowed multi-user transactions, whether for social or learning purposes, as in MOOs and MUDs (Curtis, 1993; Kort, 1993). These virtual environments possess particular features which support learners’ actions, e.g., allowance for multi-threaded activities and conversation; provision of varied virtual spaces (rooms) for learning, accomplishing tasks and meet other people; support for the formulation of collaboration and interaction procedures, and codes regulating the social life within the environment (O’Day et al., 1998). Along these lines, the formation of learning communities was only a natural subsequent step (Oren, Nachmias, Mioduser, & Lahav, 2000; also see Chapter 3).

The creation of the first graphic browsers and the WWW in the early 1990s was a crucial turning point regarding the widespread implementation of computer-mediated communication in education. The combination of multimedia delivery capabilities, intuitive visual interfaces, support for efficient search and retrieval of information, embedded allowance for synchronous and asynchronous communication, and the abrupt expansion of cyberspace into a huge hyperlinked repository of information, was perceived as new powerful resource for teaching and learning purposes (see for example, Khan, 1997).

With the new technology, pre-WWW educational models were upgraded, and new ones were born. Among the upgraded models, typical examples are: (a) retrieval of information from distant databases, now empowered with multimedia features and sophisticated search engines (Butler, 1997); (b) multiuser areas for learning, now enhanced with graphic (2D and 3D) and audio capabilities, friendly synchronous communication tools, and collaboration-support software agents (Lea, Honda, & Matsuda, 1998; see also Chapter 8); and (c) tutorials and lesson plans, now delivered over the WWW, enhanced with multimedia features, and hyperlinked to a broad array of digital and human resources (Owston, 1997). Examples of evolving models are: (a) Web-based organizational solutions for the delivery of education, as in Virtual Schools, Virtual Universities, or On-the-Job-Training networked systems (Lee, 1999; see also Chapters 35, 36, and 37); (b) tele-operation environments for learning and training; and (c) collaborative design and creation learning environments (see also Chapter 14).

A more-detailed account of the history of the development of Web-based educational solutions is beyond the scope of this chapter. However, it is evident that in a very short time intense work has been done, countless ideas and models have been explored, and WWW technology increasingly fulfills more and more educational functions in schools, community centers, museums, workplaces, and homes.


Main Educational Functions Of WWW

Attempts to define and classify Web-based learning environments were made from varied perspectives. One approach emphasizes different models of instructional processes implemented in Websites. Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, and Turoff (1993), for example, described seven instructional modalities which are either expert based (e-lecture, ask-an-expert, mentorship, tutor support) or student based (access to information, peer interaction, structured group activity). Both Berge (1995) and Collins (1995) suggest a set of fourteen instructional modes comprising the overall complex of computer-mediated communication (CMC) technology. The proposed set includes modes such as mentoring, project-based instruction, lecturing, information retrieval, chat, peer reviewing, and others together with Web-versions of traditional CAI modes (e.g., tutorials, simulations, and drills).

Other researchers focus on the distant action allowed by the WWW. Berenfeld (1996) suggest five modes of teleing arranged according to their pedagogical sophistication and potential impact on student learning and school change. These modes are tele-access to information, virtual publishing, tele-presence, tele-mentoring, and tele-sharing. Collis (1999) refers to five main purposes of using teleware (her term for the whole set of tools, resources, and instruments that support learning-related communication-based processes): publication and dissemination of information; structured communications; collaboration; information and resources handling; and support for course delivery.

Another perspective emphasises the cultural and social aspects of Web-based educational interactions (see also Chapter 26). Riel (1993) explored the role of the WWW in achieving the goals of global education, namely "to promote multicultural sensitivity and understanding of interdependent systems that operate in today's world" (pp. 221; see also Chapter 37). Riel proposed the engagement of the Web technology in the work of learning circles or electronic communities, for the accomplishment of varied types of interaction (at the local and international level) and project-based instructional tasks. Collis (1999) stresses the role of WWW-based environments for supporting group-work functions (e.g., sustaining course cohesion, supporting collaboration and communication, maintaining the group’s memory, and assisting group evaluation).

