A. Results from questionnaire
The questionnaire copies were given to three student groups (Group A: 29 copies; Group B: 32 copies; Group C: 22 copies) in the last class of their course. All copies were returned for analysis. One of them was false due to the incompletion of the questionnaire. The bar charts below present an overview of questionnaire results of three student groups.
In Group A, all students agreed that they could take responsibility for their own learning, had sufficient support from group mates, found peer sharing and peer comments useful, and became more autonomous learners through this course. Most students (97%) reported that they had sufficient support from the course tutor and classmates, while 3% of them did not share the same opinion. While 93 % of the students declared that they could take the initiative to solve the problems they encountered during the learning process, 7% of them admitted that they lacked such initiative. Most students cooperated well with their group mates, while only 3% of them struggled with group cooperation. About 3% of the students claimed that the tasks concerning with Wikibook chapters did not seem to actively involve them in the learning process.
In Group B, students agreed that the tasks of writing wiki book chapters actively involved them in the learning process, and they had sufficient support from group mates and the course tutor. Most students (97%) learned to take responsibility for developing academic reading and writing through the Wikibook project; they felt that they had sufficient support from classmates and found peer sharing and peer comments useful, while 3% of them did not share the same opinion. About 94% of the students reported that they cooperated well with their group mates and took full responsibility for their own part of the group task, and only 6% of them struggled with group cooperation and did not take full responsibility for learning. While 84% of the students felt that they have become a more autonomous learner through this course, 16% of them did not have the same view.
In Group C, all students were able to take the initiative to solve the problems that they encountered in the process of learning. Most students (95%) declared that the tasks of writing wiki book chapters actively involved them in the learning process and they learned to take responsibility for their own learning and became more autonomous learners. About 91% of the students found peer sharing/comments useful and had sufficient support from classmates, and only 9% did not share this view. While 72% of the students reported that they had sufficient support from group mates, 28% of them did not feel that they had enough support from group mates. This might be caused by struggles in the group cooperation since 23% of them reported not having been able to work well with their group members. As for tutor support, 82% of the students said they got sufficient support from the course tutor, while 18% of them had a different opinion.
B. Findings from focus group interviews
Focus group interviews (involving 10 students in Group A, 15 in Group B, and 13 in Group C) were conducted to get students’ feedback on the practice of the Wikibook either during the course or at the end of the course. Questions were framed in three aspects: students’ experiences of group work, peer/teacher support in practices of the Wikibook, and their development of learner autonomy. Students’ responses to those questions are summarized as below:
1. Group work
Students formed their groups either because they already knew each other personally, or because they sat close to each other in the first class.
Difficulties to complete group tasks & solutions
Students found the following tasks most difficult:
• Getting the resource books since many students were using them.
• Finding relevant information, since they were told not to follow the textbook but to find something different.
• Finding interesting examples.
• Selecting the content for the chapter since there were a lot of things to cover and it should be different from the textbook.
• Sorting and understand the information since there were many terms in the reference books.
• The topic being boring, not being clear about the teacher’s expectation and not being familiar with academic writing.
• Editing others’ writing.
• Writing academically with logical structure. Some students never write more than 1000 words before.
• Making the format of referencing right since it was the first time for them to do academic writing.
• Correcting each other’s grammatical mistakes because of their limited language proficiency.
• Reading lots of English books.
• Word limit: it was difficult to put so many things within 1000 words.
• Writing precisely together as a group because of the different levels of language proficiency of different group mates.
• Communicating in a big group with problems of misunderstandings, time management, time clashes, and some group member who did not participate in group discussion.
• Being selective for the presentation since time was limited.
• Not being used to do a lot of things by themselves.
They solved the problems by asking for help from the tutor and group mates, and reading a lot of reference books.
Comments on the experience of doing this Wikibook chapter
• Learnt how to do referencing correct, and cite references.
• Learnt how to write formally, such as the use of the third person as the subject of the sentences, usage of words.
• Learnt how to paraphrase in academic and formal ways.
• Deepened the knowledge about the topic and achieved better understanding of the topic.
• Read a lot of books and learnt how to categorise the information.
• Learnt to read comments and found the suggestions from others useful.
• Improved academic writing skills.
• Learnt the process of editing and experienced proofreading.
• Learnt to improve coherence between different parts of the chapter
• Found it very difficult to read some parts of the chapter because of the poor English of some group mates.
