Assessing Learning Objectives

Learners will be assessed throughout the wiki writing project on the following factors:
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  • how often they have written on and saved their group page at the various stages of the project,
  • how many times they have posted onto the Discussion threads of other group's pages at the various stages of the project,
  • how well they have performed within their group, as evaluated by their peers using the Group Member Evaluation,
  • the use of academic writing style and appropriate vocabulary in their writings,
  • the use of the required number of sources for their writing and media for their group page as noted on the FAQ page, and
  • the use of APA formatting in their group wiki page and references section.

*See the full Instructor Marking Rubric here.

Evaluation Strategy

A short, anonymous survey will be conducted at the end of the wiki writing project to provide feedback on the effectiveness of this learning module.

Questions will be related to the usefulness of the wiki itself, it's ease of use, and how it could possibly be improved in the future. Feedback on the collaborative nature of the project will also be requested, with relation to equal distribution of group work, group participation, and group communication.

Possible Gains & Potential Challenges

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Using a wiki for a writing project in an adult EAL classroom has many
advantages, from promoting collaboration to encouraging learners to think about their readers. However taking the context into account will be a crucial aspect of successfully implementing this learning module. For example, as a class of EAP learners, it is expected that learners are able to work together to produce a formal document with appropriate vocabulary and APA standard formatting; however, to implement this project in a classroom of newcomers to Canada, for example in a LINC setting, would require some modifications, such as topic choices and expectations as far as formal writing style and availability of learners to contribute to the wiki outside of class time. I feel that these modifications could be made fairly easily as each individual instructor would understand their teaching context best and then adjust the module as they saw fit.

A major factor in favour of using a wiki in the classroom is the exposure to a new and useful technology which is becoming increasingly common, especially for young adults. Editing a wiki feels very similar to editing a website or blog, which many young adults partake in outside of school or work commitments, and some even use these technologies at work as well. As many businesses expand into new areas of marketing, the need for employees who are not just good with computers, but are good with creating websites and/or website content, is growing. As an EAP course prepares learners for their academic careers, the use of a wiki in this environment could potentially give those learners an advantage in further educational and professional settings.

It is difficult to say what I would change about this module without implementing it and receiving learner feedback, but I in setting up this wiki I have noticed the following:

  • A wiki is not very "pretty". Yes, that's right, I am disappointed with how plain my wiki looks. Of course, this also makes a wiki easy to read and professional looking, too, so when choosing to use a wiki over some other form of technology, such as a class blog, I would be cautious to make sure it has the right "feel". I would choose a wiki for an academic or professional setting, but something more along the lines of a blog for a younger class or a non-academic or non-work setting.
  • Some editing features of the wiki did not do everything I wanted them to do. My biggest peeve here was that I was not able to adjust the spacing of my text - besides hitting Enter multiple times between paragraphs, which of course did not allow me to use double spacing within my paragraphs if I wanted. Other little things also bothered me as I continued to add quite a bit of text and media to many pages and continuously edit, such as:
    • Images are quite set as to how they appear with regards to spacing around the image and there are no options for borders, cropping, or other effects
    • Even when editing an image with cropping, etc. before uploading into the wiki, I was returned to my original image size as the wiki program ignores any cropping previously applied
    • The heading formatting would often clear itself once I saved a page, forcing me to return into Edit mode and apply this formatting again. This was quite unpredictable.
    • There is little to no formatting available for tables, which look horrible after they are inserted and before any text is added (like skinny lines without any spaces between them). I would have really loved to have been able to create specific spacing and alignment for my table or use formatting besides making text bold.
    • Formatting text required opening a new window, unless you are simply making something bold, italics or underlined. This meant that for the many types of text I added I was constantly going into my "edit text" window to choose the correct font and size.

I must admit that I realize that my complaints about the use of this wiki are minor and I imagine that some of the points mentioned above could be rectified with some basic HTML training (I know just enough HTML to be dangerous and so I have avoided experimenting with this web "language" here). Since I have used a blog previously with ease - and without the need for HTML - I think that I am comparing these two technologies out of past experience even though I realize that a wiki is a great option for a group collaborative project such as this learning module, whereas a blog might be better suited for an individual writing project which is then shared with the class.

I would definitely try to incorporate a wiki into an EAL setting again in the future and I could see many possibilities, specifically a longer-term project which would run for a semester or longer, and perhaps involving another class, possibly at another school, would be a fun and engaging way to promote collaboration and authentic language use.