Yet another perspective, finally, stresses the relation between cognitive functioning and Web features. For example, Teles (1993) analyzed Web-based support of cognitive apprenticeship by features that embody a variety of methods (e.g., sequencing, scaffolding, exploration, reflection) in online-apprenticeship or tele-apprenticeship activities.

The aggregate of these perspectives encompass the multiple dimensions of the WWW as an educational resource. The variety of facets mentioned above, such as instructional modes, models of teleactivity, support for cognitive functions, or types of representational structures, is only a partial list of the components of the intricate fabric of the WWW. As a synthesis of these different approaches, we will use in the remainder of this chapter a classification framework comprising four main functions of the WWW in teaching and learning processes: content delivery, instruction delivery, communication support, and creation support. Each functional category is briefly described in the following subsections.


Content delivery

The first and most obvious feature of the WWW is its being a huge repository of hyperlinked knowledge. Information and knowledge-manipulation functions (e.g., generation, transmission, storage, processing, and retrieval of information) are at the heart of educational transactions. The possibility to contribute to, or to access, online libraries, databases, journals, museums, and other public-information repositories on the Internet may therefore qualitatively affect education (see also Chapters 35 and 38).


Instruction delivery

A large number of educational resources is available on the WWW, from plain raw materials which may serve as building blocks for lesson plans, to complete learning units and curricular solutions. Numerous Websites provide educational activities and courses for all grade levels in a large number of subjects (Hackbarth, 1997; Khan, 1997; see also Chapters 27-33). The conception of the WWW as a learning environment is gaining more and more adherents, and is instantiated in varied forms, e.g., distance-learning courses and even degrees, collaborative-learning projects, and virtual environments for complementary and informal education.


Communication support

The WWW is increasingly becoming a virtual milieu for new forms of interaction, collaborative work, and learning among partners in educational processes (e.g., students, teachers, experts, parents). Computer-mediated communication (CMC) provides powerful interaction means (e.g., email, forums, group tele-conferencing, IRCs (Internet relay chat)) which have the potential to enhance both the extent and quality of educational transactions (Berge, 1995; Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff. 1995; see also Chapter 3).


Creation support

The WWW is increasingly becoming a creation environment. A considerable number of user-friendly tools for the creation of Web-deliverable materials are currently available. These tools (e.g., Web-page editors, teleoperation environments, image processors) support students' creativity and initiative, allowing them to generate and publish their own Web materials without mediators and with minimal technical assistance (see also Chapter 14).

In the next section, this framework will guide the presentation of a variety of pedagogical models actually implemented in educational Websites (see also Chapter 13).


Models Of Implementation Of the WWW In Education

This section surveys different models of Web-based learning environments currently being implemented. In spite of the fact that a model may comprise more than one of the educational functions described in the previous section, they will be classified and presented according to the primary function they support.


Content-oriented modes (information containers)

Given that information and its manipulation are at the heart of the educational process, it is only natural that a large number of Web-based learning environments were developed to serve primarily as information containers. Among the typical models under this category are the following four categories:


Online digital libraries

Government and public institutions, such as the Library of Congress ( or the Bibliotheque National de France (, initiated large projects aiming to digitize bibliographical materials including classic works and national knowledge treasures (see also Chapter 38). Besides the digital versions of existing institutional libraries, other projects propose the WWW itself as the storage space for valuable information. For example the Gutenberg project (http:// offers an impressive collection of full-text searchable and retrievable books.


Digital encyclopedias

Traditional print-technology encyclopedias are well-recognized and authoritative information sources for learners and teachers. Their counterparts, the digital encyclopedias available on the WWW (e.g., Encarta-on-line (, Britannica-on-line, (, offer the same basic information, empowered by the unique features of improved accessibility, multimedia resources (which can be downloaded for further use by the learners), intralinkage and interlinkage to additional Websites, and constant updating.


Topical megasites and portals

These Websites represent access gates to huge collections of information related to specific knowledge domains. Well-known examples are the NASA Website ( regarding air and space-related subjects, or the Discovery Channel Website ( on science and technology subjects. These megasites comprise varied types of information, including live-cams coverage of events, archival information, real-time satellite pictures, breaking news, or educational resources for teachers and students (see also Chapter 35).


