Web-Based Learning

Retrieved Using Google Images By: Amy Anderson

Web technologies have the ability to "totally change distance education. Web-based distance education technologies may improve education and support totally new educational systems, radically changing traditional universities and K-12 schools.” (Fox & Mills, 1997).

Definition of Terms

In·ter·net noun
an electronic communications network that connects computer networks and organizational computer facilities around the world (the Web is part of the Internet)

learning noun
1 : the act or experience of one that learns
2 : knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study
3 : modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (as exposure to conditioning)

The Web: A Brief History

The World Wide Web, part of the Internet, is a "means and a method for delivering materials for learning and instruction" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 372). Since the Web is part of the Internet, it is important to understand what the Internet entails. The Internet is a "worldwide collection of computer networks that allows individuals to share data from one computer to another" (Green, Brown, & Robinson, 2008). Technically, the Web is a "set of standards and software" that make Internet use "easy and compatible" with every type of computer and operating system available. Overall, the Web is used to support student learning by providing various resources that offer unique yet engaging learning opportunities for students.

Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at a physics lab in Switzerland, is credited with the creation of the Web. Berners-Lee wanted physicists to share research documents in an effective way with other physicists around the world. Therefore, he composed a proposal in 1989 that outlined his solution. According to Green, Brown, and Robinson (2008), Berners-Lee designed "a system that would allow users to share and access information no matter what type of computer they were using" (p. 3). The following video provides further information on the Web and the outstanding innovator, Tim Berners-Lee.

Design, Development, and Implementation

Instructional Design
This link covers the development of online learning by using the Web for teaching and learning.

In order to design effective instruction practices on the Web, one must understand the framework of Universal Design. According to the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University (Connell, et al., 1997), there are seven basic principles of universal design. Universal Design (UD) is a term first conceived by architect, Ron Mace. Mr. Mace was the founder and program director of the Center for Universal Design at the College of Design at NC State University. Ron Mace stated, "Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." The seven principles are as follows:

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Green, Brown, and Robinson (2008) mentioned that principles of Universal Design can be applied to the classroom for learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curriculum that enables all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all (Green, Brown, & Robinson, 2008, p. 10). The following web site provides more information on Universally Designed Classrooms

Factors in Web-Based Learning

The nature and quality of Web-based learning depends on many factors. When designing Web materials, one should first consider the methodologies that are used. Some methodologies may include tutorial, drill, simulation, game, hypermedia, test, or open-ended learning environments. According to Alessi and Trollip (2001), the most common Web-based learning methodology is that of hypermedia (p. 383). The following are primary factors in Web-based learning:


Navigation primarily refers to the use of hyperlinks, buttons, and menus. It also refers to the use of indexes, tables of contents, maps, time lines, picture collections, text searching, bookmarks, and histories. The navigational features of the Web are unique because of the "commercial search engines" it provides users. The search engines allow users to search the entire Web for information regarding any topic.

Browsers and Speed

According to Alessi and Trollip (2001), browser characteristics and speed are "out of the designer's control" (p. 387). All Web-based materials are delivered to the learner by browser software, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer. Visual and function characteristics of browsers are important to consider. The user controls, text size and style, background colors, menu operations such as searching, and hot text appearance are essential elements that a designer must consider. Speed refers to the rate in which the user's "computer communicates with other servers on the Web" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 387). It is important to design media for low speed users as well as to provide alternatives for different users.

Visual Layout

When referring to the visual layout of the Web, there are extensive factors to consider. However, Alessi and Trollip (2001) provide a few additional Web-specific considerations. The main recommendation is to avoid scrolling whenever possible. Many users do not scroll which causes them to not read information on the whole page. However, sometimes scrolling is necessary and important, such as this wiki page where there is extensive use of continuous text. Another recommendation is to provide browser features referred to as frames and tables, "which allow splitting the browser window into functional areas with different information and purpose" (p. 389). These features are effective because they provide user control and orientation when navigating to other Web sites.


The Web can be used to support and enhance active learning. Users can ask and answer questions, problem solve, play games, and engage in simulations on the Web. Alessi and Trollip (2001) stated that "rather than interaction between learner and computer, the Web can facilitate interaction between learner and learner that is mediated by the computer" (p. 392). When interaction is used in this particular manner, learning may become more meaningful rather than a "mere retrieval and presentation of information" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 393).

User Control

The most important form of user control is for navigation and presentation. The user should be able to control the audio and video of a presentation. The following are important user control features: forward progress, pace, exiting, pausing, continuing, and repeating. Scanning of audio, video, and animation as well as control of volume are also vital control features.


