Wiki environment as a group work tool for collaborative learning in the studies of chemical process technology (in English)

Kati Vilonen, Aalto University


The central learning goal of this introductory course in process technology is to get students acquainted with some real processes together with the basic concepts and calculations related to them. This includes making students familiar with the environmental load of process industry and issues affecting on and regulating it. Impacts of green chemistry and catalysis in process development and design are evaluated. Also group work and interaction skills, including project and time management, searching information, reporting, presenting, and critical thinking are practiced during the course in guided group work. Understanding the principles and values of sustainable development as an essential part of process design is an attitude related goal of the course.

Because the nature of learning outcomes learning situations are built utilizing the constructive theory of learning, in order to let students work and construct their own understanding. The accomplishment of intended learning outcomes are supported by collaborative learning in groups both in face to face and in wiki environment. Wiki is used to decrease the amount of required common time but still reach the benefits of collaborative learning. Wiki increases also the visibility of group work to other groups enabling possibilities of interaction between groups.

The work load of the course is two ECTS points (approximately 54 working hours) delivered in seven weeks period. The frame work of the course is built around the project work done in groups of four to seven students. The topics of those projects are different industrial processes including the study of technical solutions and environmental impact of them. The projects are divided in five different subtasks formed around the main five intended learning objectives. Those same themes are used also at lectures. Arranged time schedule includes weekly two hours guided project work and two hours lecture. In addition of contact time approximately three to four hours students’ independent group work or individual studies are expected per week. Students’ project work is reported on weekly bases on the course wiki-pages, including also instructions and study materials with links to other web-pages. In the end of the course each group also presents shortly their studied process to others.

Reached learning outcomes are estimated based on the project reports created in wiki-pages, which can be seen by all course participants. Evaluation is based on a scale from one to five (~knowing-using-understanding-applying-developing). A teacher gives comments using the commenting option of the wiki page. Also students are encouraged to read and comment the project works of the other groups. Students’ group work and interaction skills are evaluated by peer assessment, but those are not directly affecting to the final grade. However, functioning group work will surely improve also learning and then support the quality of project reports. In addition of collaborative nature of wiki pages the interaction between students and teacher during the course is tried to support using teacher’s blog, integrated in wiki. The goal of this blog is to give weekly general feedback from course work, including also some reasoning about chosen working methods during the course. Students are encouraged to give feedback in a form of comments to those blog texts. The blog is aimed to be used for on line feedback channel in order make improvements and corrections already during the course, supporting the trial of using project work in groups as a main study and evaluation method.

The implementation of the course, as well as used working methods and tools, are evaluate using course feedback, both online feedback during the course and feedback collected in the end of the course. Reached learning during the project work will be evaluated using intended learning outcomes of the course, and learning is compared to previous years where exam has been the main form of evaluation. All gathered results as well as teacher’s experience will be presented in seminar, because the course ends only in the end of February and results are not available yet.