Secondary Schools Online: Are High School Web Sites Effective?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

High schools have traditionally focused on the in-depth instruction of specific subject matter and have served as both a preparatory phase for higher education for some students and an institution that prepares others to enter the workforce. One method to help high schools accomplish these goals is through the creation and maintenance of a school Web site. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent to which high schools' Web sites reflect the overarching goals of high schools and how well they meet criteria for effectiveness based on the fusion of literature on high schools and effective Web site design and development.

A steady increase in Internet connectivity among the various stakeholders in the educational process is the primary reason for the rise in popularity of school Web sites (Chen, 2002; National Center for Education Statistics, 2003; U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001). With this increase in popularity, it becomes increasingly important that the goals of school sites align with and supplement the goals of the educational institutions they represent. There are two primary goals of school Web sites. First, as information systems for site visitors, they provide access to an array of data and information. second, school Web sites act as intermediaries between the various stakeholders in the educational process, such as the school, parents, and the community (McKenzie, 1997). There are also a number of secondary goals which possess significance for high schools, including: 1) introducing educational stakeholders to the school, 2) providing opportunities for local and global publication of student work, 3) acting as an intermediary to a larger body of information, and 4) providing a rich source of locally relevant data related to a variety of instructional topics (McKenzie, 1997).

GOALS FOR WEB SITES

INTRODUCING THE SCHOOL

A Web site can serve as an effective introduction to the high school. This includes conveying information, such as the overall character, look, mission, and environment of the school. These "introductions" should include an assortment of information, such as a picture of the school, demographic information of the student body, school accountability information, faculty/staff information, course offerings, and resource information. Current and potential students, parents, and other stakeholders in the educational process would find this information useful.

PUBLISHING STUDENT WORK

Another important purpose of high school Web sites is to provide opportunities for students to publish their work both locally and globally. Not only does this further introduce site visitors to the school, but it also has a number of implications for student learning. Numerous studies have demonstrated the value of publishing student work on the World Wide Web. For instance, Dixon and Black (1996) and Routman (1991) found that publication of student work could be motivational for many students. Riley and Roberts (2000), as well as Ward-Schofield and Locke-Davidson (2002) reported other results, such as increased student achievement and increased positive attitudes toward content. Other studies have illustrated that student web publication allowed students to visualize the purpose of their work much more clearly and promoted reflection regarding their individual growth and development (Snyder, Lippincott, & Bower, 1998; Spitz, 1996; Willet-Smith, 1993).

INTRODUCING A LARGER BODY OF INFORMATION

High school Web sites can provide diverse resources for students, parents, and teachers, including guidance resources and other information. Student resources might include a variety of curricular tools for all subject areas. Items such as Internet search tools, tutorials, help/homework centers, remediation tools, and additional educational resources could be included. For teachers, the high school Web site could provide access to assorted lesson plans related to the high school curriculum or additional resources for enhancing the teaching and learning environment. …