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The Use of the Internet for ELT

in Thai Public Universities


Sabaiporn Charupan
Songsri Soranastaporn
Nongpanga Suwattananand
The aim of this study was to investigate the use of the Internet
for ELT in Thai public universities. A survey questionnaire was used
as a research tool. English teachers who were native speakers of Thai
participated in this study. The results suggested that the English
teachers used e-mail most and they also planned to use a class web
page. It was found that the Internet was used for (a) analyzing the
students needs, (b) classroom communication between teachers and
students, (c) planning and presenting instruction, (d) practicing English
language skills, and (e) evaluating and assessing students
performance.
Introduction
Technology facilitates classroom instruction more effectively.
According to Maurer and Davidson (1998):
1) teaching and learning are more effective when schemabased;
2) teaching and learning are more effective when students
evolve strategies to understand how they learn;
3) teaching and learning are more effective when they are an
active process;
4) teaching and learning are more effective when skills are
mastered and become automatic;
5) teaching and learning are more effective when seen as a
development of emergent process;
6) teaching and learning are more effective when
experienced and accessed in natural contexts using
authentic learning materials. (pp. 9-11)
The Internet is growing into a global resource of information
that can be freely accessed by both students and teachers. Therefore, it
is now considered as the technology that can be used to facilitate
classroom instruction.

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Though English teachers at Thai pubic universities use the


Internet to facilitate classroom instruction, the studies to investigate its
effectiveness have not been reported. Therefore, this survey examined
the present use of the Internet in Thai public universities and the
problems or obstacles these universities face. The obtained
information provides useful baseline information for English teachers
so they may use such information to build their networks and share
knowledge and resources.
Srisa-an (1998) and Nakornthan (2000) suggested that to
maximize learning for all Thai people, the Internet may be adopted and
integrated into learning and teaching at all educational levels. Internet
technology can help to change the traditional teaching approach to new
kinds of learning. That is, the Internet may be used in the classroom to
change the learning and teaching process from teacher-centered to
learner-centered approaches (Srisa-an, 1998).
The Changing Roles of Teachers
Teachers in the Information Age are faced with changes
(Kumari, 1998). The rise of multiple technologies and globalization
dynamics has led to a world in which there are no permanent
structures of knowledge or meaning (Stromquist & Monkman, 2000,
p. 11). Thai students in the era of globalization need sophisticated
knowledge and higher-order skills. Consequently, Thai public
universities need to empower students with the skills and knowledge
needed to respond to global demands or markets so that students are
capable of competing with others in the highly competitive global
marketplace. Among many factors, English proficiency and the
Internet skills will help students to increase their competence. To serve
this new demand, English teachers need to change their roles. Thai
teachers have to play new roles in todays technology-based learning
to respond to the National Education Act of 1999 (Srisa-an, 1998;
Nakornthan, 2000). The learner-centered approach is the basic
pedagogy that lies under the role shifting of teachers (Frizler, 1995;
Nunan & Lamp, 1996). Teachers are no more just knowledge feeders,
but facilitators (Nunan, 1998). Teachers become less a source of
information while they become pathways to knowledge (Srisa-an,
1998). They have to play the roles of tutor, mentor and helper to help
learners develop information skills efficiently (Warschauer, 1998;
Srisa-an 1998).

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In addition, university teachers are expected to be leaders in


