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Evaluative Analysis of the Implementation of Mobile-Web Application System to

Improve Academic English Writing Skills


Sugeng Purwanto
Universitas Stikubank (UNISBANK) Semarang
drpsugeng@yahoo.com

Abstract
As a Year 1 Report of a 2-Year Research Project on the implementation of mobile-web
application system as a self-accessed facility to improve academic English writing skills, a
group Writing Maniacs was created in Facebook for the students to develop learning
interactions. A questionnaire on (1) frequency of access, (2) types of information to access,
(3) the systems drawbacks (4) improvement of the module was administered to forty
students. Most students (77.5%) accessed the system 2-4 times a week, and the rest (once a
week, 5% and 5 times a week, 17.5%, meaning that they liked it. Meanwhile, the information
accessed mostly (72.5%) was the exercises, 10% of writing strategies, and 17.5% of generic
structure and sample essays. Suggested for Year 2 is revision of module contents for use in
social media or networks.
Key Words: web application system, academic writing skills
Introduction
Of the four language skills, writing has been least paid attention to despite the fact that it
is very important as a barometer of language proficiency. Only quite recently has the writing
skill been especially tested in international language proficiency test in which test takers are
supposed to really write essays. Meanwhile, it is factually true that writing is a difficult task
to perform, even in ones own language, let alone in a foreign language such as English in
Indonesian contexts.
Indonesian graduates of various disciplines have been categorize as being of low
English proficiency level. At the moment, only 5% or 12 million people of the whole
population are English language users in various fields of business encounters. Indonesia was
of the 34th state within 44 states of non-English users with the score of 44.78, and ranked as
very low proficiency (AntaraNews.Com, 2011). Meanwhile, according to EF proficiency
index (2011), the mastery level of English is closely related to the income per capita in which
the higher level of English proficiency indicates the higher level of income per capita. This is
very relevant to the recent context as Asian Economic Community (AEC) would take effects
in 2015 in which Indonesia belongs to the region, and thus cannot be separated from the
necessity of English mastery as the international language.
Many efforts with respect to developing the four language skills have been undertaken in
line with the recent trends in language teaching methodology, one of which is to make the
best use of social networks or media, such as Facebook or Tweeter, which can be accessed
through PC, laptop, mobile phone or smartphones. Positively assumed, everyone has got

every access to such media. It was reported that the sales of smartphones increased by 67.6%
in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the third quarter of 2009 (International Data
Corporation, 2010).
With respect to the use of social network, it is a pity that most students (87%) use for
friend making, 23% for academic access with lecturers, 12% for academic links access, and
6% for academic group discussion (Purwanto, 2013). Therefore, the current study (a 2-year
research grant), is aimed at developing teaching materials integrated in a mobile web
application system to improve the students academic writing skills at graduate level. The
writing skill was particularly chosen as the object of research in response to the current
demand for more writing competency in anticipation of the AEC era.
At this point, it has been presumed that software called Question Writer 4 (CW4),
despite its original purpose for testing, can be used as a medium of learning and teaching, by
integrating a learning module into the system. It is true that the process of learning is similar
to testing in which everything starts with problem-solving to elicit the students prior
knowledge as a basis for further skill development. It is sort of backwash effect of testing,
which enhances acquisition of skills and knowledge.
At this point, a research question can be formulated as How can teaching materials be
integrated in mobile web application system to improve the students academic writing
skills? In this respect, a learning module has to be devised and its effectiveness tested in
order to come up with a rigid module for different contexts of higher education. It is also
necessary to critically evaluate the module for further revision prior to recommendation for a
wider use of the learning module. A software called Question Writer 4 (CW4) was selected
into which the learning module was integrated.
Research Methods
The current study was Research and Development (R&D) in nature. As outlined in Borg,
Gall and Gall (2007), R&D is a process of investigation employed to develop and validate or
test a product (of education). To accomplish the study, the researchers have, therefore, to
conduct a needs analysis on which to design the product, and to test its effectiveness so as to
be used for a more general scope (Sugiyono, 2009).
In the current R & D, the product developed and validated to improve the students
academic writing skills consists of (1) description of texts of various genres (2) a learning
module for writing skills and (3) a report of recommendations for future revision prior to a
wider use and publication.
Questionnaire focusing on four issues, namely (1) frequency of access, (2) types of
information to access, (3) the system and modules drawbacks and (4)
possible
recommendations for improvement of the module in the 2 nd part of the research project (Year
Two) as used to collect the data. Forty students participated in the research and were asked to
access the system while learning to improve their academic writing skills. They were asked to
critically evaluate the module as they were using it. The data collected were analyzed to find
out the module profile along with its drawbacks and recommendations for improvement in
the next research period.
Modified from Borg & Gall (2007)s ten phases, the current study was performed in
seven phases, namely (1) research and information collecting, (2) developing a preliminary
form of product, (3) preliminary field testing, (4) main product revision, (5) main field
testing, (6) final product revision, and (7) dissemination and implementation. As a two-year