Topical educational Websites

There are a large number of sites focusing on specific curricular topics that were deliberately developed for educational purposes (see Chapters 27-33 and 39). For example Chickscope ( offers the opportunity to access data generated from actual research conducted in university laboratories using state-of-the-art scientific instruments such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems. This Website includes information such as a day-by-day multimedia journey through the cycle of a chicken's embryonic development, or a large database of MRI images.


Virtual educational configurations (instruction delivery)

Web technology has the potential to affect the way we configure instructional settings and deliver instructional materials. The claim for pedagogical forms that transcend the school's space and time constraints is not new. But now, with the advent of advanced communication technologies, the development of such new pedagogical solutions is an attainable task. Features such as synchronous and asynchronous communication, discussion-group mechanisms, multi-user capability, and others open the way for the creation and implementation of novel and varied instructional configurations (e.g., distributed team-work, hybrid face-to-face/distance-learning modes, interactive distance learning). In the following we will briefly review some of the emerging models.


Virtual courses

Many academic institutions and educational organizations and companies are engaged in developing and operating virtual courses. These courses represent a revisited version of the previous model of distance education. Their main feature is that they allow students to learn from anywhere at any time any subject. In many cases the basic structure, content, and didactic resources were not substantially modified in comparison with the original course (based on the print/snail-mail-delivery technologies), the principal innovation being the course's new levels of availability and the addition of group-communication features. But in other cases significant effort is made to redefine the very concept of virtual course, and explore novel pedagogical designs (see Chapter 37). The World Lecture Hall site ( offers a comprehensive list of thousands of courses of all kinds delivered in the WWW.

Virtual schools

CyberSchool, Online School, Virtual School, and Net School are all alternative terms for describing a concept that in fact is being implemented in a variety of forms. A virtual school's defining feature is that its students and teachers teach and learn in separate locations. Rather than meeting face-to-face in a classroom, teachers and students in virtual schools are linked together by a variety of communication means. Most models of virtual schools, are radically different from traditional schools. They remain open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Students take lessons, make tests, ask questions and get answers virtually, as they would do in a traditional physical school building but without leaving their keyboards. Instead of going to school, the virtual school comes to them through their computer screens.

An example of this model is the Virtual High School (VHS) project ( (Tinker, 1998), a collaborative venture of high schools from all over the USA. All participant schools have access to a wide range of high-quality online courses, offering to teachers great flexibility in the design of instructional plans and teaching assignments, and to students exposure to work with peers from other backgrounds and cultures (for a rich list of online and correspondence K-12 virtual schools see Wested, (


Virtual universities

Gary S.Becker, the 1992 Nobel laureate, argued recently for the need to balance life-long learning with the pressures of work by stimulating the market for on-line courses of academic level. Universities and colleges offer already over 6,000 accredited courses on the WWW in the U.S. only. This trend might crucially affect the structure and the role of universities in a not so far future (see Chapter 36).


Virtual museums

Museums were among the first to offer their collections and exhibitions on the WWW. In many cases the virtual museum is an extension of the real one. But in other cases the virtual museum stands by itself as digital reality. These virtual environments are designed according to digital rules and not according to physical rules. Rooms or walls (resembling real-life objects) play a different role from the ones they do in real buildings, functioning not as barriers but as graphical indications of objects or contents classifications. Walkways become logical entities showing logical links between knowledge entities and not constraining paths (see Chpater 8). Visits are possible from any place at any time without even leaving home; visitors can stay as long as they wish, come again as many times as they like, and communicate to other visitors and the site owners regarding their thoughts and feelings about the exhibitions; browsing and wandering around are guided by the visitors' own learning interests and goals. An example of this model can be found in the Science Learning Network site, (, which offers linkage to 12 major science and technology virtual museums worldwide.