using the Internet to facilitate learning and teaching. Dr. Amornvith
Nakorntham, an academic leader in higher education in Thailand,
stated that as teachers and educators in the Thai Educational Reform
Era, we have to maximize the advantage of powerful technology to our
education systems and aim to create competent Thai learners
(Nakorntham, 2000). Moreover, when there was appropriate method
and technology in learning and instructional tasks, there was studentto-student interaction, student-to-teacher assistance, and teacher-tostudent feedback. Therefore, Thai teachers should change the learning
environment by using technology, such as the Internet to benefit their
teaching (Srisa-an, 1998).
Powerful Potential of the Internet on Teaching and Learning
Systems
The Internet is beneficial to English language teaching (ELT)
(Frizler, 1995; Warschauer, 1996a; Lee, 1998). It can provide a new
and interactive means of overcoming time and distance. Careful
planning to use the applications existing on the Internet will lead to
more effective teaching (Frizler, 1995; Warschauer, 1996a). Computer
Mediated Communication (CMC) on the Internet includes
investigation of information, interactive collaborative learning groups,
and the use of language in real world situations (Frizler, 1995;
Warschauer, 1996a; Singhal, 1997; Colburn, 1998; Liao, 1999).
Learners do activities provided by the teacher based on website
information (Frizzler, 1995; Sperling, 1997). CMC, such as electronic
mail, bulletin boards, and chat rooms on the Internet create interactions
between remote participants and other learning settings (Harring &
Smaldino, 1998).
Communication on the Internet can be asynchronous (not
simultaneous) through tools such as electronic mail (e-mail), which
allows each participant to compose messages in their own time and
pace (Frizler, 1995; Warschauer, 1996b). It can be synchronous (real
time) using Chat software programs like Pirch, MSN or Icq,
which allow people all around the world to have a simultaneous
conversation by typing at their keyboards (Warschauer, 1996a).
Collaborative and cooperative learning occurs when using CMC, such
as in a computer conference (McCabe, 1998) or NetMeeting. Learners
can use the World Wide Web (WWW) or websites on the Internet to
perform cooperative tasks with their peers and to complete work that is
assigned by the teacher. Learners access websites on the Internet to
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search for authentic materials, such as newspapers, magazine articles,


or radio broadcasts, to serve their own needs and interests (Sperling,
1997). Activities such as electronic pen-pals and chat rooms have
proven to be a successful learning tool because learners practice
language skills in the real world (Frizler, 1995; Warschauer, 1996a).
The learner-centered approach is used to provide learning and teaching
on the Internet (Kumari, 1998).
In Thailand, according to the National Education Act of 1999,
Thai public universities responded to the National Education Act of
1999 by launching various projects. Most universities have offered
Internet use and allowed the students to use it with no charge since
1997 (Ministry of University Affairs annual report, 1999). However,
the information of current use and problems on using the Internet for
ELT at Thai public universities has not been investigated. This study
provided new information on this field.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to investigate the use of CMC on
the Internet by English teachers in Thai public universities. The study
explored the use of the Internet in different teaching settings, such as
distance learning, in-class learning, and other teaching settings.
Research Questions
1.
2.
3.

Do English teachers use CMC in Thai public universities? In


what teaching settings do they use the Internet?
What types of CMC on the Internet do English teachers use? And
to what extent do they currently use each of those types?
For which of the following teaching purposes do teachers use
CMC on the Internet. (a) analyzing the students needs, (b)
classroom communication between teachers and students, (c)
planning and presenting instruction, (d) practicing English
language skills, or (e) evaluating and assessing students
performance.

Research Method
Participants
There are 360 English teachers who were native speakers of
Thai and working at Thai public universities that offered Internet
access to students. These teachers were randomized to participate in
this study. In total, 180 participants were selected.
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Distribution of Questionnaires
A letter asking for co-operation was attached to a cover of the
questionnaire and was sent to the participants. The return
questionnaires totaled 120 out of 180 (66.67%).
Instrument
The survey instrument included items constructed primarily
from CMC literature. These items were developed by using Griffees
guidelines (Griffee, 2002). The Cronbach alpha-coefficient was used
to determine the reliability of the questionnaire, and it was 0.95.
Analysis of Data and Statistical Procedures
The selected questionnaires which had internal consistency
were coded and computed by using the SPSS program. Frequency
distribution and percentage were used as statistical devices.
Findings
Finding One
Table 1.1 summarized the participants demographic
information. Most of them were between 2545 year of ages; and
most of them (78%) were female. As for formal education,
respondents were almost entirely divided between those whose highest
level of attainment was the Ph.D. (23.3%) and those who held a
masters degree (64.4%).
Table 1.1 Demographic Data of the Respondents
Demographic Data of the respondents
Gender

Age

Highest Degree

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Male
Female
Total
<25
25-35
36-45
>45
Total
Bachelor.
Masters
Doctoral
Total

