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D. Modules 3 and 4


Criteria for Evaluating a Website

In Module 2 you learned about the parts of a web site. In Module 3 and Module 4 you will be learning about the criteria used to evaluate a website. The next nine lessons contain 9 topics used in web site evaluation. 

Lesson Objective

By the end of  Modules 3 and 4 you will understand and be able to use the nine criteria used for evaluating a web site. The nine criterion covered are: Purpose, Authority, Objectivity, Appropriateness, Currency, Responsibility, clarity, Accessibility, and Hoaxes. 

Module 3 lesson 1: Purpose

What is the purpose of a Web site? Web pages may be –
> commercial     > persuasive                                    > informative
> personal           > educational                                    > institutional
> entertaining      > a hoax

What does the URL (web address) say about the creator of the website and its purpose? By looking at the final syllable in the domain name, one can determine something about the type of site, and the information on that site. Some examples include:

.gov           Government agency: www.whitehouse.gov
.net            Internet service provider: www.comcast.net
.com          Commercial site: www.target.com
.edu           Higher education: www.csus.edu
.mil            Military site: www.navy.mil
.org           Organization / may be charitable, religious, or a lobbying group, among others: http://en.wikipedia.org

There are numerous top-level domain names, in addition to country names that appear as two-letter abbreviations in the domain name. More details on this can be found at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains

Module 3 Lesson 2: Authority

Authority defines the level of expertise of person, group, or organization that developed the web site. Some common questions to ask when looking at the web site include:

* Who is the author of the site?
* What are the credentials (professional background, education, or experience)
  of the person or group?
* Does this person or group have sufficient authority to speak on the subject and
  information on the web site?
* Is there contact information, preferably multiple options, such as name, address
  phone number, eMail address, FaceBook, or other options?
* Is there an organization or corporate sponsor, and what is their role?
* Is there a list of references?
* Is the page authentic, or is it a hoax page?



Module 3 lesson 3: Objectivity

Objectivity looks at whether there is bias to the informational content. Check if advertising and the information content are being supplied by the same person or organization. Keep in mind that many websites with excellent information are sponsored by commercial entities or take advertisements to finance the website.

* Does the content reflect a bias?
* Is the bias explicit or hidden?
* Does the identity of the author or sponsor suggest a bias?
* How does the bias impact the usefulness of the information?




Module 3 Lesson 4: Appropriateness and Relevance

Appropriateness & Relevance
Each web site is constructed to address and appeal to a particular age group, a range of age groups, and to provide information at a particular level of cognitive development. The ability of a user to understand the information presented, and to navigate the information on the web site generally depends on a combination of reading skills, familiarity with the types of page layouts commonly used, and a general level of knowledge about the subject(s) presented.

 * Is the content appropriate for the assignment?
* Is the reading level appropriate for the project?
* Is the content appropriate for the age or developmental level of the audience?
* Is the content accurate, complete, and well-written?
* Is the content relevant to your topic or question?



Module 4 Lesson 1: Currency

Currency relates to how up-to-date the web site is. Many web sites need to regularly add new or updated information, while others may contain facts that will be unchanging. If the web site connects to other web sites, it is important that the links on the site are regularly checked.

* Is the information on the pages up-to-date?
* Can you find information about when the page was last updated?
* Do all of the links on the pages work?
* Is there a difference between the date the information was created and when
  the page was last updated?

Look at these two sites and compare them using the questions listed.




Module 4 lesson 2: Responsibility

Responsibility shows what person or organization is directly tasked with ensuring that web site follows standards of professionalism with the web community, and the larger user community. It includes looking at such questions as:

* Are the authors of the web site up-front about their purpose and content?
* Is there a way to contact the authors who created and maintain the web site?
* Do the authors give credit for information used on the web site?
* Is there a list of references?



Module 4 Lesson 3: Clarity

Clarity looks at how the information is presented on the web site. A clean, well thought out web site makes it easy for a new visitor to navigate and find the information they seek.

* Is the information on the web site presented clearly?
* Is the text neat, legible, and formatted for easy reading?
* If there are graphics, do they add to the content or distract from it?
* If there are advertisements, do they interfere with the ability to use the page?
* Are the pages well organized?
* Are there mistakes in spelling or word usage?




Module 4 Lesson 4: Accessibility

A number of Internet users are visually-impaired or blind. In order to navigate a web site, these users need to have special instructions built into the web page so that they can access the information with screen readers and related devices. Built in components like screen magnification, and the ability to adjust the contrast, are also useful in many situations.

* Can you get to the site?
* Does the site load quickly?
* Can you move around the site easily?
* Is the site or page there after long lengths of time between visits?
* Is there a text-only alternative for the visually-impaired?




Hoaxes (Optional Lesson)

Hoaxes present a significant challenge to determine whether the information presented gives misinformation that the unaware reader may take to be real. To verify the authenticity of a site, the reader may need to compare the information with other sites of a similar topic. Look at the examples below that contain lists of hoax web sites to gain some experience in evaluating the information presented.







Students: the Journey Begins Here

Module 1 Pre-assessment

Module 2 - Details of a Web Page

Module 3 - Purpose, Authority, Objectivity, Appropriateness & Relevance

Module 4- Currency, Responsibility, clarity, Accessibility, Hoaxes

Module 5- Reading and Locating Information

Module 6- Post Assessment

Teacher Resources