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Creating a virtual materials and resources index for health education using the World Wide Web.

Over the past several years, much has been said and written about advances in digital communication technology and the "information highway" - the Internet. Technopunds claim the Internet represents the most important technical development since the microchip.[1] While no one can predict precisely the effect of the Internet on the future, it will become the principal system for distributing information worldwide.[2] For health educators, the Internet represents a medium for locating and retrieving data and reference materials, researching information, displaying projects, delivering inservice programs, posting news, participating in continuing education, and talking with colleagues.

No matter the form - digital or static - health educators devote substantial effort to assembling and managing information. Accordingly, professional preparation programs devote attention to developing students' information retrieval and management skills. The traditional methods and materials course gives special emphasis to these skills. In methods courses, students often create a health resources and materials index. Although these assignments differ in breadth and sophistication, students usually must demonstrate how to use information services, identify health information sources, retrieve relevant teaching-learning materials, assess their value, and create a system for organizing the materials as part of the course assignments.

This article describes how to adapt this traditional assignment to take advantage of advances in communications technology, particularly the World Wide Web (WWW). The activities provide an extension to the traditional assignment of creating a health materials and resources file. Students develop skills necessary to explore the World Wide Web, the graphical menu-driver pathway of the Internet. Specifically, they 1) access the Internet and its principal domains, including the World Wide Web, 2) use Netscape Navigator tools, 3) develop a customized directory of their favorite World Wide Web Pages, 4) select search engines appropriate for specific search strategies, 5) explore the World Wide Web, and 6) download information from a Web page. By successfully completing the assignment, students learn how to navigate the World Wide Web and develop a virtual index of resource materials for health information.

New advances in digital communications technology will spawn new applications, such as multimedia, requiting health educators to learn new skills. New skills inevitably will emerge, evolving into competencies. The National Task Force on the Preparation and Practice of Health Educators[3] challenged faculties in professional preparation programs to design and implement curricula reflecting the responsibilities and competencies for entry-level health educators. In this assignment, students develop and practice skills that complement skills associated with selecting valid sources of information about health needs and interests, using electronic health-related information retrieval systems effectively, matching information needs with the appropriate retrieval system, and accessing principal online and other database health information resources.[3]


The U.S. Dept. of Defense developed the Internet more than 20 years ago as a high speed communications networld, connecting military centers and defense system researchers. During the 1980s, the Internet evolved into a scientific network connecting universities and research centers. Today, the Internet is the largest computer network and the most powerful communication medium in the world.(1-4) The Internet's main services and applications include the following:

Electronic mail (E-mail). Send and receive information to and from users via the Internet.

Usenet. Discuss your favorite topics with people all over the world using the thousands of bulletin boards and discussion groups operating over the Internet.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Transfer (download) remote on-line text files, programs, software, and graphics.

Telnet. Log onto another computer connected to the Internet. For instance, log onto a computer at the National Library of Medicine ( and conduct a literature search using MEDLARS (Medical Literature and Retrieval System).

World Wide Web (WWW). Find and peruse information on colorful graphical pages stored in computers physically located throughout the world.

The World Wide Web provides the graphical user interface that allows users to find information from the Internet.(5) Information on the Web is organized onto vibrant, colorful, magazine-style pages (documents) containing text, data files, and graphics. More advanced Pages offer sound, animation, video, interactive capabilities, 3-D effects, and links to other Pages.(1,4-6) With almost 80,000 WWW sites and 2 million daily users, the Web is the fastest growing part of the Internet.(7)

Web browsers are software programs that allow users to review and retrieve documents (graphical pages) on the Internet from Web servers - computers where Web documents are stored.(1,4-6) Each Web page has a unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator) signifying a Web address which browsers use to find specific Web sites.(5) For instance, the URL for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Browsers also allow users to flip from one screen page to another by clicking on highlighted words (colored or underlined) known as hypertext, or by clicking on forward or backward arrow buttons.

Among Web browsers available for personal computers and mainframe networks, Netscape Communication's Netscape Navigator is the most popular, claiming 70% of the browser market. According to one estimate, the Netscape Web site receives more than 19 million "hits" per day.(8) With Netscape, software users can explore (or navigate or surf) WWW pages and other Internet domains, including Usenet news groups, E-mail, and File Transfer Protocols. Also, with Bookmark menu items, users can manage and save their favorite pages for easy access - the focus of this article. Individuals who already have access to the Internet can retrieve electronically (download) a free copy of Netscape from several sites on the Internet.


