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A pilot study in using web 2.0 to aid academic writing skills

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  A Pilot Study in Using Web 2.0 to Aid Academic Writing Skills Azamjon Tulaboev, Alan Oxley Computer & Information Sciences Department Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS  Bandar Seri Iskandar, 31750 Tronoh, Perak, Malaysia azamjoncom@yahoo.com, alanoxley@petronas.com.my   Abstract  – Today a wide range of Web 2.0 applications (such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, RSS, Podcasts and Wikis) are giving new challenges and opportunities in teaching and learning. The work described here concerns a pilot study to investigate the acceptability and effectiveness of using web 2.0 as an aid to learning. The work focuses on a university course on academic writing skills. The role of Web 2.0 applications are studied in building informal classes for traditional students and in adopting Web 2.0 practices by educators responsible for delivering existing courses. The extension of the UTAUT model is used as a research framework to evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of web 2.0 applications.  Key words -    Experiential Pedagogy; Social Networks; Teaching  and Learning; UTUAT model; Web 2.0 tools. I. INTRODUCTION Nowadays Web 2.0 applications (such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, RSS, Podcasts and Wikis) are enhancing work in academia. Whereas Web 2.0 has no complete explanation, it always refers to online interactions in which user groups both provide and receive content with the aim of collective intelligence [1, 2]. The Web can be seen as an ideal platform for enhancing challenging social expression, due to its ubiquity and openness [3]. Academic institutions at all levels are experimenting with these technologies to improve student learning experiences, and prepare them for a world in which work can be effectively accomplished through collaboration over the Internet, and geographic and time differences become increasingly irrelevant in sharing knowledge [2]. For instance, the collaboration tools of Facebook linked an entire generation in less than five years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg [4] recently announced that Facebook has 350 million active users – it can be compared to a population greater than that of the U.S.A. Mostly, users of today’s social networks are students of the “Net generation” [5], or as Prensky [6] calls them - “digital natives”. These are those who were born between 1982 and 1991. The Net generation and digital native students have different styles and expectations that require educators to reconsider pedagogical approaches [6]. Thus, Web 2.0 technology advancements create new challenges and opportunities to the most enduring processes of teaching and learning. II. BACKGROUND OF STUDY Web 2.0 applications foster new modes of connectivity, communication, collaboration, sharing of information, content development and social organization [7]. The social characteristics of Web 2.0 increasingly feature in our daily life through social networks that are largely unbounded by space and time [8] allowing information to be shared, reported, researched and learned. The usage of Web 2.0 technologies in higher education is still a new phenomenon and its integration into teaching and learning is in the initial phase [7]. Currently, with the social computing platforms of Web 2.0 being widely available [9], several Web 2.0 tools have emerged, and research is needed to determine pedagogical efficacy of these tools for teaching and learning. Recently conducted research at the crossroads of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) and the Web, focuses on adopting Web 2.0 tools such as tags for user modeling, personalization of mash-ups [10], and ontology and authoring [9]. TEL and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) increases the amount and frequency of interaction between learners and educators [12]. Currently, through existing social networks, Web 2.0 facilitates the organization of informal classrooms for Net generation learners. The innovative character of new technology gives issues and opportunities, but not solutions [13]. Disk storage, collaboration tools and effective search logic now makes it technically possible to put all organizational knowledge online and to easily find the information needed [1]. However, tools alone have not created an effective learning environment [13]. Institutional experience of ICT usage [14] and students’ perspectives towards