Communication-based models (communication facilitators)

The primary goal of this kind of Web-based learning environment is to facilitate communication between the participants of the learning process (e.g. students, teachers, experts) in order to enhance the experience. Among the typical modes under this category are the following six categories:


Online tutoring and help (telementoring)

In this situation students communicate, using synchronous and/or asynchronous means, with online teachers and experts to get assistance in their learning. For example, students facing difficulties in doing homework assignments could communicate over the Internet with a live tutor that provides them with immediate assistance. The advantages of this educational setup are the immediacy of the assistance available just when the need arises, as well as the individually tailored diagnosis and solutions characterizing one-to-one teaching. Examples of Websites that provide online help in mathematics are Tutornet (, or Ask Dr. Math (, supplying question-and-answer services for student and teachers.



This model uses the WWW as a mass-communication medium. An expert (e.g. lecturer, writer, celebrity, astronaut) is available via communication tools (e.g., chat, video-conference, forum) to a large audience. For example, students in a literature class chat with a writer they are studying, or science students communicate to an astronaut in his way to a space mission. Communicating with people that are actually working in the students' field of study has a major learning as well as affective (motivation, attitudes) impact.


Student networks

Student networks are salient representatives of the many-to-many communication configuration, probably among the most powerful Web-supported educational situations. In this mode students from different locations use the Internet for interpersonal communication, information exchange, and collaboration. The WWW becomes a meeting place for students from different places and cultures, mostly (but not solely) as a school-based activity. Throughout communicating, the students act as citizens of the evolving global village of the information age, developing awareness and sensitivity to the diversity of the world. For example, GLOBE ( is a worldwide network of students, teachers, and scientists working together to study and understand the global environment. Additional examples of the many students networks available on the WWW are Global SchoolNet (, I*earn (, and Web66 (


Web-supported educational interactions

Another popular model encouraging the many-to-many learning configuration is based on the use of Web tools (e.g., discussion forums) for supporting communication among peers participating in a specific course. In most cases a mix of instructional models are applied, using both face-to-face meetings and Web-mediated interactions during the course. The WWW component expand the course's activities beyond its regular place and time, by supporting a variety of additional tasks (e.g., critical reading, collaborative projects, student-moderated discussions), transforming the usual 14 once-a-week-meeting courses into 14 weeks courses (Nachmias, Mioduser, Oren, & Ram, 2000).


Virtual learning communities

A learning community can be defined as a novel educational system based on the combination of three components: a virtual community (social dimension), hosted by an appropriate virtual environment (technological dimension), and embodying advanced pedagogical ideas (educational dimension) (Oren, Nachmias, Mioduser, & Lahav, 2000). An example of a national science and technology virtual learning community for teachers is MATAR ( MATAR seeks ways to involve Israeli elementary-school science and technology teachers in a learning community by providing them online useful information, virtual courses, and opportunities to communicate (see also Chapter 35). Another interesting example is the Teachers Helping Teachers site ( This Website provides basic teaching tips to inexperienced teachers; new ideas in teaching methodologies for all teachers; and a forum for experienced teachers to share their expertise with colleagues around the world.


MUDs, MOOs and WOOs.

Educational MUDs (Multi User Domains), MOOs (MUD Object Oriented), and WOOs (Web-based MOOs) are multi-user environments allowing interaction and collaborative work among students (see Chapter 3). First conceived as Internet-accessible, text-mediated virtual environments, these evolved into sophisticated environments comprising 2D and 3D representations of spaces and objects (see Chapter 8). MUDs and MOOs are constructed social spaces in continuous evolution, allowing the participants to navigate among virtual rooms, to meet peers, to construct new spaces and objects, and to contribute to or augment the repertoire of functions within the virtual spaces. An illustrative example of these models is the Schmooze University ( (Tokel, 1996), created to help non-native English-speakers to practice their language, writing ability, and reading-comprehension skills, and allow English-as-Second-Language (ESL) teachers to interact with their students within the virtual campus facilities (e.g., metaphoric library, administration building, classroom building, dormitory, and cafeteria). An interesting variation of the model are MUSEs (Multi User Simulation Environments), as in Oceana, (, a world of islands whose inhabitants live in many different ways, sail and cruise the waters of the world, facing conflicts and decision points resembling real-world (social, political, economical, moral) situations (Ford & Eisenstat, 1994).


