In its simulated environment, ePIRLS incorporates a set of navigation skills and strategies specifically required to locate and use information on the internet. These include the following:
- Selecting websites that meet a particular information need; and
- Using online features to locate information within websites (e.g., content tabs, navigation bars, graphic icons, and links).
However, while ePIRLS is designed to simulate an authentic online reading experience, it is within a computer-based environment suitable to fourth grade reading levels and a timed assessment. In addition, although it is intended to reflect the types of online reading that students are asked to do as part of school-based projects, reports, and research assignments, the online environment of the ePIRLS assessment is necessarily very limited in comparison to the entire world of the internet.
While recognizing that being able to locate internet information underlies all of the reading processes, the emphasis in ePIRLS is on assessing reading comprehension rather than navigation skills. Because students have a range of internet experiences, ePIRLS begins with a brief set of directions that covers how to click on tabs and links as well as how to scroll, when necessary. Using the device of a teacher avatar, the ePIRLS assessment moves students through the web pages so that students have the opportunity to accomplish the reading tasks in the allotted assessment time. Also, throughout the assessment, the teacher avatar points students toward particular websites and provides additional assistance when students have difficulty locating particular web pages. Although the search process is recursive in real life, students that have difficulty finding the correct web pages are automatically moved along to the pages by the teacher avatar after a certain amount of time, and this information is tracked by the ePIRLS computer-based assessment.