Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

3 Keys to Effective Educational Websites

on September 10, 2013

The winners of the Best of the Web awards have at least three characteristics that make their websites effective for schools and universities.

The Center for Digital Education recognized four school districts and universities for their websites in its annual awards program on Tuesday, Sept. 13.The awards highlight K-12 and higher education websites that enrich both student and teacher education.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Broward County Public Schools share three major characteristics that make their websites work well.

1. Educational

Their websites were designed to educate both students and teachers. The institute set out to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math, and increase their science literacy. And Broward County decided to provide resources for teachers on the Common Core State Standards.

2. Easy to access

When Broward County teachers looked for Common Core resources, they had a hard time finding websites that were open to educators in other states and school districts. So the school district of 270,000 students and 14,000 teachers set out to make a website that was available to everyone.

Previously the school district didn't have a website outside of the standard domain, and it wasn't easy to find Common Core resources on its main website because they were located in various places.

"What we wanted with Defining the Core was for them to know that anything in the district -- any professional development, any resources, anything that has to do with Common Core -- is at this website," said David Shelley, curriculum supervisor of K-12 literacy for Broward County Public Schools. "So it's a one-stop shop for anything they need."

3. Entertaining

When you're trying to get students excited about learning, one of the best ways to do that is by entertaining them. While Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had previously created movies for planetariums and IMAX, students weren't going to those places anymore for information. They were going to the Web.

"If you're going to try to reach out to young people to get them interested in science, you have to go where they are," said Richard W. Siegel, director of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center at the institute.

Designers settled on a virtual theme park that included games and short videos so students could play and learn about atoms and molecules.

Of course, these are just a few characteristics that make websites effective. What other elements make up an effective website? Let us know in the comments.


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Tanya Roscorla

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.

E-mail: troscorla@centerdigitaled.com
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