This assignment was developed as a component of "HSC 4302 - Methods and Materials in Health Science Education," offered by the Dept. of Health Science Education at the University of Florida. In the course, students create an electronic resource directory of their favorite WWW sites related to health science education. To complete the assignment, students must: 1) create an electronic file topical index, 2) find three Web pages for each index subheading, 3) "bookmark" the URL (uniform resource locator) for each page, 4) download one document from a World Wide Web site, and 5) submit a computer disk containing their Bookmark file (their electronic resource directory) and a textfile copy of their downloaded document.

Students use Netscape Bookmarks menu items to create a topic index, reflecting the subheadings in Figure 1. Students then find and add at least three Web pages for each subheading. For example, under the subheading "Voluntary Health Organizations," students might include the American Cancer Society (, American Red Cross (, or American Heart Association ( For "Safety and Injury Prevention," students might include the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (, Injury Control Resource Information Network (, and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control ( Next, students demonstrate how to download a document from a World Wide Web site and submit either a hard copy or an electronic textfile of the document. For example, students might download Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fourth edition, from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Computing Facilities

This strategy requires the availability of computing facilities. A computer workstation easily can accommodate two students. Labs for the assignment consist of a network of IBM-compatible 486, or Pentium computers (depending on the classroom) connected to the Internet through TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Windows 3.1 and Netscape Navigator are installed on the network file servers for easy loading. Each classroom includes an instructor unit and overhead projector and LCD panels to illustrate the tasks described.

To use the World Wide Web (graphical user interface) from a home workstation, students need a computer, modem, telephone line, terminal emulation software (communications software), and a Web browser such as Netscape Navigator. Because Web sites are image-intensive (rich in data bits), they require very fast modems. Modem speed will limit how quickly data can be transferred over the Internet. When purchasing a modem, buy the fastest modem you can afford. For additional information about buying computers or modems, seek the advice of a computer expert.

Classroom Sessions

Students need a basic familiarity with computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web. Before the laboratory experience, use classroom time (approximately 50 minutes) to provide an overview of the Internet and the WWW, following the description above. Also describe the assignment and distribute pertinent materials such as the assignment guidelines.

Laboratory Session

The laboratory session lasts two hours. Typically, it takes about 90 minutes to demonstrate the skills necessary to complete the exercise. If students are novice computer users, the instructor may begin with a tutorial, sometimes requiting a second lab session. Students are expected to use open lab time to complete the assignment.


The following procedures are presented to help students develop a virtual reference directory.

Getting Started

1) Start Windows, then double-click the Netscape program icon.

2) Place the mouse pointer on the dark blue Netscape icon from the Netscape window. The title bar, at the top of the dialogue box, will read "Netscape -[Welcome to Netscape]."

3) Review program features of the pull-down menus for each menu from the menu bar - File, Edit, View, Go, Bookmarks, Options, Directory, and Help.

4) Choose Handbook from the Help menu. Handbook offers a tutorial about Netscape Navigator and the Internet, providing lessons on specific Netscape and Internet features. Additional readings and resources are provided in Figure 2.

5) Review the narrow horizontal strip of buttons below the Netsite address box. Button program features include What's New, What's Cool, Upgrades, Net Search, Net Directory, and Newsgroup.

Conducting a Search

1) Click the Net Search button from the tool bar (the title bar for the new window will read "Netscape - [Internet Search]").

2) Using the mouse pointer and vertical scroll bar, scroll down to the columns of topics.

3) Place the mouse pointer on the "Government and Politics" heading (highlighted and underscored in blue) and click. The title bar for the new window will read "Netscape - [Infoseek Guide: Government and Politics]." Notice that with each new window the name of the window title will change with the uniform resource locator (the electronic address for Web pages), the latter displayed in the white rectangle box (dialogue box) of the tool bar.

4) Scroll down and place the mouse pointer on "US Government" and click.

5) Scroll down the US government page to the bullet list of topics (highlighted and underscored in blue).

6) Place the mouse pointer on Dept. of Health and Human Services and click. The window title will read "Netscape - [Infoseek Guide: Department of Health and Human Services]." Give students time to peruse this Web page.