Knowledge-construction models (creation support)

One of the salient characteristics of the Web technology is that sophisticated, but at the same time user friendly, page and media editors and tools were quickly developed allowing non-expert users to create quality Web-deliverable products. The fact that their products will be published and exposed to a large audience, affects the students' attitude towards the whole creative process and their commitment with the task. More than just a creation platform, the WWW becomes also a stage to share one's work with others, to expose it to their critical consideration, and to create together.

A relevant example is the OSH project ( in an Israeli High School. The project already comprises over 30 Websites created by students and teachers in various content domains. The project is perceived as a school enterprise, continuously growing year by year (for three years now). It also affects the learning process not only of the core group of students and teachers actively involved in the development but, by spreading out in concentric circles, but also of students and teachers from all age levels and content areas. In addition, the project affected the school climate both at the individual level (e.g., the students' perception of their learning capabilities, of opportunities for self-expression and contribution to the community), and the school level (e.g., its status in the local community, and attractiveness as educational environment).


Current Technological And Pedagogical State

The transition of Web technology from its early rudimental stages to the current everyone-can-do-it stage, generated high expectations among educators. These expectations relate to the WWW’s potential impact on educational processes in three main domains: fostering (a) the raise of new pedagogical forms emerging out of unique features of the technology (a Webagogy?); (b) the development of improved information-organization, representation, and handling capabilities; and (c) the enhancement of communication processes among students and teachers and support for collaborative learning. In practice, a great variability characterises the educational-Website population, in terms of the identity of the sites' originators (e.g., teachers, students, development centers, research centers); the developers’ goals and motivations; the subject matter; functionalities supported (e.g., communication, information retrieval); pedagogical approach; and nature of the offered learning activities. The pace of growth, the variability in quality, and the gap between expectations and realization revealed the need for mapping educational Websites in systematic ways. Such a mapping was the goal of a series of studies carried out by the authors aiming to unveil didactic features and pedagogical approaches within the current landscape of educational Websites. A complete description of the studies’ rationale, instruments, and results appear elsewhere (Mioduser, Nachmias, Oren, & Lahav, 1999; Mioduser, Nachmias, Oren, & Lahav, 2000; Nachmias, Mioduser, Oren, & Lahav, 1999). Here, we will focus on salient results regarding the current state of affairs (in this section), and promising and emerging trends (in the next section).



For our studies we developed a classification scheme or taxonomy of educational Websites aimed to reflect the developers' educational philosophies as well as their actual manifestations, by revealing how different functionalities are configured, the knowledge is structured and represented, and communication features are implemented. Our taxonomy characterises an educational Website by about 100 variables regarding four main dimensions: basic descriptive information (e.g., site ID, updating, population); pedagogical and educational considerations (e.g., instructional model, interaction, cognitive processes); knowledge attributes (e.g., representational structure, navigation tools); and communication features (e.g., types of telelearning, communication means). Using this tool, about 500 Websites were analyzed by five evaluators (to ensure reliability, a sample of 25% of them was re-analyzed by an additional evaluator).



Our aim was to assess the extent to which educational Websites, sites deliberately developed for educational purposes, realise the potential of the technology and fulfill the educators' expectations. The following is a succinct summary of the studies' results regarding three main dimensions: pedagogy, knowledge representation and handling, and communication processes.,


Pedagogical Characteristics of Web-based learning environments

Our expectation was that educational Websites would sustain current pedagogical approaches that support the students’ active involvement in the construction of knowledge, their interaction with peers and experts, the adaptation of instruction to individual needs, and relevant ways to assess the students’ learning (see Chapter 14). Moreover, given the innovative character of the technology, it could be expected that new pedagogical forms based on the unique features of the technology would arise. The findings however, show a somehow different picture (see Table 1). Only 28.2% of the sites include inquiry-based activities, and more than three-quarters were highly structured, offering mainly computer-controlled learning activities. Most sites elicit cognitive processes such as retrieving information (52.5%) or rote learning (42%); fewer focus on analysis and inference processes (32.6%) and even less on problem-solving and decision-making (5%). Only 2.8% of the sites support any real form of collaborative learning. Regarding interaction, we found that most sites promote browsing (76.4%) or simple forms of interaction (42.4%), and few sites offer complex (3%) or even on-line (6.4%) activities. Few sites include any form of feedback, either automatic (16.3%) or human (5.5%).

