Connecting your students to the online sphere using hyperlinks

The hyperlink has been hailed for its ability to ‘connect people and knowledge’. This modest yet powerful piece of technology is at the core of how we use and interact with the online sphere.

You can watch the full recording where Alyce Hogg shares theories about the hyperlink and practical examples for her own teaching here. Keep reading below for a summary of the ideas covered.

Democratising the online sphere

You probably use hyperlinks every day without even thinking about it, but have you ever thought about the impact that these little coloured chunks of text that send you to a whole new ‘world’ has on your understanding of a subject? Have you considered how they open your mind to new ideas, close them to others, let you know if something is true (or not) and feed your ever-voracious hunger for information?

Hyperlinks are: “critical to communication in part because they facilitate access to information. They provide visitors on one website a way to navigate to internally referenced words, phrases, arguments, and ideas… They signal user preferences, democratize the national dialogue, indicate credibility, function as a signature on a virtual petition and help establish virtual associations,” (Dalad, 2011).

Beyond pure ‘ethical linking’

While we often think of ethical hyperlinking purely in terms of attribution (where the link acts as the equivalent to an academic or journalistic reference), Associate Professor Jay Rosen, in his 2008 presentation to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, described ethical linking in different terms:

  • “The reason you link doesn’t have anything to do with copyright and property… [it’s] how we make the web into a web of connections and that’s how we connect knowledge to people.”
  • “When we link, we are expressing the ethic of the web, which is to connect people and knowledge.”

While using hyperlinks to tell our readers where we got our information from is undoubtedly an important part of sound and ethical academic procedure, we can also think of hyperlinking as a tool for knowledge construction.

The need to ‘link out’ from time to time

‘Linking out’ is where you take content from another organisation that is not your own and link to their content. Here is an example of linking out for the purpose of attribution: “The New York Times reported he was chosen as his health was the most fragile” (New York Times 2018).

The internet is infamous for its ability to foster groupthink filter bubbles and echo-chambers. Content providers may be reluctant to link to another content provider because sending people to a competitor’s website carries the risk of losing audiences.

The consequence of only ‘linking in’ is that audiences are less likely to be exposed to diverse ideas, viewpoints and ideologies. We shouldn’t confine ourselves to linking to materials and resources from our own networks and interest groups; we should link out to other sources based on their merit to embrace a diverse set of ideas and to practice providing transparency when it comes to our sources of attributions.

Encouraging deeper learning with hyperlinks

Using hyperlinks can be particularly beneficial for learners who might like to delve deeper into a topic than the allocated time in class as it:

  • Provides background information and context
  • Can challenge previously held beliefs and perceptions
  • Can bring us to new information and show us different ways of thinking and seeing

Using the hyperlink in your own teaching practice: Strategic hyperlinking

In the example below, a hyperlink is strategically placed at the top of the activity and differentiated clearly from the synopsis text. A second link to a reading which explores the impact of the case study follows. To accommodate students that wish to extend themselves, additional sources of information examining the impact of public awareness campaigns, or examples of past and present public awareness from around the world could also be provided.

The intention here is to facilitate a student’s ability to construct their own knowledge around this topic.

Using the hyperlink in your own teaching practice: Hyperlinking to multimedia

Linking to multimedia texts as well as text documents can help increase engagement and tackle the cognitive distraction that can be brought on by hyperlinks (see below for an example). You can help your students out by breaking up the content. Consider linking to:

  • Online quizzes
  • Video clips
  • Journal articles
  • Forums and online communities

To continue the conversation, contact Alyce Hogg, or share your thoughts and ideas via Yammer, Twitter or LinkedIn.


  • Dalad, A. (2011). Protecting hyperlinks and preserving first amendment values on the internet. Journal of Constitutional Law, 13(4).
  • The New York Times. (2018). 4 Team Members Are Out of Thailand Cave, With 9 to Go. Retrieved from