Websites will become increasingly important to physical education departments as they seek to communicate the goals and content of their programs. A well developed website is an educational tool physical educators can use in their efforts to teach students about physical activity and health. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of website utilization and the components of websites in use in middle and high school physical education programs. In order to determine the status of active websites as well as the content and design quality of physical education websites in middle and high schools, 285 school websites in two Southern California counties were searched during October 2007. In order to assess the quality of those websites, a website checklist was utilized to evaluate content and design features that should be included on a website. The features on the checklist were organized into categories of content, control (navigation), consistency (readability), and corroboration (accountability). Only 50 (17.5%) of the 285 identified schools had an active physical education department website. In addition, most of the physical education websites were incomplete and lacked important design and content features. Consequently, most of the websites did not favorably represent their departments or the profession of physical education. The low percentage of websites found and the low quality of the websites that were discovered indicate that most physical educators are not taking advantage of an educational tool that has great potential to both promote their department and aid in student learning. Since websites will become increasingly important to physical education departments, physical education teachers need to create websites that are well designed in order to strengthen their efforts to teach students' about physical activity and health.
Establishing effective lines of communication with administration, faculty and staff, parents, students and the community is an important component of a quality physical education program. An excellent way to effectively communicate the goals and expectations of a physical education program is through a department website (Bared & Yu, 2002). Department websites also can create a positive image of a program that is up-to-date and on the cutting edge (Baker, 2001). A department website can encourage and improve parental involvement in their children's education (Wilkinson & Schneck, 2003). A physical education website can also communicate important fitness information and health principles. Teachers can use a website to provide homework assignments, feedback and spark students' interests in various physical activities. Physical education teachers who create well designed department websites may increase the possibility students will take control of their own health (Elliot, Stanee, McCollum, & Stanley, 2007).
Websites can do more than just inform users about a program; they can educate users, as well. Azuma (1999) stated that a useful aspect of creating a website is that it provides teachers with the ability to link to other educational resources and create personalized databases that reinforce their program objectives. School websites are normally designed with four main objectives in mind: (1) an introduction to the school, (2) a connection to outside resources, (3) a display of exemplary work, and (4) a data resource (McKenzie, 1997). Miller, Adsit, and Miller (2005) created a check list of common items found in school websites and conducted a survey of users to determine the importance of each item. Items they listed include; mission statement, rules and policies, curriculum standards, teacher information, homework, calendar of activities, links for parents, links for students, student work samples, and the school's physical address.
In order maximize the effectiveness of a physical education website, the site must be well designed. …