research project, Year One was limited to the first four phases, ending in the main product
revision.
The current study is evaluative in nature in which the preliminary field testing became
the moment of product evaluation. A questionnaire was administered to forty students who
were assigned in Facebook group discussion to get access to the module to improve their
academic writing skills. The data collected were then analyzed to come up with the research
findings, as has been previously mentioned, featuring the current profile of the module for the
researchers to revise the product according to the recommendations.
In preliminary field testing, the proposed module was launched to internal market. In
this case it was tried out in Faculty of Language Cultural StudiesStikubank University
(UNISBANK) Semarang, English literature study program. Upon completion of the model
trial, revision was performed to comply with demands from the field. This was done by
focused group discussion (FGD) on considering the comments from the students and related
experts (colleagues).
Findings and Discussion
The learning process employed in the module was basically performed online by the
students. The program was located at Facebook group discussion called writing-maniacs
especially developed to support the current research and development project. The students
can click on the link and download the materials for them to do the exercises off-line, to
enhance their writing skills. For example, a link labeled as Hortatory Exposition Text, the
following page would appear:

Exhibit 1 On Opening Hortatory Exposition Text


As soon as the students filled out the blank with his or her name / ID, the following page
would appear. On this page, they can simply continue doing the designed tasks. There are
various types of tasks, such as (1) multiple choice, (3) matching, (4) sequencing and (5) essay
writing.
All the answers from the students would be directly to the teachers email. As for scoring,
all exercises except the essays are scored automatically with feedbacks in case the students

gave incorrect answers. Essays should be manually scored by the teacher using scoring
rubrics.

Exhibit 2 Building knowledge of the Field: Hortatory Exposition Text

There are thirteen types of texts (genres) under study, they are narrative, descriptive,
recount, discussion, explanation, news items, procedure, report, review, spoof, anecdote,
analytical exposition, hortatory exposition. In each genre, there are several exercises, such as
multiple choice, matching, sequencing, and essay writing, all of which were developed on the
basis of teaching and learning writing, employing literacy education and genre-based
approach (Lingzhu, 2009) , namely (1) building knowledge of the field , (2), modelling of
text (3) joint construction of text, and (4) independent construction of text. It is very much
hoped on completion of each task, the students would experience the four stages of
developing the writing skills.
Below are two sample pages of (1) building knowledge of the field and (2) independent
study
(1) Building knowledge of the field
It consists of conceptual knowledge of both genre and material to write.

Exhibit 3 Building Knowledge of the Field: Review Text


(2) Modeling of the text
In this stage, the teacher gives a model of text to the students to adopt. The students may at
first copy the model, then try to make alternative changes over the text. Such changes may
involve noun, adverbial, adjectival phrases or even tenses, according to both grammatical
and lexical demands. Since all the students responses would be sent directly to the teachers
email, he or she can check his or her students work from the email.
(3) Joint construction of the text
This stage is further to evaluate the alternative changes made by the students. This involves
correction of possible mistakes, and offering solution. Fortunately, the system has the ability
to give feedbacks to the students with wrong performance.
(4) Independent construction the text
This stage offers freedom to the students to write their own text, as follows:

Exhibit 4 Independent Construction of the Text: Review Text


Secondly, with respect to the frequency of access by the students, it can be seen from the
following table:

Table 1 Frequency of Access

Frequency of Access
5 times a week
2- 4 times a week
1 time a week
Total

students
7
31
2
40

%
17.5
77.5
5
100

Table 1 shows that most students (77.5%) accessed the application 2-4 times a week. This means that
the students enjoy the program, even 17.5% of the students accessed it 5 times a week, implying
everyday access since there was no academic activity on Saturday. Only 5% of the students did the
minimum access (once a week).
With respect to the types of information accessed by the students, it can be seen from Table 2
below:
Table 2 Types of Mostly-Accessed Information

