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					 What’s the Effect of Web-based Collaborative Learning Instruction
    to the Accounting Courses on Problem-Solving Attitudes?

                          Kevin K.W. Cheng*, Y. F. Chen**

       * Assistant Professor of Kaohsiung Hospitality College/ Corresponding
               Author/kevin1188@mail.nkhc.edu.tw/ fax: 07-2237161
       ** Associate Professor of Changhua University/ yufen@cc.ncue.edu.tw


     This study mainly explores the effect of applying web-based collaborative

learning instruction to the accounting curriculum on student’s problem-solving

attitudes. The research findings and proposed suggestions would serve as a reference

for the development of accounting-related curricula and teaching strategies.

     To achieve the above objective, students of two classes in a technical College

were selected as research subjects. Students in the first-year class of the 4-year hotel

management program were assigned to the experimental group 1, which were treated

with “web-based collaborative method”, and students in the first-year class of the

4-year leisure recreation tourism program were assigned to the control group, with

“the traditional lecturing method" adopted. The result showed that the difference

between the two classes reached the significance level, and the problem-solving

attitudes of the experimental 1 was significantly better than that of the control group.

Keywords: web-based collaborative learning, problem solving attitudes, accounting

                                 I. Introduction
      With the advent of knowledge economy in the 21st century, every nation is
making every effort to develop itself toward technological advancement and
globalization. To meet global demands and maintain leading competitiveness,
enhancing the quality of nationals is a prerequisite and a key to development of
knowledge economy. And the essential solution to the improvement of civil quality
lies in comprehensive education that can equip students with professional knowledge,
technology, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Providing appropriate courses
and learning environments through school education is the only way to maintain
national competitiveness. According to the Guideline of Grade 1-9 Integrated
Curriculum also highlights on independent thinking and problem-solving abilities
(Ministry of Education, 2006). From the above, it can be inferred that education is to
cultivate students and equip them with good learning abilities, creativity, and
problem-solving abilities. Simply put, the current education focuses are placed on
“practical abilities” instead of traditional “dogmatic education”. Huang and Lin (2000)
pointed out that education can be delivered through 3 methods, including
collaborative learning, competitive learning, and individual learning. Collaborative
learning refers to joint construction of knowledge by a group of people with a shared
commitment to a common goal (Sharan, 1980; Bouton & Garth, 1983). Many studies
have empirically proved that collaborative learning can enhance the learning
effectiveness (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1995).

     Moreover, in recent years, due to the advancement of computers and Internet
technologies, the virtual environment constructed on the Internet has allowed the
implementation of collaborative learning to be no longer confined to traditional
classrooms, making the application of technology-integrated instructions an inevitable
tendency. With the abundance, flexibility, interactivity, and boundlessness of the
Internet, the conventional linear and progressive learning methods can be subverted.
Students can not only learn at individual pace but also cross the boundaries of time
and space to take part in group discussions. Therefore, many scholars have promoted
the Internet as an ideal medium for collaborative learning, and Computer-Supported
Collaborative Learning (CSCL) was originated in such background. So far, many
empirical studies have indicated that CSCL can effectively enhance students’ learning
effectiveness (Wilson, 1996; Dillenbourg, 1999).

    Realizing the benefits of CSCL for learners, this study aims to apply the concepts
of CSCL to the study of accounting and explore the effects of this instruction
“web-based collaborative method” on students’ problem solving attitudes.

                              II. Literature Review
1. Web-based Collaborative Learning

(1) Collaborative learning
     Piaget (1959) indicated that human’s cognitive development is determined by
environmental manipulation and active participation and strongly supported that
group work can provide more cognitive benefits than individual work (Golbeck &
Sinagra, 2000; Druyan, 2001). Nattiv (1994) described collaborative learning as a
teaching method that allows students to be “inter-dependent” in learning, working,
and role-playing when dealing with a shared goal and assigned task. Slavin (1995)
argued that collaborative learning is to make every learner exchange information and
responsible for their learning in the activity that is carefully planned and designed, so
that they can further interact with other learners in the group and motivate them to
learn. It can be discovered that collaborative learning is a systematic and structured
teaching strategy, which can improve the drawback of conventional competitive
learning and individual learning methods in which the training of cooperative and
social skills is usually neglected.

