Affordances of learning with web search engines: A case study of undergraduate students in Hong Kong

Yan Ni Annie CHENG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


The internet has revolutionized contemporary learning around the world in the 21st century. However, the ease of access and lack of uniform standards have made the World Wide Web a powerful but uncertain medium. Understanding how this technology helps students' learning is vital for teachers to identify effective teaching and learning strategies. This paper presents a pilot study which is extended from a larger study concerning the students' conceptions of learning in a teacher education institute. Its first-stage results show that most of the participants changed their learning strategies of searching for information since they began study in the higher education institute. To understand more about these changes, semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine their perceptions, in terms of affordances and constraints, of using web search engines. Considering the experiences of two participants, this paper attempts to enrich our understanding of students' experiences in using web search engines and provide perspectives of their learning processes in terms of their habits. Specifically, this study addresses the following questions. 1. What are the perceived affordances of web search engines? 2. What are the constraints of using web search engines? 3. What would be missing in learning without using web search engines? Implications to improve the effectiveness of web searches for the web designers, educators and learners are discussed. Copyright © 2009 Common Ground, Annie Yan-ni Cheng.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-370
JournalThe International Journal of Learning
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009



Cheng, A. Y.-N. (2009). Affordances of learning with web search engines: A case study of undergraduate students in Hong Kong. The International Journal of Learning, 16(6), 359-370.


  • Affordances
  • Web search engine
  • Technology in learning
  • Internet
  • Learner experience
  • Higher education