Educational websites vary widely in standard, scope and purpose.
IvyRose started as source of useful information for therapists and trainee therapists and has developed into a more general e-learning resource. We are therefore increasingly included in lists of educational websites. This is welcome. We're pleased to support a wider range of users of educational websites than just the original alternative therapists, trainee nurses and physiotherapists and similar.
What do you think makes educational websites most useful ?
IvyRose has its own style and audience and isn't intended to replace a standard biology or chemistry textbook. As we grow and improve we are interested in hearing about which style of educational websites are preferred by students and teachers. For example, which of the following characteristics are generally considered "good" or "bad", "helpful", "confusing" or "interesting" ?
- Educational websites describing a specific course (subject and syllabus), e.g. GCSE PE, AQA B syllabus
- Study websites that include most or all of the information needed but not designed around the specific course
- Educational websites about one subject only, e.g. physics, without including related subjects e.g. other sciences
- Encyclopedia websites such as Wikipedia
- Educational websites that include related current affairs e.g. topics in the news
- Study websites that include interactive diagrams and/or interactive quizzes or Q&As
- Homework help websites e.g. including sample essays about key topics
This article assumes that educational websites in general are a good thing.
However, we've heard arguments that many young people today use the internet so much for leisure and personal interest activities that they would not be disadvantaged by learning all of their formal school or college studies from paper textbooks. That was certainly the way most people studied in the past. For example, there were no educational websites in schools the 1970s but computers did become a more familiar sight in schools in the 1970s and 1980s when they were used mainly for teaching computing (computer programming) or sometimes for using specific software or working on specific projects. UK readers may remember the BBC "Domesday" Project in 1986, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday. Thinking even further back in time, there are still many older people around today who remember learning to write and doing their school exercises using chalk and slates - before even paper, pencils and pens were widely used in all schools including primary/infant classes.
There are now many educational websites receiving very many visitors who return regularly to study online. Most people would probably agree that educational websites are both a good thing and here to stay.
Educational websites in the future
When IvyRose was launched in 2003 most students and teachers probably accessed websites from computers in their office, laboratory, school, library or home. An increasing proportion of professionals including salespeople and corporate executives also accessed the internet from laptop computers, in many cases via a cable to a telephone line as opposed to over a wireless internet connection - and yes, some did so via mobile phones. Much has changed since then, especially concerning mobile internet access - not only from laptop computers but also from mobile telephones and, most recently, tablets such as the Apple iPad. Increasing proportions of our visitors are accessing this website from mobile devices such as iPhones, Android phones, iPads, iPods, BlackBerry mobile phones and so on. This may be an early indication of an overall yet perhaps gradual change in use of educational websites. Alternatively, we may be seeing the beginning of two distinctly different types of use educational websites e.g. thorough study - perhaps including use of detailed interactive diagrams - using computers to access educational websites and another use for looking-up facts, figures and simple clear explanations quickly via smaller devices such as mobile telephones. Some students even have access to the internet during some supervised lessons and may use educational websites in school time in different ways depending on the subject and activity.
Not all websites used for study purposes are specifically "education websites". For example, the websites of media organizations including newspapers and broadcasters may be useful to students of many different subjects. News websites and broadcasts in foreign languages may be especially useful to language students while the websites of political parties may be important for students of subjects such as politics, economics and current affairs. One interesting issue is the usefulness of educational websites that adhere strictly to defined course outlines compared with websites that include the same information within a wider context e.g. including one or more specific points of view about the subject material.
There is much scope for speculation and discussion. We certainly expect to see more educational websites and a greater variety of educational websites as use of the internet increases and more and more students and teachers look for free educational resources online. (Free-to-access vs. paid-for, e.g. subscription, educational websites is another topic for consideration.)