Frequency
42
78
120
6
41
41
32
120
10
82
28
120

Percent
35.0
65.0
100.0
5.0
34.2
34.2
26.6
100.0
8.3
68.4
23.3
100.0

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Seventy-two English teachers (60.0%) stated that they were


currently using the Internet. One third of them did not use it at the
time of this study, but they may use it in the future. Only 10 English
teachers stated that they never think of using CMC for ELT. (See
Table 1.2.) Regarding teaching settings, about half of the participants
(47.2%) used CMC for the classroom only and only one English
teacher used it for distance teaching. (See Table 1.3.)
Table 1.2 Summary of English Teachers Using CMC in Thai
Public Universities
State of use
never think of using it
didnt use it at the time of this study, but
may use it in the future
using it at the time of this study
Total

Frequency
10

Percent
8.3

38

31.7

72

60.0

120

100.0

N=120

Table 1.3 Teaching Settings Used with the Internet.


Teaching settings of CMC current
use
distance class only
classroom only
distance and classroom
other types of teaching
Total
N=72

Frequency

Percent

1
34

1.4
47.2

15
22
72

20.8
30.6
100.0

110 out of 120 respondents stated that they were current


Internet users. These users provided the information for finding two
and finding three.
Finding Two
The types of CMC and level of current use by English teachers
are shown in Table 2. The result revealed that e-mail was used most
(59.1%). It showed more than half of the English teachers (54.1%)
planned to use class web pages in their teaching while many teachers
(52, 69, 74 teachers which represent 48.1%, 63.9%, and 67.9%
respectively) decided not to use the Internet for speaking skills such as
chat room, Internet phone, and computer conferencing, to improve the
students speaking.
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Finding Three
The purposes of using CMC on the Internet are presented in
Table 3. These teaching purposes include: (a) analyzing the students
needs, (b) classroom communication between teachers and students,
(c) planning and presenting instruction, (d) practicing English
language skills, and (e) evaluating and assessing students
performance. The result revealed that most English teachers (78.8%)
used the Internet for instructional planning, while a small number of
teachers used the Internet for need analysis (5.8%). Nearly 60% of the
English teachers use the Internet to practice students English skills.
One fifth of the English teachers used the Internet for classroom
communication between teachers and students and for presenting
instruction. About half of the English teachers stated that they would
use the Internet to present the purposes of teaching.

not used 10
Using e-mail use later 35
for teaching use now 65
N = 110
Total
110

9.1
Frequency 6
31.8 Level of using Percent
9.2
59.1 email for
N = 65
100.0 teaching

not used 74
Using
use later 26
computer
use now 9
conference for Total
109
teaching
N = 109
not used 32
Class web
use later 59
page use for
teaching
N = 109
use now 18
Total
109
not used 52
Chat room use use later 32
N = 108
use now 24
Total
108
not used 69
Internet phone use later 35
use
use now 4
N = 108
Total
108

67.9
23.8
8.3
100.0

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Total

7> times/term

5-6 times/term

3-4 times/term

1-2 times/term

B. Level of each CMC type


used by the teachers at
present situation
Percent

A. Types of CMC
Teachers use for English
teaching

Frequency

Table 2 Types of CMC and Level of Current Use by the Teachers.

16
13
30
65
24.6 20.0 46.2 100.0

Level of using Frequency 4


3
1
1
9
computer
Percent
44.43 33.3 11.1 11.1 100.0
conference for N = 9
teaching

29.4
54.1 Level of using
class web
page for
teaching
16.5
100.0
48.2
29.6 Level of using
22.2 chat room for
100.0 teaching
63.9
32.4 Level of using
3.7 Internet phone
for teaching
100.0

Frequency 1
Percent
5.6

4
1
22.2 5.6

12
18
66.6 100.0

N = 18
Frequency 10
5
3
6
24
Percent
41.7 20.8 12.5 25.0 100.0
N = 24
Frequency 3
1
0
Percent
75.0 25.0 0
N=4

