A HyperDoc Is Not A WebQuest

A HyperDoc is Not A WebQuest

Words matter, and in a day and age where information is streaming through our timelines faster than we can keep up, figuring out what words mean can be challenging. In defining new terms, it helps to understand the history and context of the term HyperDocs, in relation to the term WebQuest.

In 2013, many districts in our area began purchasing Chromebooks for the annual state tests. We were finally getting a larger number of devices on our campuses. As teachers excited about using technology, Sarah, Kelly, and I worked hard to share ideas about ways to incorporate a variety of web tools available, yet Immediately noticed some kinks it threw into many colleagues’ craft for instruction. From typing in challenging URLs to get student attention for directions, to workflow strategies for collecting and evaluating work, teaching with technology was a challenge. As we entered into coaching roles, we wanted to support our colleagues to rethink the way they were delivering content, and to elevate the way students were experiencing learning.

A secondary HyperDoc for teaching research prior to launching 20% Time Projects


HyperDocs were created based on many research and learning theories including Eric Mazur, and Ramsey Musallam’s  work with Cycles of Learning, inspired by Robert Karplus’s  cycle Explore, Explain, Apply. HyperDocs are a way to package digital lessons in order to create quality inquiry-based learning experiences. Teachers design these lessons and give them to students to first explore the content, then adjust their understanding through the explanation of the concepts, then apply their knowledge in a meaningful way.

That describes the lesson design, what makes HyperDocs unique is the delivery. Whether it be ‘on tech’ or ‘off-tech’ these blended learning lessons can be designed to meet the needs of each teacher’s classroom. Some may choose to design them for independent, self-paced learning; while others design them to blend with different instructional strategies varying from 1:1 conferring, small group instruction, to whole group teacher-directed instruction. Teachers are tasked with integrating several best instructional practices together to meet the needs of every learner. Whether you are working to reach a language learner or student with Special Ed needs, want to integrate ISTE standards, increase the level of critical thinking, or design a lesson based on the UDL framework, HyperDocs help educators accomplish this! The key to getting it just right is for teachers to focus on studying their students as they learn, taking time to reflect on lessons, and revise them to meet the needs of specific learning goals.

I have often heard HyperDocs being called the new WebQuests. While HyperDocs and WebQuests have some characteristics in common, most revolving around effective learning theories, they are quite different. I have long admired the work of Bernie Dodge and his creation of WebQuests, HyperDocs were not created with them in mind.

I appreciate Bernie Dodge’s own explanation around the confusion when defining WebQuests,

A WebQuest is centered around a challenging, doable and (ideally) authentic task. Examples of WebQuest tasks might include: writing a letter to the mayor taking a stand on whether a new landfill should be opened; writing a diary as if you were living in 1491; designing a travel itinerary for geologists visiting Italy; or creating a commemorative mural celebrating space exploration. A WebQuest is never about answering a series of questions. Even though a scavenger hunt might require some analysis or problem solving, it’s not of the same intensity of higher-level thinking that a good WebQuest entails. Obviously, there’s a place for both WebQuests and scavenger hunts, but they are different places with very different goals.”  From Larry Ferlazzo’s blog

WebQuests follow a structure, they start with a quest or task. Students, working in groups, divide up the tasks to be completed, and conclude with an application of knowledge gained from the activity. I have always seen WebQuests as centered around strong instructional methods such as inquiry, critical thinking, and problem-solving, yet the similarities they share do not make a HyperDoc an actual WebQuest.


So how is a HyperDoc different from a web quest?

Well-designed HyperDocs are more than a doc with links, or digital worksheet. They include a mindset for effective pedagogy as well, something that is not always visible upfront. Teachers, being the designer of the learning experience, may plan for students to work through at their own pace or interject more control over the delivery  with portions being online, then offline, coordinating the exploration, explanation, and application parts of the lesson. An important part of the delivery is reflecting on student learning during the HyperDoc lesson. How are all students' educational needs being met, is there time for small group instruction, and when is it necessary to pull all students back for a whole class discussion? These decisions are what make the lessons personal to the classroom needs and objectives. The same HyperDoc lesson will be taught in very different ways in different classrooms. The most important factors for how to teach with a HyperDoc lesson is about the  teacher's craft and the needs of the students rather than a one size fits all experience. 

HyperDocs offer a solution to packaging digital content to inspire thinking, exploration, and curiosity. There is never one right way to design a HyperDoc, as long as they include a strong cycle of learning. Due to the flexible nature of Google Apps, Microsoft OneNote, or any web tool a teacher may choose to package a HyperDoc on,  they can be easily shared, revised, and edited to become a lesson that you would judge as a quality based on your classroom needs. The emphasis of design over tools is important to remember. 

Aside from the actual digital lessons that are being created, HyperDocs are bringing together a community of teachers who value discussions around lesson design and collaboration who have previously felt alone in their classrooms. I am constantly getting feedback from educators who state that they feel creative again, excited to deliver their content in a different way, they are feeling successful in accomplishing the many instructional strategies they are tasked to integrate. A HyperDoc is not a program, it’s not curriculum you adopt, it’s a way of connecting the lesson designing process, to tech integration, to effective pedagogy. It’s about taking time and thought into the lessons we deliver.

Essentially, HyperDocs are what you make of them; from the initial construction to the delivery, to the reflection of the learning experience. They are one way, among many proven methods, to shift learning in the classroom. 


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Author: HyperDocs Admin 12-08-2019