Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Investigating face-to-face and computer-mediated out-of-class collaboration in an English for Technical Writing course in Malaysia

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posted on 2021-12-07, 13:32 authored by Loo, Shih Min

With the recent shift of emphasis to social learning and the proliferation of new technologies, collaborative writing and computer-mediated collaborative writing are gaining prominence in the second language learning context. Research has shown that collaborative writing leads to improved written outcomes as well as opportunities for language learning. However, few studies have investigated how learners collaborate and what the factors that foster effective collaboration are. These aspects of collaboration are especially important for longer-term tasks carried out in out-of-class contexts, where the instructor’s supervision is minimal. Similarly, research on the process of, and factors affecting, computer-mediated collaborative writing is still scarce.  Using a qualitative approach, this study closely examines the process of face-to-face and computer-mediated out-of-class collaboration to identify both the features present in different modes of collaboration and the factors that affect the learners’ collaboration. Over the course of a 14-week semester, in the context of an English for technical writing course, two groups of learners collaborated in the face-to-face mode while another two groups of learners collaborated in the computer-mediated mode to complete an out-of-class writing task. Data were collected from multiple sources, including for the face-to-face groups: the groups’ self-recorded meetings, their numerous drafts of the task, and multiple interviews with individual group members; for the computer-mediated groups: the groups’ detailed ‘revision history’ of Google Docs, the chat histories of their synchronous interactions’ applications, Google Hangout and WhatsApp, as well as individual interviews with the group members about their experiences.  The findings provide comprehensive insights into the intricate process of collaboration among the learners in both modes, specifically the interplay of different features and factors in shaping the collaboration of each group in each mode. In particular, although the groups in both modes of collaboration shared a number of common collaborative features, such as co-construction of task and peer assistance, a side-by-side examination revealed subtle but significant differences in the details and depth of the features of both modes. This leads to a clearer distillation of the affordances and constraints of each mode on out-of-class collaboration. The immediacy and physical presence of the face-to-face mode were found to encourage greater depth in discussion and peer support.  On the other hand, the computer-mediated mode promoted peer editing and cultivated a stronger sense of joint ownership among the learners. Further, the findings also show the varying influences of other factors, such as the learners’ attitudes, their proficiency, and the role played by each group member in influencing the collaboration process.  This study provides further understanding of the underexplored area of out-of-class collaboration, and the emerging area of computer-mediated collaborative writing. In addition, the findings of the study have many pedagogical implications for educators, especially in terms of preparation for learners, and consideration of other factors such as context and assessment, if they are looking to implement the collaboration approach beyond the confines of the classroom or in a computer-mediated mode.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Wallace, Derek; Parkinson, Jean