Web-based learning are becoming a considerable issue. As Grosseck [15] has claimed, certainly once engaged in using Web 2.0 Sponsorship by Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS 2010 IEEE Conference on Open Systems (ICOS 2010), December 5-7, 2010, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 978-1-4244-9192-6/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE45  technologies, all the actors in the educational field will discover it worth the efforts and they will enjoy its benefits. Using Web 2.0 for learning is associated with such education term as ‘experiential learning’ and ‘student-centered learning’. Web 2.0 should offer tremendous potential for learning as students already use it as part of their social life. The work described here build on learning web 2.0 researches. It is a limited attempt to explore the potential of Web 2.0 for teaching and learning. In particular, we wish to gauge the acceptability and effectiveness of using web 2.0 in the chosen setting. Furthermore, part of the research is an attempt to understand the forms of social interaction that contribute to learning. The research is centered on an Academic Writing Skills course given at Universiti Teknologi Petronas. There are several lecturers assigned to the course teaching a large numbers of students. The lecturers have kindly agreed to allow web 2.0 practices to be used on the course on an experimental basis. It was arranged so that web 2.0 would only be used outside the classroom. A significant proportion of students’ time using various web 2.0 tools was to be spent engaged in social networks. III. LITERATURE REVIEW This section is intended to produce a theoretical basis for this study through existing literature. Adoption of Web-based learning has been assessed by several studies in different courses such as medical education [16], programming languages [17], language learning, distance education [18] and etc. Previous research shows positive experiences in Web-based learning, that it encourages students to be well-prepared and well-motivated students, and that the virtual classrooms are reasonably homogenous [19, 16]. According to Hwang et al. [17]: “several critical issues to be considered in programming courses, including the ways to motivate students’ interaction in or after class, methods to enrich students’ learning experiences, and facilities to assist students in sharing knowledge with their classmates.” Today, as Web technology has advanced it’s applications to the new platform of Web 2.0, there are great potential usage opportunities and challenges in the collective learning process [2]. Williams & Chin [14] studied how to support the active learning experience with using Web 2.0, and they gave a pedagogical strategy for today’s classrooms. They have researched the student’s and the instructor’s perspectives of usage of Web 2.0, in an effort towards increasing student engagement and Web 2.0 literacy. Web 2.0 tools and their increasing use in the learning process have presented educators with unique opportunities to further engage students in the learning environment using these new technologies [12]. Other arguments stated that the literature is rich in discussions on technology integration in the education process; very few studies elaborate on the effectiveness of the most recent Web-based tools from the student perspective [20]. These authors argued that the intention of using an interactive Web environment is not to replace classroom teaching but just to provide them more learning opportunities and to help them become active and autonomous learners. Web-based tools can be a great assistance in language learning, however to get this assistance educators need to change their views regarding technology resources [11, 20]. Borau et al. [21] showed that the social, collaborative principles of Web 2.0 are reflected in its usage by language learners, if it used in an appropriate way. Virkus’s [7] research has confirmed that technology alone does not deliver educational success. It only becomes helpful in education if students and educators can do something useful with it. Critiques on using Web 2.0 in the learning process are a continuous issue of the usage of Web-based learning through a pedagogical perspective; relevant issues include students’ readiness and fluentness for the challenge of the knowledge society [15]. Also this author stated that when using Web 2.0 applications, we should be aware that abusive Web 2.0 can block or destroy information processing, and can decrease the quality of knowledge. It is a fact that the reliability and