       Collaborative learning has been quickly developed since 1970s. According to
the theory of collaborative learning, various teaching strategies have been created.
The major strategies include Student’s Team Achievement Division (STAD), Learning
Together (L.T.), Teams-Games-Tournament (TGT), and Group Investigation (G-I).
Among these methods, STAD is more commonly adopted. This method is also
adopted in this study. STAD was first developed by Slavin in 1979. The content,
criteria, and appraisal methods of STAD are similar to those of traditional teaching
methods, so it can be easily implemented and extensively applied. The effectiveness
of implementation is also very significant. STAD mainly includes 5 instructional
stages: class presentation, group, quizzes, individual improvement and team
recognition (Slavin, 1995).
     Many studies have empirically verified that collaborative learning can enhance
students’ learning effectiveness (Sharan & Shachar, 1988; Roth & Roychoudhury,
1993; Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1995).

 (2) Web-based collaborative learning

     In recent years, the Internet has become more advanced and prevalent. The
implementation of collaborative learning is no longer confined to traditional
classrooms. Therefore, many scholars are supporting the use of the Internet as a
medium for collaborative learning. Tomlinson and Henderson (1995) pointed out that

when two or more than two learners use different computers with the aid of an
application system to perform information sharing and exchange and achieve the goal
of collaborative learning, this learning process can be considered as web-based
collaborative learning. Nowadays, web-based collaborative learning has become a hot
topic in the study of learning environment and a tendency in instructional design
(Strijbos, Kirschner, & Martens, 2004; Weinberger & Fischer, 2005; Naidu & Järvelä,

    In web-based collaborative learning, teachers play an important role, like a
facilitator. They are required to provide effective instructions rather than definite
answers (Dillenbourg, 1999). Many studies have empirically proven that web-based
collaborative learning can enhance students’ learning effectiveness (Koschmann, 1996;
Wilson, 1996; Dillenbourg, 1999).

2. Problem Solving Attitude

     Chang (2001) argued that attitude is one’s persistent and consistent behavior
orientation to the outer world. Heppner and Peterson (1982) conceived that
problem-solving attitude involves three aspects: (1) problem-solving confidence:
whether there is confidence when in face of a problem; (2) avoidance style: whether
one can cope with or avoid the problem; (3) personal control: whether one can
execute any decision with a thorough plan. Based on the above opinions, Lee (1995)
proposed that problem-solving attitude includes three approaches: (1) cognitive
approach: problem-solving knowledge is included, and the knowledge covers
problem-finding, objective-setting, solution-finding, decision-making, and
self-evaluation; (2) avoidance approach: the extent to which one refuses to solve the
problem; (3) confidence approach: the extent to which one is confident about solving
the problem. Following Heppner and Petersen (1982), Lee et al. (1998) argued that
problem-solving involves three major aspects, including “confidence in
problem-solving”, “avoidance style”, and “self-control”, and these three aspects can
be used to evaluate one’s attitude and behavioral orientation when in face of a
problem. This idea has also been employed in many domestic studies. With reference
to Heppner and Petersen (1982), Lee (1995), and Lee et al. (1998), this study defines
problem-solving attitude as one’s cognition and perception derived from the
problem-solving process and will adopt the “problem-solving scale” developed by
Lee et al. (1998) as an instrument to measure problem-solving attitude.

                            III. Research Methods

1. Experimental Design
    “Teaching instruction” is an independent variable in this study. Quasi-experiment
method is adopted to divide the subjects (students) into Experimental Group and
Control Group.

 (1) Experimental Group

     For this group, “web-based collaborative learning method” proposed by
Tomlinson and Henderson (1995) is adopted. The materials provided for this group
are generally the same as common materials, and the only difference lies in its
construction on the Internet platform.

(2) Control Group

     “Traditional lecturing method” is adopted for this group. This method refers to
teacher’s lecturing instruction in classroom. The materials used are the same as those
provided for the two experimental groups. The only difference is that students in this
group are not engaged in web-based collaborative learning but individual learning.

     The contents of the learning materials for the students in two groups and the
learning processes that these students have to go through are generally the same. In
the first week of the experiment, introduction of the wed-based teaching system,
experimental process, evaluation, and basic content of the course will be provided for
students in Experimental Group. The experimental design is illustrated in Fig 3-1.