Comments on the experiences of group collaboration
• Learnt to handle multitasks within a limited time.
• Learnt time management. Should start everything as early as possible. Learnt to do things more efficiently.
• Communication was very important in the group; talked to group mates immediately when there was a problem; should be honest.
• Not enough collaboration in the group.
• Learnt how to work with others.
• Became good friends. Got closer with group mates.
• Should be responsible, and try our best to do our own part well.
• Encouraged each other. Gave comments and supported each other.
• Gave emotional support to each other.
• Chose group mates with similar working styles.
• Set deadlines for individual tasks in the group.
• Learnt to calm down and keep a clear mind when encountering problems.
• Learnt to be considerate of others and compromise.
• Crisis management: try to solve problems within very limited time.
• Listened to each other’s voice first and then made an agreement.
• Learnt how to do team work: thinking for others and respecting others; making agreement by compromising; giving useful suggestions to others; meeting the deadlines.
• Learnt how to organise self.
2. Peer/teacher support
Making online comments
Students used various methods to do online commenting:
• Read the chapter; found what to improve, and perhaps selected easy part to comment.
• Scanned the chapter since there was no time/time-consuming to read the whole chapter, or read subheadings, and then found the interesting part to make comments.
• Read the introduction and conclusion first, then found an interesting part to read further, and made comments. There was no time for the whole chapter.
• Did not think they should take it too seriously, only read some parts; focused on the examples first; found easy/interesting parts to make comments; gave some suggestions.
• Quickly overviewed to find unclear parts and then made comments.
• Read the chapter briefly; got some ideas from others’ comments.
• Gave some praise first, just some minor things.
• Sometimes had no comments, so asked friends for help.
• Found some grammatical mistakes, checked the coherence, found some confusing parts, and listed positive and negative points.
• Some read the chapter twice, marked down the concepts and found some interesting examples or pictures, and made some critical notes.
• Scanned through the chapter, found out the structure, read others’ comments, checked for coherence, and then made their own comments.
• Read the whole chapter with reference to the textbook, except when the chapter was very boring.
• Made practical comments, and also tried to make different comments when compared to others’ comments.
• Shared the problems and suggested solutions.
• Tried to be honest.
Reading online comments
As for the comments on their own chapters, which were made by classmates in other groups, students selected useful comments and addressed them, especially those commenting on grammar, spelling, format and unclear parts. They thought specific comments were more helpful. Sometimes, even when the comments were not useful, they felt encouraged to read those comments.
Learning from online commenting
Students thought online commenting was good since it was interactive. They learned to appreciate others’ work and highlight some points. They would check if the chapter was coherent, gave enough examples and provided extra information. Reading comments made by other students helped them to widen angles in the every chapter. Some suggested it was important to give concrete ideas and advice while commenting. Some reported there was a change in the process of making online comments. The student did not know how to make comments and just followed others at the beginning but they gradually learned how to make more constructive comments.
By doing online comments, students were aware of common mistakes and were able to learn from others’ mistakes in order to improve the writing of their own chapter. They learned how to make comments, avoid repetition and improve reading skills, especially how to go through long chapters. Although they were pushed to read the chapters, they said that they became more familiar with other chapters. Some students reported there was a change of making online comments before and after doing their own chapter. Some hated to make comments but loved to receive comments.
The task of online commenting pushed students to read chapters, practise commenting skills and improve their reading skills. Some students found it useful because they could learn different perspectives in the same chapter. They became more critical and had a better understanding of other chapters. They could avoid others’ mistakes and learn how to write chapters by making and reading comments. Some tried to make self helpful to others by making constructive comments. Some students said that they thought online commenting meaningless and they had not learned much from doing it. This was perhaps because they did not put much effort in doing it as indicated in the part of “Making online commenting”.
Support from course tutor
Students appreciated the opportunity of meeting the tutor in his office and being given helpful suggestions, which gave them confidence to carry on with their tasks. Sometimes, the tutor approached them first rather than they approached him. They appreciated that the tutor did not tell them directly what to do, but encouraged them to explore and to be creative. Students felt that they were encouraged to ask the tutor questions. They also appreciated that the tutor provided clear instructions and useful comments in detail. Some students found it very useful that the tutor kept reminding them of the deadlines every week since there were so many deadlines to remember and sometimes they did forget the deadlines. Some students wished to have more specific suggestions from the course tutor rather than general ones; otherwise they did not know how to improve.
