Sorting Links into Roles, Jobs, or Perspectives
Once you have collected six to a dozen robust and varied Web sites on your topic, it's time to try sorting them. While you collected the sites you probably started formulating ideas as to how they might be divided. Try to chunk them out now and see what happens. Don't worry if the boundaries between the categories are a little fuzzy. There isn't a job in the world that doesn't overlap into some other area of expertise. You might wonder how many roles to create, but that's usually self-evident. You can't force a role into being that you don't have resources for.
What you may find is that for some topics it works to divide the Web sites by their perspectives. This is often the case for controversial topics. The beauty of chunking links by perspective is that it requires students to find their own truth amidst disagreement. Searching for China is an example of this. Other times, you may not find much disagreement, but the topic may be large or complex enough to divide the Web sites into jobs or tasks. An example of this is Tuskegee Tragedy. Part of the trick in cases like these is to choose jobs that are mirrored in the work or academic worlds. We want this experience to be as authentic for students as possible.
After you've sorted your collection of Web resources, think about the students' background knowledge of the topic. Make sure they all start out on solid footing by doing one of three things: 1) Use learning activities prior to the WebQuest to prepare this fundamental knowledge on the subject. 2) Give each role at least one link that provides good background. 3) Engage students during the WebQuest process in a "background for everyone" phase. This is easily done as in Donner Online or a separate activity as in Searching for China.
Finally, there's never been a WebQuest designer who didn't have to go back and surf a few more links at about this stage of the process. Coming up short is part of a design flow. As a consolation, having to chase down a few more links is easier to remedy than running out of room when you're chiseling a really long word into a slab of granite... Each era's got its struggles....
Finally, while you're at it, take a look to see if the content of the Web sites across roles is roughly equivalent in its rigorousness. A little imbalance is realistic, but if one of the roles involves a lot more reading or harder material, that might be tough to explain to students.