Save The Planet! A Modern WebQuest


I’ve written before about my admiration for the WebQuest as a learner-centric, active learning activity that can promote critical thinking through groupwork and authentic methods of representing learning. These were all the rage when I earned my M.Ed. in 2003 but have sadly been bumped aside in favor of touchscreens, cloud apps, video chat, and YouTube.

Still, the pedagogy is exemplary, and I believe this simple formula for creating compelling groupwork activities has only grown more relevant (not less) now that learners have the technology to collaborate in realtime from anywhere and create rich media deliverables that would’ve been impossible in the early aughts. My quote in the linked article is still true today:

“One of the best pieces of Education Technology I know of is not a product, it’s an approach.”

This WebQuest (view the live course here) began as an exploration of AI chat tools like ChatGPT and Google Gemini, both of which I collaborated with to create the content text of this lesson. I simply asked each tool to generate a WebQuest based on a fairly silly scenario – that there’s a meteor headed towards the Earth and the learner must assume the role of a scientist or inventor, research real solutions from authoritative sources like NASA and Livermore Lab, evaluate that data, and propose a plan for saving the Earth.

The content could have been anything – I just wanted to show off the strengths of the WebQuest standard format:

The video introduction functions as an engaging hook that introduces the main problem for learners to solve in a fun way. It was basically produced with a webcam and some analog damage features in DaVinci Resolve to make it look and sound like a 1950s/1960s TV broadcast. The acting is thoroughly questionable, but it hopefully serves as a fun and engaging introduction to the learner’s mission. As I’ve noted before, casting the learner as the starring role in a dramatic story is a great way to build engagement and motivation around content.

The Task and Process sections present the learner with an overview of the task to be completed and describes clearly the steps they will take to complete it. This supports learners’ self-monitoring so they can think about their own progress and internalize the steps for making meaning.

The Research Dossier here is a key feature of WebQuests, sometimes called a hotlist or “Resources”. They may just be a remnant of a time before young kids were so comfortable Googling for information, but they also solve a key problem with open-ended web searches – they present a curated list of the best sources on a given topic, not just whatever’s at the top of Google. This enables the lesson designer to select only the highest-quality source content from the web, know ahead of time what learners will be reading, and incorporate that knowledge into the lesson design. Also, giving learners a focused set of good links helps save time, making it easier to keep a synchronous learning session on schedule.

The Evaluation section here clearly specifies how the learners’ submissions will be graded, including a Grading Rubric with performance levels describing what proficient work looks like. This again supports self-monitoring, enabling learners to know ahead of time what to pay attention to as they work. Sometimes this Evaluation section will include examples of past student work that exemplifies Advanced, Proficient, Emerging, and Basic levels of performance so learners can connect real examples to the abstract grading criteria.

The Conclusion section here provides a sense of closure to the experience, an ending to the story, but can also be used to promote reflection on the content and connect to other related areas of interest. I might flesh this section out more than what the AI wrote here, just to show off more of what’s possible.

The Technology: Behind the Scenes

The original WebQuests were created in the days when all websites were coded by hand or built in primitive WYSIWYG tools like Netscape Composer or Macromedia Dreamweaver, and man do they look like it. As edtech has slowly forgotten about the WebQuest, I’ve long wanted to build them using whatever the new modern technology of the day is. 


had previously used a modern cloud-based site builder to adapt a WebQuest to reflect modern design tastes, but this is the first time I’ve used a rapid eLearning platform like Evolve Authoring to create a SCORM-enabled eLearning asset. Of course, tools like Evolve offer a far wider toolset for presenting information in engaging ways than was dreamt of in the old days. Perhaps in future WebQuests I’ll incorporate more diverse types of learning interactions. 


The graphics were all created by Adobe Firefly, a free AI text-to-image generator. Even the pockmarked meteor textured logo was generated using Firefly. 


The video was filmed using Microsoft ClipChamp. It’s part of our Office 365 license, and I have begun recommending it to our stakeholders as an easy way for laypeople to film talking head videos since it records locally in high quality. It even features a teleprompter, so I had my script scrolling onscreen as I recorded. I used the “false background” feature to generate “green screen” around my face so I could replace the background in DaVinci Resolve, but it actually turned out to be easier and more effective to use DaVinci’s AI-powered features for masking out my background. DaVinci’s “analog damage” feature was used to degrade the video and audio to look like old footage. I also used it to add backgrounds, music, and additional footage. I used pieces of copyleft archival footage from (including that great “news alert” music and real meteor footage). It only took me an afternoon to produce the video from script through filming, editing, and publishing, but the effort was worthwhile to create such an immersive and engaging “hook” to start off the lesson. 

Script and Content

All written scripts and content (including the grading rubric) were produced in collaboration with either AutodeskGPT 4.0 or Google Gemini, then edited/rewritten by me as needed.

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