availability of publicly available Web 2.0 tools and services cannot be guaranteed [22] and are out of the control of the university. Constructivism Constructivism is based on the argument that knowledge cannot be transmitted but has to be constructed by the individual [11]. Hence, teaching and learning is an active process of integrating information with pre-existing knowledge in a relevant context. Ullrich et al. [11] stated an argument that is inherent to pedagogy related to the use of technology, that is, the Web 2.0 pedagogy is best associated with constructivism and social learning. This claim is based on an analysis of the technological principles of Web 2.0 according to Alexander [23]. Hazari, North, & Moreland [9] suggest that constructivist theory be used to describe learning when using shared learning environments. In practice, many students have a high level of familiarity with certain tools but need guidance to explore them further, particularly in learning settings [14]. By building on familiar tools, learners became more creative and innovative in their exploration and adoption of available services. Subsequently Özgür & Özgür [20] stated that constructivism and technology are suited to a learning environment where learners may interact with each other in creating knowledge. 46  IV. METHODOLOGY In this part of the research the model and theory to be used will be specified. Recent literature supports several models that relate to technology applied in education, business and etc. Among them researchers prefer a model entitled the ‘Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology’ (UTAUT) [24] that can be extended for this research. The Extension of the UTAUT Model In support of the UTAUT model, Usluel & Mazmana [18] suggested using the model for further research into examining the adoption of Web 2.0 tools in learning. This is because UTAUT integrates the fragmented theory and research on individual acceptance of information technology, as well as an individual person’s perception and social influence. An important aspect of the UTAUT model is that it combines the essential elements of eight previously existing models: Diffusion of Innovation, Theory of Planned Action, Theory of Reasoned Action, Technology Acceptance Model I and II (TAM), Motivational Model, Social Cognitive theory, Model of PC Utilization [24]. Main suggestions for extension of the UTAUT model given by [24] that in terms of better understanding of technology adoption and usage behavior future research should go to determine and gauge additional boundary conditions of the model. Author [25] applied an extension f the UTAUT model in the context of business to business transactions on the web. And for this research previously conducted interviews’ results suggested additional variables to the UTAUT model such as barriers in using web 2.0 in education and different social subgroups formed based on ethnicity of an individual. Because of those suggestions research is going to attempt to identify and test additional as shown in figure 1. During our research this model will be tested in the context of acceptance of Web 2.0 tools in education. Fig. 1. Research Model (Adopted from Venkatesh et al., [24])  Research Process The purpose of this section is to develop an empirical research study and identify factors that are likely to influence the integration and adoption of Web 2.0 tools and services in the learning process. To achieve the objectives of the research, an experiment-based methodology was used in this study. The research scheme consisted of an implementation of blended learning design for student groups (Table 1). The study was conducted during a regular academic semester. Three groups of students in English language courses (LBB 1042 - Academic Writing) were selected for experimental pedagogy, where two groups are the control group and the other is the experimental group. The experimental group was arranged into a blended learning community. Blended Learning Communities are groups which utilize face-to-face meetings as well as online meetings [7, 21, 26]. Supportive of the course syllabus for English, as part of our research we organized a project assignment that makes use of Web 2.0 tools such as Social Networks, Blogs, RSS, Wikis, Multimedia, Social Tagging, Instant Messaging. At the end of the semester, questionnaires were given to participants of this experiment. Descriptive statistics and SPSS tools were used for the data analysis part. Table 1: Structure of Population Groups Usage of Web 2.0 tools Sample size Duration of study Experimental Organized into a blended learning community 21 Weeks 1-14 Control 1 Free to use the tools but group not organized 25 Weeks 14-15 Control 2* Free to use the tools but group not organized 19 Weeks 14-15 * where control group 2 has no overlap with experimental group  V. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION To test the research model (Fig. 1) questions had been developed for each item through a comprehensive review of the literature on Web 2.0 and the technology acceptance theory. The range of measurement was formed as a five-point Likert Scale. To assess internal consistency and to make the scale items into a one dimensional scale, we used reliability analysis (covariance matrix method) employing Cronbach’s alpha reliability scores, where excluded items had an α  value of less than 0.70 [27]. 󰁐󰁥󰁲󰁦󰁯󰁲󰁭󰁡󰁮󰁣󰁥 󰁅󰁸󰁰󰁥󰁣󰁴󰁡󰁮󰁣󰁹 󰁅󰁦󰁦󰁯󰁲󰁴 󰁅󰁸󰁰󰁥󰁣󰁴󰁡󰁮󰁣󰁹 󰁓󰁯󰁣󰁩󰁡󰁬 󰁉󰁮󰁦󰁬󰁵󰁥󰁮󰁣󰁥 󰁆󰁡󰁣󰁩󰁬󰁩󰁴󰁡󰁴󰁩󰁮󰁧 󰁃󰁯󰁮󰁤󰁩󰁴󰁩󰁯󰁮󰁳 󰁇󰁥󰁮󰁤󰁥󰁲 󰁁󰁧󰁥 󰁕󰁳󰁥󰁲 󰁅󰁸󰁰󰁥󰁲󰁩󰁥󰁮󰁣󰁥 󰁖󰁯󰁬󰁵󰁮󰁴󰁡󰁲󰁩󰁮󰁥󰁳󰁳 󰁯󰁦 󰁕󰁳󰁥 󰁂󰁥󰁨󰁡󰁶󰁩󰁯󰁲󰁡󰁬 󰁉󰁮󰁴󰁥󰁮󰁴󰁩󰁯󰁮 󰁁󰁣󰁴󰁵󰁡󰁬 󰁕󰁳󰁥 󰁯󰁦 󰁗󰁥󰁢 󰀲󰀮󰀰 󰁂󰁡󰁲󰁲󰁩󰁥󰁲󰁳 󰁅󰁴󰁨󰁮󰁩󰁣󰁩󰁴󰁹 47  The data were analyzed using a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient to find relationships among variables [Performance Expectance (PE), Effort Expectancy (EE), Social Influence (SI), Facilitating Conditions (FC), User Experience, Voluntariness of Use, Barriers, Behavioral Intention (BI), and Actual Use of Web 2.0 (AU)]. There were statistically significant positive correlations between the variables: AU and [PE, EE, SI, FC]; BI and [PE, SI, FC]; PE and [AU, BI, EE, SI, FC]; EE and [PE, AU]; SI and [PE, FC, BI, AU]; FC and [PE, SI, BI, AU] (Table 2). Here positive correlation means as one variable increases in value, the second variable also increases in value. These correlations are as expected interaction among items of the model. There was a statistically significant negative correlation between the variables: EE and Barriers, respectively p= -0.337. It means that students feeling easy to use web 2.0 tools increase (such as Blogs, Wikis, RSS, Social Networks, Multimedia and etc.) when barriers in using web 2.0 decrease or vice versa.   There was no statistically significant correlation with User Experience (User Exp), Voluntariness of Use (Vol. use) and other items of the model (Table 3). Given results of the pilot study testing, it may not be surprising that results are fount little or no interaction between User Experience and Voluntariness of Use, it is possible due to students’ age range and their behavioral similarity toward the acceptability of web 2.0 tools in learning process. The next step in data analysis was an independent-samples t-test to compare variables of the research model in gender (Female and Male), ethnicity (Malaysian and International Students), age (under 20 and 21-22), and groups (experimental and control). For both Gender (Female and Male) and Age (under 20 and 21-22), there was no significant difference in the scores for AU, because p > 0.05. It would seem to have a surprise that the work found no difference of individual characteristics over intention to accept web 2.0 tools in learning process. Literature [28, 29] found that only in the lack of external motivators an individual characteristic to influence software adoption. Since web 2.0 tools are widely used in students’ social life, it indicates that students have external motivators to adopt web 2.0 tools in their individual learning. For Ethnicity (Malaysian and International Students), there was a significant difference in the scores for Social Influence (SI) and Performance Expectance (PE) (p = 0.011 and p = 0.031, respectively) (Table 4). These suggest that local and international students’ intention to adopt web 2.0 tools vary in terms of social influence and performance expectancy. The mean in an independent test (table 4) shows that Malaysian students have more concern about others believe regarding use of web 2.0 tools than International students and their individual believes that using the web 2.0 will help him or her to attain gains in study. For Groups (Experimental and Control 2), there was a significant difference in the scores for Voluntariness of Use (Vol. use) and Effort Expectance (EE) (p = 0.029 and p = 0.027, respectively) (Table 5). Based on the mean of the test, it is very likely due to organize experimental group that students’ score of Voluntariness of Use seems more than control group where no engaged use of web 2.0 outside or inside a classroom. Similarly Effort Expectancy score where in experimental group students challenged to do something for course assignment and activities on the web 2.0 tools, they feel normal challenge toward the degree of ease of use the web 2.0 tools than control group where group free to use the tools but group not organized. VI. