Academic journal article The English Teacher

Factors Affecting Knowledge Sharing among ESL Undergraduates in Completing Collaborative Writing Tasks Using Wiki and Skype

Academic journal article The English Teacher

Factors Affecting Knowledge Sharing among ESL Undergraduates in Completing Collaborative Writing Tasks Using Wiki and Skype

Article excerpt

Introduction

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) has become a necessity in tertiary education as it supports collaborative learning. This technology also benefits English language teaching and learning as it provides opportunities for ESL students to communicate and write using the language. Online collaborative learning involves sharing of knowledge among students, which is a crucial process in team work. Students need to share their knowledge at hand and construct new knowledge through reasoning, explanation, and reflecting from different angles. Knowledge sharing can be described as sharing common knowledge, individual beliefs and assumptions (Clark & Brennan, 1991), and it can effectively and efficiently aid working and interacting. Team members working in a group project need a shared understanding of each member, content, and process (Mulder, 1999). In order to work or learn together, team members also need to collaborate and share knowledge on what they are working on, how they are working, and with whom they need to work. Indeed, collaborative writing has become part of the assessment for undergraduates but the inexperience of students in the process has made the writing difficult to accomplish due to interpersonal conflict among team members (Chisholm, 1990). Moreover, it is possible that the use of new technologies may affect the process of knowledge sharing for collaborative writing.

Besides, students view collaborative writing as a social activity which involves knowledge construction with team members who can trust each other (Spigelman, 2000). Collaborative writing occurs within discussion boards, online chats, emails or wikis (Kessler, Bikowski, & Boggs, 2012). Hunter (2011) examined students' discussion through Wiki and found that collaborative writing can be established when the writers contribute more and less concern with issues of authorship. With CMC technologies, "the number of projects involving collaborative writing with three or more writers will grow in the future" (Kessler, Bikowski, & Boggs, 2012, p.92). Students learning through CMC tools need support and guidance from their instructor the same way as they are learning in the classroom. As English is used as the main language on the Internet, students need to realise the importance of learning and using the language for collaborative interaction, particularly writing. However, a search of the literature reveals a number of social factors which need to be taken into account when looking into knowledge sharing in online collaboration.

Some studies have explored the factors contributing to successful teamwork, such as student's trust and satisfaction (Mathieu et al., 2000; Johnson et al., 2007; So & Brush, 2008), and that knowledge sharing has been emphasised as an aspect positively affecting team effectiveness (Cannon & Edmondson, 2001). Some of these factors that seem to have an effect on knowledge sharing in online collaborative learning are looked into in the present study.

One of the factors contributing to effective teamwork is social presence. Social presence has become known as a social and communication factor that is particularly crucial to distance learners with their instructor and peers (Gunawardena & Mclsaac, 2004). Social presence is defined as "an individual's ability to demonstrate his/her state of being in a virtual environment and so signal his/her availability for interpersonal transactions" (Kehrwald, 2008, p.94). Different types of communication media affect an individual's perception of social presence differently (Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997). Hence, the debate about social presence and communication media during the past three decades indicates a change in focus from comparing media characteristics to relating the dynamics of users' experiences and perceptions (Shin, 2002). Weinel, Bannert, Zumbach, Hoppe, and Malzahn (2011) reported that social presence may not have an effect on collaboration; however, it may affect the students' attitude towards collaborating on certain tasks. …

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