             Experimental Group      Q1             X            Q2

                Control Group        Q3             C            Q4

                           Fig 3-1 Experimental Design
    Q1: Pre-test of Experimental Group; Q2: Post-test of Experimental Group 1
    Q5: Pre-test of Control Group; Q6: Post-test of Control Group
                   X: “Web-based Collaborative Learning Method”
                  C: “Traditional Lecturing Method”

2. Research Sample

    The research sample is composed of 109 students from three classes in National
Kaohsiung Hospitality College. 54 students (9 male and 45 female) in the first-year
class of the 2-year Hotel Management program were assigned to Experimental Group.
55 students (17 male and 38 female) in the first-year class of the 4-year Leisure

Recreation Tourism program were assigned to the Control Group.

3. Research Tools

     The research tools applied in this study include: “Cyber University of
Hospitality” of National Kaohsiung Hospitality College, and “problem solving scale”
(Lee et al., 1998).

(1) Cyber University of Hospitality

     Before applying “Web-based Collaborative Learning Method” to the learning of
the experimental group, it was necessary to create the webpage materials and place
them on an Internet application server. Therefore, the “Cyber University of
Hospitality” (URL: http://cu2.nkhc.edu.tw) hosted by National Kaohsiung Hospitality
College was selected as the web-based teaching system. When researchers signed in
with an exclusive account into the system, they would be given the access to edit and
browse “teacher’s office” and “classroom environment”. To facilitate the experimental
teaching, the following functions of the platform “Cyber University of Hospitality”
were utilized:

[1] Attendance statistics

     This function allows researchers to understand the attendance, number of logins,
and time of logins of each subject during the experimental period.

[2] Student grouping

     After the mid-term accounting achievement test, this function allows researchers
to group the online students into heterogeneous groups, suggested as necessary in
collaborative learning.

[3] Learning paths management

     This function allows researchers to build web-based materials on the online
platform and manage learning paths.

[5] Forum

     This function allows researchers to place accounting issues on the platform for
teachers and students to participate in asynchronous discussions.

[5] Group discussion

     This function allows researchers to set up a discussion room for each

collaborative learning group for members to be engaged in synchronous discussions.
Each discussion room is independent and does not allow participation of members in
other groups.

(2) Problem solving scale

     The “problem solving scale” developed by Lee et al. (1998) was employed to
measure students’ attitude and behavioral orientation when in face of a
problem-solving context. A total of 32 questions in three major dimensions, including
“confidence in problem-solving”, “avoidance style”, and “self-control”, are included
in this questionnaire. Each question is evaluated on a Likert’s 6-point scale, ranging
from 1-very disagree, 2-disagree, 3-somewhat disagree, 4-somewhat agree, 5-agree,
and 6-very agree. Lower points indicate higher disagreement, while higher points
indicate higher agreement. 14 negative questions are also included in this
questionnaire. They are No 1, 10, 12, 13,14, 18, 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31, and 32.
This questionnaire was once used to test students in 12 2nd-year classes in in Taipei
City. With a total of 382 valid responses obtained in this study, the analysis showed
that this questionnaire has high validity and reliability. Therefore, it was employed in
this study as the pre-test scale. After the pre-test, two experts in the problem-solving
area were invited to review the results and the questions to help produce a
questionnaire with expert validity. Later, the pre-test was performed in early March of
2007 on a total of 134 students from three 2nd-year classes in National Kaohsiung
Hospitality University. 129 valid responses were obtained from this survey. Through
principle component analysis and oblique rotation, 3 factors were defined, and the
total variance explained was 45.13%. The validity of the scale was ensured. Among
the questions, item No 1 had a low factor loading and correlation coefficient, only .24
and .29, respectively, so it was deleted (Chiu, 2005). As to the reliability of the scale,
internal consistency analysis was adopted. The Cronbach’s α of all the sub-scales
ranged between .69~.90, and that of the overall scale also reached .92, indicating high
reliability of the overall scale. Thus, the formal version of the “problem solving scale”
has been developed, and 31 questions are included in this scale.