Types of Mostly Accessed


Information
Exercises
Writing Strategies
Generic Structure and
Sample Essays
Total

students

29
4
7

72.5
10
17.5

40

100

Table 2 above shows that 72.5% of the students accessed the information for practical purposes.
They liked directly learning by doing, since the exercises can stimulate the development of writing. It
is also in line with the principle of teaching writingteach writing by writing. Of course this does not
necessarily mean that those students did not access Writing Strategies and Generic Structure and
Sample Essays. Likewise, 17.5% of the students who mostly accessed Generic Structure and Sample
Essays would not be assumed that they did not access the exercises. Furthermore, 10% of the students
mostly accessed Writing Strategies.
As R & D of Year 1 Project, the most important points being searched for is the feedback from the
users. Table 3 shows the feedback given by the students (research participants).
Table 3 Module Evaluation
No
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Genre
Narrative text
Recount text
Description
Procedure text
Report
Analytical exposition
Hortatory exposition
Discussion text
News item text

Generic Structure
Review

Sample Essays

Exercises

10 Review text

11 Spoof

12 Anecdote

13 Explanation text

OK; Replacement or additional essays required; revision required

Table 3 shows that, with respect to Generic Structure Review, there is no revision recommended.
However, the sample essays and the exercises require special attention. The analytical expositions
sample essays need replacement () in the sense that one essay entitled Looking for a Job is not very
suitable for an analytical exposition. It is just a self-description of an individual who is looking for a
job even though he or she has a job at the moment. He or she did highlight some significant
information on his or her talents and skillsyet still short of description. This sample essay should be
replaced. Other sample essays that should be replaced can be seen in Table 4 below:

Table 4 Sample Essays that Need Replacing / Adding


No.
1

Genre
Analytical exposition

Title of Essay
Looking for a Job

Hortatory exposition

Discussion text

Review text

Explanation text

Reason for Replacement / Addition


Look like a description;
Also, more essays may be added to
comply with academic atmosphere.
More essays are required so as to
represent academic atmosphere. The
current essays are good for high school
students.
More essays are required so as to
represent academic atmosphere. The
current essays are good for high school
students.
More essays are required so as to
represent academic atmosphere. The
current essays are good for high school
students.
More essays are required so as to
represent academic atmosphere. The
current essays are good for high school
students.

From Table 4 above, actually only one essay is misplaced. It should go to the genre of
description. More essays are required to be added to make the module more academic. It is
also much argued that the current essays are more suitable for high school students while the
module is especially prepared for students of non-English Department at Higher Education.
This applies to the exercises of the five genres in question (Table 4). Displayed in Table
5 below are exercises that need revising.

Table 5 Exercises that Need Revising


No.
1

Genre
Analytical exposition

Exercise
Essay Part:1

Hortatory exposition

Discussion text

Review text

Explanation text

Suggested Revision
Much better if sequencing is used,
instead of asking the students to write
somehow theoretical issues on thesis
statement.
Add more exercises (not available at
the moment) on writing arguments and
conclusion with or without thesis
statement provided
More varieties of tasks required, such
as sequencing and matching for the
students to practice
More varieties of tasks required, such
as sequencing and matching for the
students to practice
Provide more multiple choice exercises
for building knowledge of the field
More varieties of tasks required, such
as sequencing and matching for the
students to practice

Table 4 above clearly outlines what to do with respect to the exercises for the five genres
in question. The researchers are of the opinion that these five genres are most relevant to
represent academic writing. Therefore most participants were very critical in providing
suggestions. It should be noted that the suggestions presented here have been processed
through focus group discussion (FGD) consisting of some colleagues and experts.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This R&D has experienced a half way of its completion. The module has been completed and
integrated into software system called QuestionWriter 4 (QW4), a software system originally
designed for testing; but has been employed in this study as both testing and teachingmaking the
best use of backwash effects in which its effectiveness needs to be proved in the next report (Year 2).
Most significantly, based on the findings, the module requires revision for the next year-2 project.
Recommended for revision are some additional sample essays for the five genres in question,
namely (1) analytical exposition, (2) hortatory exposition, (3) discussion text, (4) review text and (5)
explanation text. In addition, some exercises need to be revised and or added to the five genres,
especially with respect to varieties. Upon completion of the recommended revision, the research can
go on to Year 2focusing on the use of social networks and product implementation.
References

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EF-English Proficiency Index (2011) http://www.ef.co.id/epi/ <April 2014>

Gall, M. D., Gall. J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2007). Educational research: An introduction (8th
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International Data Corportion (2010) http://www.idc.com/about/viewpressrelease.jsp?
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