The Web is often used for its communication features such as e-mail, bulletin boards, chat rooms, or video conferencing. One goal of Web-based learning, in regards to its communication features, is its "capacity to create and facilitate communities of learners unbounded by time and space" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 394). In order for effective communication and interaction among users to occur, compatibility of software is needed. It is important that the learning environment adapts to the various needs and work styles of different types of users.

Privacy, Security, and Safety

Web material privacy, safety of learners, and security of educational files are three major concerns for designers. The following recommendations will protect the safety and privacy of learners using the Web: using security software, virus scanners, secure Web servers, data encryption, and passwords for access to a site.

The Importance of the Web for Students and Teachers

The Web along with its various technologies, can be used for learning and teaching. The Web is important for students in that it can "provide learners with a vast library of communication and collaborative work, and can provide learners with a vast library of textual, visual, and auditory material for their own self-directed research and learning activities" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 377). The Web is important for teachers in that it can be used to "deliver material, manage learning environments, and provide assessment of learning" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 378). The Web can also serve as the primary means by which instructors "provide new information, communicate with learners, and engage in management activities, such as scheduling, testing, and grading" (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 380). In addition, the Web is important because it supports both on-site learning and distance learning, providing a flexible and convenient way to cater to learners with different needs and goals.

7 Principles for Effective Teaching and Learning Through the Web

According to the Ohio Learning Network, there are seven principles of good practice for innovative teaching and learning.
1. Encourage contact between student and teacher
2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
3. Use active learning techniques
4. Give prompt feedback
5. Emphasize time on task
6. Communicate high expectations
7. Respect diverse talents and different ways of learning
To view the 7 Principles in more detail visit the link.

The Use of the Web for Learning: What the Literature Says

The Web is increasingly becoming a popular tool for enhancing on-site learning. On-site learning is when students occupy a classroom where learning and instruction occurs in a traditional classroom setting. With on-site learning environments, the Web can be used in the following ways: "delivering learning materials, facilitating communication, providing an additional vehicle for learners doing research, integrating learning activities and managing them, providing a method for assessment of learning, supporting people after formal learning is finished, and providing internal support features” (Alessi &Trollip, 2001, p. 378).

The use of the Web as a means of delivering instruction is increasingly growing. According to Alexander (1995) “the greatest potential of the Web lies in the fact that we have a chance to learn from the lessons of the previous faded technologies, and an opportunity to develop new learning experiences for students that have not been possible before.” However, Parson (1998) and Alexander (1995) argued that while implementing a new technology, educators should evaluate how students learn via the new technology so as to help with curriculum and instructional designs. Moreover, Parson (1998) stressed the importance of understanding how the new technology can affect learning when it is used by different types of learners.

Shih and Gamon (2002), suggested that educators should use various teaching methods to meet the needs of students with different learning styles in Web-based environments. Methods for delivering learning materials through the Web include e-mail, mailing list servers, bulletin boards, chat rooms, audio teleconferencing, and video teleconferencing (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 378). Teaching and learning not only require two-way communication but efforts as well. In addition to employing various teaching methods, educators should make their efforts with students together. By working with students, educators should help students learn how to learn by providing guidance for using appropriate learning strategies in different learning situations and environments. This is particularly critical to ensure the success of student learning in Web-based courses, as Web learning has rapidly become more and more common (Shih & Gamon, 2002, p. 9).

Evans and Lindrum (2009) employed the fundamental principles of the constructivist learning theory to develop a Web-based curriculum. The curriculum integrated various online teaching tools such as: simulations, photo galleries, interactive timelines, and automated testing. The teaching tools were intertwined with innovative pedagogical tools such as: the use of narrative, experiential learning, different learning styles, and civic education. The final product was a unit-based virtual textbook through which students worked in preparation for class discussions. According to Evans and Lindrum (2009) there were many advantages to this Web-based resource. Students displayed increased interest not only in subject matter, but beyond the subject matter as well. In addition, the Web-based tool greatly enhanced student preparedness in which students participated in more sophisticated classroom dialogue. Overall, students were "impressed and excited" about the potential of using a Web-based resource instead of traditional print media for learning (Evans & Lindrum, 2009).

Shih and Gamon (2001) conducted a study to determine how student motivation, attitude, and learning styles influenced achievement in Web-based courses. The participants included 99 students taking two non-major biology introductory courses that were offered at a university. The objectives of the study were to identify the relationships among student achievement, motivation, attitude, learning styles, and selected variables in Web-based learning. The study found that students were most positive about the convenience of Web-based instruction and the ability to control their pace of learning. Receiving better grades than other students and expecting to do well were the two most highly rated motivators for Web-based learning. Students enjoyed the convenience and self-controlled learning pace and were motivated by competition and high expectations in Web-based learning.