Table 1: Websites analysis for the pedagogical dimension (N=436)

Websites features

No. of sites (%)

Instructional configuration

Individualized instruction

407 (93.3%)

Classroom collaborative learning

54 (12.4%)

Web collaborative learning

12 (2.8%)




330 (75.7%)


123 (28.2%)




283 (64.9%)


56 (12.8%)

Structured activity

211 (48.4%)

Open-ended activity

43 (9.9%)

Virtual environment

30 (6.9%)

Student modeling/adaptive mechanism

0 (0%)




333 (76.4%)

Multiple choice question

137 (31.4%)

Simple activity

185 (42.4%)

Complex activity

13 (3.0%)

On-line tool

28 (6.4%)

Expert consultation

58 (13.3%)



Information retrieval

229 (52.5%)


183 (42.0%)

Information analysis and inferencing

142 (32.6%)

Problem solving and decision making

22 (5.0%)

Creation and invention

20 (4.6%)

Locus of


Student controlled

377 (86.5%)

Software environment controlled

77 (17.7%)

Mixed initiative

26 (6.0%)



71 (16.3%)

Human asynchronous

17 (3.9%)

Human synchronous

7 (1.6%)



Within Website resources

363 (83.3%)

Linked WWW resources

135 (31.0%)

Additional external resources

93 (21.3%)

External resources only

4 (0.9%)

Real time data collection

6 (1.4%)

Ask an expert

38 (8.7%)

Ask a peer

17 (3.9%)


Standardized tests

29 (6.7%)

Alternative evaluation

7 (1.6%)

These results conclusively show that the pedagogical approaches favored by educators and researchers for the development of valuable learning environments are still far from being implemented in most educational Websites.

Information representation and handling

High-level and sophisticated integrated media are perhaps one of the defining characteristics of state-of-the-art Website production. Our results showed that educational Websites make little use of these advanced features. The vast majority of sites are still heavily based on text (93% of the sites include more than one text field in all its pages). About 58% of the sites include at least one image per page; most sites do not include interactive images (96.1%), animated images (81.9%), or sound.

Regarding knowledge representation, the WWW is perceived as the realisation of the hypertext (or hypermedia) model. Non-linear structure, complex linkage within and between information units, and appropriate navigation and search tools are defining features of this model. Our results reveal only a shallow presence of these features in the evaluated Websites. Only about half of the sites included intra-site linkage to a reasonable extent (more than one link per page), and about 11% of the sites included linkage to external sites to the same extent.



Limited communication resources were observed in most of the evaluated Websites (Table 2). The most (and almost sole) resource present in the sites is electronic mail (about 65% of the sites). Other tools such as discussion groups, chat, or any form of distant work (e.g., tele-manipulation, tele-creation) were found only in a few sites. Moreover, features aimed to support working groups or learning communities were not found in any of the evaluated sites. The gap between expectations and actual implementation in the communications domain is even more evident than in the previously discussed domains. The main reason for that is that the technological resources do exist and are being successfully implemented in other areas of peoples' lives (e.g., work, professional training, banking, shopping). In addition, transactions among humans and between humans and information resources are quintessential to education, and it is not hard to conceive of endless forms of support that communication technology could offer for these processes. As for today’s reality, this support is not yet a function in most educational Websites.

Table 2: Use of communication resources in Websites (N=436)

Communication means

No. of sites (%)

Synchronic activities

17 (3.9%)


283 (64.9%)

Discussion group without mediator

15 (3.4%)

Discussion group with mediator

10 (2.3%)


8 (1.8%)


0 (0%)

Video conference

0 (0%)


1 (0.2%)


7 (1.6%)