4. Experimental Teaching

(1) Experimental teaching materials and related sheets

    In accordance with the experimental design, 6 units of experimental teaching
activities, including “accounting equations”, “accounting elements and accounts”,
“accounting vouchers”, “daily journal”, “ledger”, and “trial balance”, were developed
as explained below:

[1] Implementation of the te aching activities

     6 units of experimental teaching activities have been designed, and each of these
units details the schedule, content, teaching aid required, and notes of the preparation
activities, developing activities, and general activities. The experimental period spans
8 weeks.

[2] Learning sheets

     These sheets contain issues for group discussions during the group learning
session. They are the “collaborative learning sheet”. Students in Experimental Group
would use these sheets. Through the use of the learning sheets in the group discussion,
students’ spirit of collaborative learning and creative problem-solving could be

[3] Answers to the learning sheets

     These are answers to the problems on the learning sheets. Release of correct
answers after the group discussion was expected to familiarize the students with these

[4] Quiz
     A quiz has been designed for each of the six units, including “accounting
equations”, “accounting elements and accounts”, “accounting vouchers”, “daily
journal”, “ledger”, and “trial balance”.

[5] Quiz answers

    These are the answers to the quiz of each unit. Release of the correct quiz
answers was expected to further familiarize the students with the course content.

[6] Individual and group progress score table

      Individual progress score was derived by deducting the basic score from the quiz
score. The basic score is an average of scores in previous quizzes, and the quiz score
is the individual score of each quiz. The score table is shown in Table 3-1.

Table 3-1. Individual and group progress score table
             Individual progress
           (=quiz score-basic score)
                        -10+                                           0
                        -0~9                                          10
                        +1~9                                          20

                 Individual progress
               (=quiz score-basic score)
                          +10+                                        30
  Excellent performance (above 90 or ranks                            40
              top 3 in the class)

(2) Experimental teaching process

     The practical teaching process is described as follows:

[1] Pre-test

     In the first week of the experimental teaching, the researchers provided a
50-minute introduction of the web-based teaching system and explained the
implementation, evaluation, and content of the experimental teaching. Later, the
pre-test was employed.

[2] Class instruction

      This step was mainly intended to introduce a major concept to all the students or
let the teacher make a comprehensive summary or clarify some basic concepts after
group activities. The instruction for the entire class was carried out before the class
and at the end of the experimental process.

[3] Grouping and logging in

     In collaborative learning, heterogeneous groups are required. Students with
different competencies should be distributed to various groups and log in the teaching
system with a given account. The grouping procedure is detailed as follows:
A. Ranking:

     The students were ranked according to the results of the mid-term accounting
achievement test in accounting, which served as an index of competency.

B. Deciding group size:

    Experimental Group was composed of 54. Each group was equally divided into 9
groups. All the groups have 6 members.

C. Grouping:

     According to the results of the mid-term accounting achievement test, the
students in each group were divided into high-level, mid-level, and low-level groups

in proportions of 25%, 50%, and 25%, respectively. Based on the ranking, the
students were later assigned to the groups as shown in Table 3-2.

Table 3-2. The groups of students in Experimental Group

            Group    Group    Group   Group       Group   Group   Group   Group   Group
Lev el
              1        2        3        4          5       6       7       8       9

              1        2        3        4          5       6       7       8       9
  H ig h
                                                           13      12      11      10

             18        17      16       15         14

             19        20      21       22         23      24      25      26      27
M ediu m
             36        35      34       33         32      31      30      29      28

             37        38      39       40

                                                   41      42      43      44      45
  Lo w
             54        53      52       51         50      49      48      47      46

4. Group discussion and learning

(1) Group collaborative learning
     The “collaborative learning sheets” designed by the teachers were distributed to
the students in the experimental groups for discussion and practice.

(2) Release of answers to the collaborative learning sheets:

     After all the groups in Experimental Group 1 and 2 completed the collaborative
learning sheets and published the results, the teacher would release the correct
answers in hope of further familiarizing the students with the content of the unit.

5. Evaluation of achievement in each unit

     After students completed the learning sheet of each unit, the teachers would test
the students’ achievement through a quiz.

6. Awarding groups and individuals

    After converting the quiz score into progress score, the teacher would award the
group or individual with the highest progress score in each unit, and these students

would have one extra point added to final semester score in accounting.

7. Inquiry of key points

     Before the end of each unit, group members could inquire the teacher or both
sides could engage in two-way discussions about the key points in the course content.

