Web Site Evaluation: How Would Your School's Web Site Measure Up?

Article excerpt

One of the many responsibilities teacher-librarians have recently assumed is the development of their school library's web site. Such site provide an organic "window" to the library's programs, services and resources that can be accessed by students, teachers, administrators, parents and comunity members. As such, they represent another vital library resource.

Teacher-librarians have a range of tools to help them assess the print resources they choose to include in their library collections. However, there are few such instruments to help them evaluate electronic resources. Furthermore, educators often lack the time and/or the expertise to evaluate the resources they, themselves, create. This article describes an annual web site evaluation project, assigned to students in a graduate-level course, that focuses on the evaluation of educator-created web sites.


Every fall, Professor Ruth Small of Syracuse University seeks volunteers for a web site evaluation project that graduate students would be completing in her interdisciplinary course on information technologies in education. In the course students from a range of majors (e.g., information studies, education, communications) collaborate on a variety of technology-based projects, documenting how the adoption and use of information technologies affect change in educational organizations.


One of the technology projects that students choose provides them with an authentic web site evaluation experience in which they are required to assess a school or library resource center web site and provide feedback on how to improve its quality. Teacher-librarians wishing to have their web sites evaluated contact Dr. Small by e-mail to offer their school or library web site. Requests come from every part of the US and From as far away as England and Japan.

"Working on our school's web pages is always on my list of things to do," explains D'Anne Easton, a teacher-librarian from Conway, AR. Her district had provided training in web site development, but there never seemed to be a block of time available to devote the attention and work needed to accomplish much. "I had often thought that what I needed was a focused plan, so I could work on 'a, b and c.' Looking at other school web pages--even those within my own district--made it very obvious that our web pages were lacking. However, I really had no idea where to even begin."

Ms. Easton's was one of more than 70 web sites offered by teacher-librarians around the world for evaluation by students in the class. One of those students was Megan Riccardi, a school media student in the School of Information Studies.

"I chose the web site evaluation project because I thought it would help me gain a critical eye when determining validity in a Web resource," said Megan. "As more and more information is made available online, it is important to have time skills necessary to determine what content is reliable and to make sure your students can also tell the difference." What Megan would soon learn is that, with the information she provided, she would be helping her "client" to also develop this "critical eye."


Students form a team of three people, acting as "evaluation consultants," Team members could be classmates or people outside of class. The team would use established web evaluation instruments to conduct the web site evaluation, analyze the results and report their findings to their "client."

After being assigned the Jim Stone Elementary School site--Ms. Easton's site, at http://www.conwayschools.afsc.k12. ar.us/stone.htm--Megan's first step was to assemble her team, finding two other qualified individuals to evaluate the designated site. "Having multiple evaluators, I realized, eliminates some of the bias that would occur if I evaluated the site alone."

Megan put together an interdisciplinary team that included herself and two classmates. …