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE DIRECTION The research applied the generally established theory of technology acceptance, srcinated in the MIS literature, to the issue of Web 2.0 technology use in Higher Education. The research model extended the UTAUT model. We chose UTAUT as the basis model because our experience suggests that the use of currently popular Web 2.0 technologies are reliant on performance expectancy, effort expectancy, facilitating conditions, and social influence. The study found several deviations from the classic MIS context, and the observed essential differences supported our research model, which was specific to the Web 2.0 context. This study has been conducted as a pilot study. To reach the proposed research objectives, we will endeavor to carry out a further experiment, learning from our experience with the pilot study. The main direction of our research will be to explore the acceptability and effectiveness of the use of Web 2.0 tools and services and their impact to the learning process in Higher Education. In future research we will define steps involved in implementing Web 2.0 tools in a practical classroom experiment and give ideas on the future of Web-based learning. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors thank University Technology PETRONAS for providing a grant and facilities for the research. 48  Table 2: A Pearson Correlation Coefficients PE EE SI FC BARRIER BI AU PE 1 . EE .304(*) 1 .017 . SI .463(**) .068 1 .000 .591 . FC .292(*) .212 .576(**) 1 .024 .098 .000 . BARRIER .075 -.337(**) .233 .169 1 .579 .008 .073 .206 . BI .343(**) .066 .542(**) .595(**) .171 1 .007 .604 .000 .000 .193 . AU .293(*) .399(**) .397(**) .560(**) -.024 .185 1 .023 .001 .001 .000 .858 .148 . * Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). Table 3: A Pearson Correlation Coefficients (User Experience, Voluntariness of Use and other items of model) User Exp Vol. use PE EE SI FC BARRIER BI AU User Exp 1 .196 -.182 .193 .026 .148 -.246 -.031 .023 . .144 .161 .127 .835 .250 .058 .810 .858 Vol. use .196 1 .232 .222 -.010 .155 -.224 .109 .253 .144 . .092 .097 .939 .254 .104 .420 .058 * Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). Table 4: An Independent Samples Test (Ethnicity) Nationality N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean SI Malaysian 53 3.5509 .62746 .08619 International 11 2.9818 .76134 .22955 PE Malaysian 50 3.7960 .56205 .07949 International 11 3.3818 .56889 .17153 Levene's Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference Lower Upper SI .048 .828 2.639 62 .011 .5691 .21567 .13802 1.00023 2.321 12.969 .037 .5691 .24520 .03927 1.09898 PE .253 .617 2.208 59 .031 .4142 .18757 .03886 .78950 2.191 14.618 .045 .4142 .18905 .01032 .81805 Table 5: An Independent Samples Test (Between Groups) GROUPS N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean Vol. use Experimental group 16 4.0792 .44102 .11026 Control group 2 17 3.6941 .51697 .12538 EE Experimental group 20 3.5750 .65444 .14634 Control group 2 19 4.0526 .64323 .14757 Levene's Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference Lower Upper Vol. use .649 .427 2.295 31 .029 .3850 .16779 .04284 .72726 2.306 30.719 .028 .3850 .16696 .04440 .72570 EE .000 .990 -2.297 37 .027 -.4776 .20792 -.89891 -.05635 -2.298 36.954 .027 -.4776 .20782 -.89874 -.05652 REFERENCES [1] O’Reilly, (2005). What is web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=1. [Accessed in October 15, 2009.] [2] T. Rienzo, and B. Han, Microsoft or Google web 2.0 tools for course management.  Journal of Information Systems Education, vol. 20(2), pp. 123-127, 2009. [3] I. Rahwan, Mass argumentation and the semantic web.  Journal of Web Semantics. vol. 6(1), pp.   29-37, 2008. [4] M. Zuckerberg, “An open letter from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg”. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=190423927130. [Accessed in December 2, 2009.] [5] D. G. Oberlinger, and J. L. Oberlinger,  Educating the net generation.  2005. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub7101.pdf . [Accessed in October 30, 2009.] [6] M. Prensky, Digital natives, digital immigrants. 2001. http://www.marcprensky.com/writing. [Accessed in November 3, 2009.] [7] S. Virkus, Use of web 2.0 technologies in LIS education: experiences at Tallinn University, Estonia. Program: Electronic  Library and Information Systems. vol. 42(3) , pp. 262-274, 2008. 49

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