Shih and Gamon (2001) suggested that educators should provide students with information and opportunities to maintain healthy student competition and high expectations in Web-based learning, such as announcing mean scores of class tests for comparison and setting clear expectations for assignments and exams. Likewise, educators should understand student motivational factors and attitudes toward Web-based learning so that they can stimulate student motivation and get students actively involved in the learning process. According to the study, student motivation appeared to play an essential role in Web-based learning. In this study, motivation was the only significant factor in Web-based learning that accounted for more than one fourth of student achievement. Students as well as instructors should understand the importance of motivation in Web-based learning in order to enhance student achievement. Furthermore, teachers should encourage students to become active learners by providing opportunities for students to reflect on their motivation and use of motivational strategies in learning which will assure student success in Web-based instruction.

Did You Know?

It was not until early 1991, when a "working prototype of this system" was first discovered. Berners-Lee worked at the physics laboratory where this system was used on a single Web server in Switzerland. "In late 1991, this Web server was made accessible to the general public. By the end of 1992, there were more than fifty Web servers available throughout the world. The number of public servers grew to approximately 24 million by 2002!" (Green, Brown, & Robinson, 2008, p. 132).

According to the Internet Usage and World Population Statistics, as of December 31, 2009 there are approximately 1,802,330,457 Web users. The bar graph below shows that Asia has the highest number of Internet users in the world, with 764.4 million. Australia has the least number of Internet users, with 21.1 million.

For more information on World Internet Statistics please visit the link.

Web-Based Software for the Classroom

Discovery Education
This website provides engaging lesson plans, curriculum materials, audio and video files, and tools for both teachers and students.


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provides educators with assessment, curriculum, and technology integration resources and ideas in order to improve teaching and learning in PK-12 education. This website also provides ISTE technology standards for students, teachers, and administrators.

This website teaches students and supports teachers throughout the entire research process.

Promethean Planet
This website provides teachers with new and innovative lessons as well as offers a wide variety of professional development materials and resources.

Smithsonian Institution Libraries
This website offers a variety of media, from images and audio to digital library collections which
include online exhibitions, webcasts, digital editions, bibliographies, and fact sheets.

This website is a free learning platform where teachers and students participate in collaborative learning projects online.

Write To Learn
Pearson's WriteToLearn is a sophisticated Web-based learning tool used to improve student writing. According to the video below, "experts say student essays and summaries show steady improvement" when they use this Web-based learning tool for writing.

Side Note: As I continue on my journey as an educator, I will add various Web-based resources to this wiki page. Hopefully, I will establish a wide variety of quality Web-based sources that you can implement into your classroom instruction. Through my research I have discovered how much the Web has to offer not only educators, but students as well. I learned that the Web is a powerful learning tool, offering an immense amount of resources that motivate and add to student learning. I now have a new passion for learning more about the Web and how to effectively implement it into the classroom. I hope you learned from and enjoyed my wiki page as much as I enjoyed creating it! Thank you.


  • Alessi, S. M. & Trollip, S. R. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Alexander, S. (1995). Teaching and learning on the world wide web. In Aus Web95: The First Australian World Wide Web Conference, Southern Cross University, New South Wales, 30 April - 2 May 1995.
  • Connell, B. R., Jones, M., Mace, R., Mueller, J., Mullick, A., Ostroff, E., et al. (1997). The principles of universal design. Raleigh: North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprinciples.htm.
  • Evans, J., & Lindrum. (2009). Learning through experience: Using web-based learning interactions to teach american government. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p11602_index.html.
  • Fox, G., & Mills, K. (1997). Web technologies and the potential for innovation in distance education. International Journal of Modern Physics, 8, 119.
  • Green, T., Brown, A., & Robinson, L. (2008). Making the most of the web in your classroom: A teacher's guide to blogs, podcasts, wikis, pages, and sites. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Parson, R. (1998). An investigation into instruction available on the world wide web. Paper presented at the Master of Education Research Project.
  • Shih, C. C., & Gamon, J. A. (2002). Relationships among learning strategies, patterns, styles, and achievement in web-based courses. Journal of Agricultural Education, 43, 1-11.
  • Shih, C. C., & Gamon, J. (2001). Web-based learning: Relationships among student motivation, attitude, learning styles, and achievement. Journal of Agricultural Education, 42, 12-20.

Amy Anderson
Last updated on April 24, 2010