Search and Evaluation Strategies for Effective Use of World Wide Web in Leadership Education

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Educators and students of leadership have access to a dynamic tool in the World Wide Web. However, with the increasing amount of information available, finding specific information for teaching, learning, and research in a timely manner can become a challenge. As a teaching/learning tool, Web-based resources must ultimately contribute to learning amid abundant commercial and recreational material. This article offers guidelines for encouraging effective search strategies, provides resources both on-line and in print for further exploration, and presents a Web Evaluation Tool which outlines criteria for evaluation of Web sites for educational use. Students knowledgeable of effective search strategies can enhance their study of leadership, and continue to update their leadership information, research, and trends through access to relevant and useful resources readily available on the Web.

The World Wide Web has become a useful tool for research, teaching, and learning for every discipline including leadership education. Leadership educators need to realize that the Web has changed the way individuals and society think about disseminating information and ideas (Robin, Keeler, & Miller, 1997). Many sites now offer a vast array of commercial or entertainment material that may not be useful for educational goals. For this reason, users must have skills in searching for appropriate sites and for critiquing the information contained on Web sites. While traditional published articles or books have been professionally edited, web sites do not go through this rigorous review; therefore, users must act as their own editors or reviewers.

With increasing amounts of information readily available, the question becomes not where to find information, but how to find specific information in a timely manner. Beyond "browsing" to discover what is on the web, for educational or research purposes, users typically have a specific goal in mind, for example, how to find sites related to "teamwork" for use in a leadership class. As Glossbrenner and Glossbrenner (1997) stated, "We want to sign on, get the information we need, sign off, and go about our business and our lives (p. ix)."

The Web offers a valuable tool for a variety of leadership education contexts. However, ultimately, to reach its potential for education, the technology must contribute to better student learning (Neal, 1998). The purpose of this article is to present information and strategies to help leadership educators and students use the World Wide Web more effectively, and to present a Web Site Evaluation tool to use in critiquing sites for usability and appropriateness.

Refining Web Search Strategies

The number of sites on the World Wide Web has been estimated at 320 million with more being created daily (Lawrence & Giles, 1998). A major concern about the abundance of information is that the Web lacks a structure to frame or order the vast number of sites (Bakken & Aloia, 1998). Tyner (1998) illustrated the challenge of finding information on the Web using the imagery of searching for information in the world's largest library where the books have no covers or title pages, are shelved in no particular order, and there is no central catalogue. Lawrence and Giles (1998) stated that the amount of information on the Web is overwhelming even to sophisticated users. In critiquing the role of the Internet (which includes World Wide Web), Cozic (1996) described it as remarkably shallow, despite its broad scope and large amount of information. The Web users' challenge, then, is to find useful information.

Search engines have been designed to assist with this function; however, more skill in using various engines will provide better results. This article will outline skills for refining search strategies. Users completely unfamiliar with Web searches should find Robin, Keeler and Miller (1997) or Glossbrenner and Glossbrenner (1998) useful for an in-depth explanation of conducting basic searches and becoming more familiar with basic strategies which are beyond the scope of this article. …