8. Post-test

     In the final week of the experimental teaching, all the students were required to
take the post-test.

                       IV. Data Analysis and Discussion

1. The ef f ects of diff erent methods on “problem-solving” pre -test result

     The result of the pre-test result of “problem solving scale” indicates that the two
groups have significant differences, shown in Table 4-1. It can be discovered that the
two groups present significant differences in the construct of “self-control”, and

Table 4-1. The eff ects of tw o groups on “problem -solving” pre -test result

                                          Number of
     Item                  Group                         Mean        S. D.           t

 Confidence in Experimental Group              54         4.28        .46
problem-solving  Control Group                 55         4.08        .42

                   Experimental Group          54         4.04        .47
Avoidance style                                                                    2.18
                      Control Group            55         3.88        .51

                   Experimental Group          54         3.34        .77
  Self-control                                                                    5.32**
                      Control Group            55         2.87        .91

                   Experimental Group          54         4.09        .45
     Total                                                                         3.96*
                      Control Group            55         3.87        .45

Note: * p< .05, ** p< .01

2. The ef f ects of diff erent methods on “problem -solving” post-test result

     It can be discovered from Table 4-2 that the three methods have significant
differences in “confidence in problem-solving”, “approach-avoidance style”,
“self-control”, and “total”.

     From Table 4-2, it can be known that with “problem-solving pre-test result” used
as the covariance, Experimental Group significantly excels the Control Group in the
aspects of “confidence in problem-solving”, “approach-avoidance style”,
“self-control”, and “total”.

Table 4-9. The eff ects of tw o groups on “problem -solving” post-test result

                       Source of
       Item                              SS          df          MS           t

                                        2.20          2         1.10         7.99**
   Confidence in
                                       21.35        153          .14
                     (error terms)

                                        2.30          2         1.15       7.15**
  Avoidance style
                                       24.90        153          .16
                     (error terms)

                                        6.04          2         3.02       8.07***
                                       57.98        153          .37
                     (error terms)

                                        2.79          2         1.40       14.94***
                                       14.68        157          .09
                     (error terms)

Note: ** p< .01, *** p< .001

                        V. Conclusions and Suggestions

    During the experimental teaching, students’ class situations were observed.
Based on the data collected throughout the research process, a number of findings and
conclusions were obtained as follows:
1. The “problem solving scale” pre-test result manifested that the two groups of
    students had significant differences in the aspects of “confidence in
     problem-solving”, “avoidance style” “self-control”, and “total”.

2.   After the experimental teaching, a post-test of “problem-solving scale” was
     given to the three groups of students. Using the pre-test result as covariance, the
     post-test result revealed that there are significant differences in “confidence in
     problem-solving”, “approach-avoidance style”, “self-control”, and “total”.

3.   Students in the experimental group engaged in learning and group discussions on
     the Internet. Such learning method was new to most of them. In the group
     discussion, they were very interested. They could not wait to enter the discussion
     room, say hello to other members, and interact with them. As they were required
     to make public presentations, they would focus their attention mainly on the
     discussion of the problems on the “collaborative learning sheets”.

4.   The course comprised of 6 units, and there were 6 members in each sub-group of
     the experimental group. Therefore, each member would take turns being the
     group leader. The group leader was responsible for presenting the result of each
     unit, and all the other members were required to support the leader. Through this
     arrangement, all the students could be more cohered to their groups and seldom
     attempt to “avoid the assigned task”.

5.   In this experiment, each sub-group member needed to take turns being the leader.
     It could be discovered from the learning processes of the experimental group that
     group discussion and interactions were deeply affected by the leader. A proactive
     attitude of the leader could induce better group discussions.

6.   From the learning processes of the experimental group, it could be discovered
     that web-based collaborative learning could facilitate class interactions, increase
     cohesiveness of members to their sub-group, and create a positive competitive
     atmosphere where students’ creative thinking could be more stimulated.

7.   Students in the modern time are better equipped with abilities to use computers.

     Using the Internet as a platform for discussion would not have any negative
     effects on students’ interactions. Some students even responded that the
     discussion rooms could be made more fashionable; better as stylish as MSN or
     Skype. They suggested, for instance, to include provide voice dialogue and
     web-cam video.

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