Suggestions for course tutor
• Give more guidelines for tasks.
• It would be more helpful if comments could be given before the final submission.
• Lower the frequency of commenting
• Allow a longer gap between commenting and presentation.
• After presentation, comment more on the content rather than the presentation skills.
• It would be more helpful if the tutor could make comments on the first draft.
• Give more time for preparing the presentation.
• Give more specific suggestions.
• Speak more loudly in class.
• Better time management; can’t finish all the tasks.
• The tutor is easy-going and friendly, but when he was answering one student’s question, it was like one-to-one private conversation in front of the whole class, better to make it clear to all students.
• Give some examples earlier.
• Conduct the academic writing workshop first so that the first group can benefit from it.
• Smile more often in class.
• Allow a longer gap between commenting and presentation.
• Remind them of the deadline via emails since there were too many deadlines.
• Increase the word limit.
3. Developing Learner autonomy
By completing the tasks of writing Wikibook chapters, students reported that it helped them to be responsible for their own learning. They said that they were ‘forced’ by the course structure to learn independently, and think critically. They were able to be aware of deadlines, think differently, and learn independently. They practiced individual learning skills, problem solving skills, and presentation skills (such as how to catch audience’s attention, using video as examples and be interactive with the audience). They became more confident. They learned to seek help rather than wait for help. They liked to work as a team with peer pressure. Students got to know each other well through group work. They enjoyed the process of discovering others’ mistakes, creating and doing things by themselves. They found they had learned a lot from others. They also felt they were given freedom to work on their own.
Summary of the findings from the focus group interviews
To conclude, students managed to complete the tasks of the Wikibook though in different ways. They supported each other with writing and editing. Some groups could set deadlines for themselves and some did rehearsal for the presentation. In the process of completing the group work, it was challenging for them to find relevant information and interesting examples, be selective of the content of the chapter and the presentation, and make the format of referencing right. Language proficiency was another challenge for some students. However, they were able to solve some of these problems by asking for help from the tutor and group mates as well as reading a lot of reference books. Students reported the benefits of doing the Wikibook chapter, such as deepening the subject knowledge and understanding, improving academic writing skills, and experiencing proofreading. They also learned a lot about how to do group work well and made some suggestions. Students adopted different reading and writing strategies to make online comments. For the comments made on their own chapters, they usually read them carefully and addressed these comments. They also gave some suggestions about how to make comments. Students appreciated the course tutor’s support and also made some suggestions. By the end of course, most students reported that this strategy of the Wikibook helped them become independent learners.
To conclude, students managed to complete the tasks of the Wikibook though in different ways. They supported each other in writing and editing. In the process of completing the group work, it was challenging for them to find relevant information, read a lot of English books, be selective of the content of the chapter, and make the format of referencing right. Language proficiency and word limit were challenges for some students too. However, they were able to solve some of these problems by asking help from the tutor and group mates as well as reading a lot of reference books. Students reported that the benefits of doing the Wikibook chapter included deepening the subject knowledge and understanding, improving academic writing skills, and experiencing editing. They also learned a lot about how to do group work well and made some suggestions. Students adopted different reading and writing strategies to make online comments. For the comments made on their own chapters, they usually read them carefully and addressed these comments. Some of them were aware of the change they made before and after writing their own chapter. They learnt to appreciate other’s work more than before and tried to make more constructive comments. They also gave some suggestions about how to make comments. Students appreciated the course tutor’s support and also made some suggestions. By the end of course, most students reported that this strategy of the Wikibook helped them become independent learners.
To conclude, students managed to complete the tasks of the Wikibook though in different ways. They supported each other with writing and editing. Some groups could set deadlines for themselves. In the process of completing the group work, it was challenging for them to communicate in a big group, be selective of the content of the chapter, and make the format of referencing right. Language proficiency was another challenge for some students. However, they were able to solve some of these problems by asking for help from the tutor and group mates as well as reading a lot of reference books. Students reported that the benefits of doing the Wikibook chapter included improving academic writing skills, and learning how to do referencing and paraphrasing formally. They also learned a lot about how to do group work well and made some suggestions. Students adopted different reading and writing strategies to make online comments. As for the comments made on their own chapters, they usually read them carefully and addressed these comments. They also gave some suggestions about how to make comments. Students expected more specific comments from the course tutor and also made some suggestions. By the end of course, most students reported that this strategy of the Wikibook helped them become independent learners.