7) Scroll down to the blue and yellow "flag" (white box background) that reads "US Dept. of Health and Human Services" and click. The window title will read "Netscape - [Home Page: US Dept. of Health and Human Services]." From this page, the user has access to all information uploaded by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services and its constituent agencies, centers, institutes, and offices. For example, users can retrieve the page listing of toll-free numbers of organizations that provide health-related information. This list also is found in Healthfinder, a publication prepared by the National Health Information Center.

Saving Pages

1) Bookmark (add) the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Home Page. Place the mouse pointer on the menu Bookmarks and click. Pull the pointer to Add Bookmark, highlight, and release. The URL for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Home Page has now been added to Bookmarks. To be sure, go back to the menu Bookmarks, click, then pull the pointer to View Bookmarks, and release. This procedure will show pages saved. Here, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Home Page was saved.

2) Now the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Home Page can be accessed directly by using Netscape's Bookmarks' features.

3) From any Netscape title window (see title bar), place the mouse pointer to Bookmarks from the menu bar, click, then choose View Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu. Double-click the home page icon for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

4) Close the Netscape Bookmarks' dialogue box by double clicking the control menu box (the small gray box with a horizontal line in the center) found above the File menu option (menu bar).

Downloading or Saving Documents

1) Find the Home Page for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Public Health Services, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

2) Scroll down the page to the "New" marker announcing the availability of the fourth edition of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

3) Place the mouse pointer on ASCII Text and click.

4) Print this document by going to the File menu and executing the Print command or save it as an ASCII textfile by executing the Save as... command. For the latter, click the Save a... command from the File menu. Find File Names in the Save as... box and type DGA-96.

5) Go to the Driver menu and select the appropriate driver from the drop-down list, then click the OK button.

Creating and Using Bookmarks

1) To create a directory (popularly called a "Hotlist") of favorite sources (Web pages) for health information, place the mouse pointer on the Bookmarks from the menu bar, then choose View Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu.

2) In the Bookmarks window, place the mouse pointer to Item from the menu bar, click, then choose Insert Header from the Item Menu.

3) In the name box, type FEDERAL HEALTH AGENCIES (uppercase), then click the okay button. The result is a folder labeled FEDERAL HEALTH AGENCIES.

4) Place the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Home Page in the newly created folder. Place the mouse pointer on the dogged-ear page icon or the text, click, then drag the highlighted document on top of the folder and release.

5) Close the folder by double clicking on the yellow folder icon.

6) Return to the Personal Bookmarks folder by highlighting its respective folder icon. The Personal Bookmarks folder is a top-level folder. Thus, it cannot be deleted.

7) Create a folder for each subheading listed in Figure 1, by repeating the process described above: Item, Insert Header, Name Header (folder), OK, then return to the Personal Bookmarks folder. Repeat.

Scouting the Net

Search "engines" are on-line utilities used to find specific Web sites such as documents, resource lists, and indices, or to browse topics on the Internet. Not all search engines are alike. Some engines search within a specialized set of parameters while others are general purpose engines. The power of search tools depends on the topic being searched. One of the most popular search engines is Yahoo. Actually, Yahoo is the most popular site on the World Wide Web. With Yahoo, users can execute searches at various levels: from restricted searches using a specific category (users can execute a search in a health only category) to unrestricted searches across all categories. Other available all-purpose search engines include HotBot, Lycos, WhoWhere, Open Text Index, Excite, Alta Vista, NlightN, and Webcrawler.

Most engines can be accessed by clicking the mouse pointer on the NetSearch button from the toolbar of Netscape's Home Page. For example, to use Webcrawler, click the Net Search button. The title bar will read "Netscape - [Internet Search]." Place the mouse pointer on WebCrawler Searching (highlighted and underscored in blue) and click. Type "health resources" in the search dialogue box, then click the Search Button. Review the query. Conduct the same search using Yahoo and another search engine.

Submitting the Work

Students submit an electronic copy of their work on disk. For record keeping purposes, encourage students to use the three initials of their names as prefixes for filenames to their bookmark file (rmwmark.htm) and document file (rmw-dga.htm). Remind students to make a backup copy of all their work.