Preliminary conclusions


n a previous paper we characterized the first stages in the assimilation process of the WWW technology by educators as "one step ahead for the technology, two steps back for the pedagogy" (Mioduser,Nachmias, Oren, & Lahav, 1999). As experienced educators we hold substantial models regarding the varied facets of our practice (e.g., how to build a lesson plan, to assess a learner’s performance or behavior, to develop a learning unit). These models are usually tied to the (technological) resources at hand, and they affect each other mutually. It seems reasonable to assume that when facing the assimilation of a new technology we rest on these models as useful resource. The result is usually a transition period at which we replicate known models by means of the new technology. Our studies reveal a similar transitional phenomenon regarding the vast majority of educational Websites. Most sites’ main component is the information-base, built upon the hypermedia-CD model. As for interactivity features based on the implementation of new technological resources (e.g., forms, Java applets, Shockwave), most online activities resemble the automatic-feedback (behaviorist-like) transactions of classic CAI (e.g., multiple-choice, select-correct-part, assemble-correct-configuration).

It should be noted here that the reported studies related to the large aggregate of Websites in cyberspace as target population, and not to specific exemplary sites increasingly appearing in the WWW. In light of these results one can adopt the skeptics’ perspective and argue that Web technology has little to offer to education. But one can also adopt a more-thoughtful perspective, reflecting on the potential outcomes of this transition stage and looking for unique examples of emerging (and promising) directions in the research and development of educational Websites. In the following we will briefly refer to five such relevant directions.


Emerging Trends

As the educators’ acculturation process into the new communication technologies proceeds, three interesting phenomena arise implying that novel directions (e.g., implementation models, pedagogical approaches, cognitive issues) worth to be explored are being recognized. The first is the attempt to define relevant questions at different levels of the educational process. The second is the devise of new pedagogical solutions in an attempt to respond in practical ways to the emerging questions. The third is the research effort being invested in the pursue of systematic answers to these questions, and the consolidation of a consistent body knowledge in their regard.

For two reasons it is still impossible to present an objective and comprehensive account of this intriguing process: (a) we are still at a very early stage of it and moving as the technology itself changes rapidly, and (b) we look at this process as active (biased?) participants. However, as a manner of illustration, we will refer to questions, practices, and research directions emerging in five particular areas: Curricular issues, Collaborative Learning, Learning Communities, Visual languages, and Distance learning.


Curricular issues

A great deal of theoretical and practical knowledge has been generated regarding curriculum research and development based on the print technology (e.g., see the definitive classic by Tyler, 1949, or the comprehensive review in Jackson, 1992). The shift towards representing and delivering knowledge by means of digital technology (side-by-side with the textbook? Instead of the textbook?) is today an unquestionable reality. This shift represents profound changes regarding key curricular issues, for example: (a) curricular resources (e.g., from limited-media to multimedia); (b) knowledge organisation (e.g., from linear and hierarchical structure to web-like and multiple-layers structure); (c) locus of responsibility for the creation of significant curricular packages (e.g., from developer/teacher generation of structured learning units, to learners’ personal curriculum and ad-hoc chunking of knowledge units)

These and other changes create the need to revise current curricular theories. Considering the principles underlying the print-technology curriculum versus the digital-technology curriculum, how can we relate the latter to the former: natural continuation, gradual evolution or breakthrough? The preliminary answers embodied in current quality Websites are more instances of pragmatic decision-making than of theoretical formulation of new curricular principles. The challenge is thus twofold. First, we should identify, analyze, categorise, and generalise these pragmatic solutions as a first step in the definition of a more-general body of curricular principles. But at the same time we should elaborate, focusing on the unique characteristics of the new technology, on new directions and models which appear to be promising for supporting innovative teaching and learning processes.


Collaborative learning

Undoubtedly one of the defining features of Web technology is that it enables peoples’ interaction with (distant repositories of) knowledge as well as with each other - namely communication. These two within-group events, knowledge manipulation and interpersonal transactions, were extensively studied in the context of group-learning processes. However, in the context of the new technologies, we should pay attention to significant changes in group functioning in contrast to traditional group-learning situations. For example: the group functioning is not limited by place or time boundaries; the usual face-to-face and simultaneous action characterising groupwork is not longer the only possibility; members can assume varied roles and even (in less formally defined situations) varied identities according to changing situations; interpersonal transactions are mediated by the technology (e.g., massive use of writing and other symbolic resources); in many occasions, the members’ participation is generated in differentiated stages also separated in time: elaboration, delivery, and feedback-recollection stages. A crucial implication is that the member’s contribution to the group's work can be elaborated beforehand, without the pressure or timing demands of real-time and face-to-face communication situation.

Current research and development efforts have resulted in interesting models and approaches in support for Web-based collaborative learning. Among these are multi-user task-oriented environments; collaborative writing or reading systems (Van der Veen Van Riemsdijk, Slabbekoorn, & Van der Kamp, 1999); collaborative online concept-mapping (Kommers, Aroya, & Stoyanov, 1999); shared annotation systems; or cooperative control of remote objects (Bricker, Fujioka, & Tanimoto, 1999). These and other projects represent an attempt to transcend the pre-Web-technology known models, toward approaches that are authentic to the new technology.


Learning communities

As noted earlier, a learning community can be defined as a novel educational system based on the combination of three components (Oren, Nachmias, Mioduser, & Lahav, 2000): a virtual community (social dimension), hosted by an appropriate virtual environment (technological dimension), and embodying advanced pedagogical ideas (educational dimension). Many sites on the Internet define themselves as virtual learning environments. However, a detailed analysis of such sites reveals that they do not possess all the features that are essential for a virtual environment to support a virtual community aimed at learning, e.g., they do not present the building of a community as a goal; do not stand independently, but rather function as supplements of real institutions; their environments do not motivate social immersion; they do not offer multi-user situations; or they lack pedagogical features which are essential for creating a learning community.

Virtual learning communities currently emerging in the WWW are offered as a third place in addition to work or school, and to home (Oldenburg, 1991). These are being developed upon novel conceptions, offering unique tools and activity modes which differentiates them from the other spaces. These environment supply a variety of communicational tools for developing social relations, tutor-student relations, and expert-novice relations. Likewise, management and moderating functions are included to support social definitions (e.g., status, roles) and transactions. These environments promote learning processes based on members’ personal interests, willingness to participate, and motivation to interact with peers, teachers and other knowledge sources within a dynamic learning community.


Visual languages

The use of visual materials to represent aspects of the world, ideas, and emotions has been an essential component of human's experience since the beginning of humankind. From the very first visual creations on cave walls and on people’s own bodies, to the current digital virtual worlds, visual materials fulfil a variety of roles in our lives, e.g., communication, education, expression. For several centuries however, the written and printed word have been the main conveyors of information, and the main representational means serving educational purposes as well (Baron, 1997). During this period, images were incorporated in texts mainly for illustration or for ornamental purposes. In this century, image-based technologies (e.g., cinema, television), and more recently digital multimedia, brought visual representations back into the center of the scene with unprecedented strength (see Chapter 10). Educational Websites play an active role in this process, adopting as well as contributing to the development of a variety of interesting trends, as the following examples show.


Distance learning

Web technology has contributed to the creation of new forms of distance learning, either by empowering existing resources of traditional distance education or by the creation of new resources. For example, in contrast to the traditional one-way and one-to-many traditional TV broadcasting of lectures, video conferencing represent a significant switch towards multiple-ways participation and many-to-many interactivity. As earlier noted, a dominant form in the development of Web-based distance learning are virtual courses. Their number is continuously growing, and appear in a wide range of configurations. At one end a large number of isolated courses can be found on a large diversity of topics. At the other end are organized virtual schools of different types (e.g., secondary, vocational, university), proposing many courses, and even offering formal accreditation and degrees.

Among the interesting features characterizing Websites being developed to support distant learning are:

These and other developments indicate the consolidation of real opportunities to harness the new technological tools in pursue of life-long learning objectives, offering different populations a variety of learning opportunities according to their desires and needs.

Final Remarks

We should be aware that this is transition time for Web-based technology, that the technology in use is far from being definite and stable, and that we are only in the preliminary stages of redefining and devising pedagogical solutions for the appropriate educational implementation of the new technologies. We must be aware of the signs indicating that we are still facing the very first stages of a long way to go. We feel ourselves as part of the large community who now have the exceptional opportunity to invent, explore, and implement novel Web-based pedagogical forms.


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