This assignment was developed within a methods and materials course, but the approach easily can be modified as an inservice program for college faculty, public school teachers, or other school personnel. To give health education students an earlier introduction to the Internet/World Wide Web, health information, education resources, and materials, this activity could be assigned in an introductory professional course. Also, the activity could be modified for other courses in a professional preparation curriculum. For example, in a nutrition course, students might customize a set of Bookmarks that includes the Bookmark Headers "Diet and Fitness," "Eating Disorders," and "Nutrition and Reproduction." Moreover, the activity could be extended to include all courses in the curriculum, requiring students to create a Bookmark Header, and appropriate subheadings, for each course. For example, Figure 3 provides an example of a mini-exercise developed as a component of "HSC 3200 - Community and Environment Health."

One responsibility of a health educator involves acting as a resource person.(3) Consequently, health educators must be able to use electronic health information retrieval systems effectively. The Internet and other advances in computer technology have changed how information is distributed, and with these changes new competencies have evolved. Within the context of a practical application, this article provided a tutorial on how to use one of those services - the World Wide Web.

Figure 1

Suggested Outline of Subheadings for Creating a Virtual Materials and Resource Index for Health Information

* Growth and development

* Exercise and fitness

* Personal hygiene

* Consumer health

* Environment and community health

* Substance use and abuse

* Mental and emotional well-being

* Injury prevention and safety

* Human sexuality and family life

* Educational resources

* Professional health organizations

* Voluntary health organizations

* Federal health organizations

* State health agencies

* Local health agencies

* Search tools

Figure 2

Selected Readings and Resources for Learning More About the Internet

Online Guides and Tutorials

Yahoo: A Guide to the WWW Yahoo's Beginner's Guide ides/ Netscape Online Tutorial Netscape Assistance


Kahoe B. Zen and the Art of the Internet. Ventana Press; 1993.

Negroponte N. Being Digital. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 1992.

Stoll C. Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Superhighway. New York, NY: Doubleday; 1995.


Kent P. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet. Alpha Books; 1994.

Rosenfeld L, Janes J, Kolk MV. The Internet Compendium: Subject Guides to Health and Science Resources. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman; 1995.

Levine J, Baroudi C. The Internet for Dummies. San Mateo, Calif: IDG Books; 1994.

Figure 3

World Wide Web Mini-Exercise for HSC 3200: Community and Environmental Health

HSC 3200: Community and Environmental Health World Wide Web Exercise

Objective: Bookmark selected World Wide Web pages.

Using Netscape Bookmark tools, create an electronic resource directory. Label the directory's folder (header) "HSC 3200: COMMUNITY/ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH." Find and save the URL for the primary Web pages for each of the following sources:

1. American Red Cross 2. American Cancer Society 3. American Public Health Association 4. American Heart Association 5. AskEric 6. Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute 7. CDC: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 9. College of Health and Human Performance (University of Florida) 10. Electric Library 11. Environmental Protection Agency 12. Health Science Internet Librarianship Resource Page 13. Hotlist: Health 14. Injury Control Resource Information Network 15. Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences 16. Library of Congress 17. National Academy of Sciences 18. National Library of Medicine 19. National Institutes of Health 20. National Health Information Center 21. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control 22. National Science Foundation 23. National Center for Health Statistics 24. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 25. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 26. U.S. Dept. of Education 27. U.S. Dept. of Justice 28. U.S. Census Bureau 29. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 30. World Health Organization


1. Santoro GM. The Internet: An overview. Comm Educ. 1994:43:73-86.

2. Negroponte N. Being Digital. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 1992.

3. National Task Force on the Preparation and Practice of Health Educators, Inc. A Framework for the Development of Competency-Based Curricula for Entry-Level Health Educators. New York, NY: National Task Force on the Preparation and Practice of Health Educators, Inc; 1985.

4. O'Malley C. Drowning in the net. Popular Sci. 1995:8-86.

5. Netscape Communications Corporation. Netscape Handbook: Learn Netscape [On-line]. 1996.

6. Davis P. Welcome to the world wide web. Internet Librarian. 1995:51-55.

7. Levy S. This changes everything. Newsweek. Jan 2, 1996:26-30.

8. Kaplan DA. Nothing but net. Newsweek. Jan 2, 1996:32-36.

Robert M. Weiler, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health Science Education, College of Health and Human Performance, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8210. This article was submitted February 16, 1996, and accepted for publication April 26, 1996.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American School Health Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Weiler, Robert M.
Publication:Journal of School Health
Date:Aug 1, 1996
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