0
0

4
100.0

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Table 3 The Current Status of the Teacher in Using CMC on the


Internet for the Teaching Purposes

Used for needs analysis


N=104
Used for interactive classes
N=110

Frequency
43
55
6
104
27
62
21
110

Percent %
41.3
52.9
5.8
100.0
24.5
56.4
19.1
100.0

8
14
82
104
29
60
21
110
13

7.7
13.5
78.8
100.0
26.4
54.5
19.1
100.0
11.8

use now
Total

33
64
110

30.0
58.2
100.0

not use
may use later
use now
Total
not use

37
45
28
110
39

33.6
40.9
25.5
100.0
35.5

may use later


use now
Total

57
14
110

51.8
12.7
100.0

not used
may use later
use now
Total
not used
may use later
use now
Total

not used
may use later
use now
N=140
Total
not used
Used for teaching presentation may use later
use now
N=110
Total
not used
Used for student's skill practice may use later
Used for instruction planning

N=110
Used for students evaluation
N=110
Used for course evaluation
N=110

Discussion
Discussion for Finding One
About 50% of the participants were female and they used the
Internet to facilitate their teaching. Research on using the Internet for
ELT by Thai female teachers may be conducted to obtain problems,
difficulties, and obstacles. Then, particular help and support can be
provided.
Most participants realized the benefit of the Internet for ELT.
Only ten (8.3%) out of 120 teachers had no interest in using the
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Internet for their teaching. They mentioned several reasons in an openended answer in the questionnaire. For instance, they were too old to
keep up with technology. Some were afraid of being replaced by
technology. Therefore, they were not willing to use it as they did not
want to lose their positions. Some teachers believed that textbooks
could serve their teaching perfectly, hence, the Internet was not
necessary. Some mentioned that it was a waste of time and money for
the Thai government to spend on this issue and they did not want to
join in. Some refused to use the Internet because it was "too
complex". It may be concluded that some English teachers have
negative attitudes towards using the Internet for ELT. This result
concurred with the concept of Fizler (1995) and Warschauer (1996a).
They suggested that teacher's attitude and effort play the first part in
adopting technology to their teaching. Hence, the effort to support a
positive attitude toward the use of technology and to promote clearer
understanding for the new role of teachers in the new paradigm of
education should be emphasized. Without teachers guidance and
effort to design learner-centered activities, computers will do little to
help students learn English. It is accepted that teaching will be far
more effective with the use of technology. However, this does not
mean that teachers will be replaced by technology. Teachers should
use technology to facilitate teaching and the learning process in order
to achieve the goal of the new paradigm of education (Berge &
Collins, 1995).
Surprisingly, only one teacher stated that she used the Internet
for ELT in distance teaching. Even though there is evidence of
distance learning classes on the Ministry of University Affairs web
sites (http://www.uninet.th), not many teachers have used it. However,
more than 60% of English teachers currently used technology to
improve their teaching. Though various factors caused obstacles for
some teachers, many teachers planned to use the Internet. They
intended to create web pages for teaching online.
Discussion for Finding Two
The result of this study revealed that English teachers use many
types of CMC for teaching. E-mail was currently used most. This
replicated the study of Frizler (1995) and Warschauer (1996a). Both
suggested that e-mail was a great type of CMC in ELT. It was not
only a means to facilitate classroom lessons (giving and sending
assignments or communicating among participants), but it also was
used as a language learning tool to serve teaching purposes.
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The result of this study also showed that teachers use e-mail
frequently (more than seven times a semester). Singhal (1997) and
Kumari (1998) suggested that teachers participation in CMC is very
important for effective teaching with technology. Teachers should
coordinate and interact with learners (Frizler, 1995; Warschauer,
1996b; McCabe, 1998).
Discussion for Finding Three
The result of this study showed that English teachers used
CMC on the Internet for various teaching purposes. CMC can be used
for needs analysis, for interactive classes, for instructional planning,
for teaching presentations, for students skill practice, for students
evaluation and for course evaluation. The findings revealed that a
small number of English teachers used the Internet for both doing
needs analyses and course evaluation. Using the Internet for both
functions was complicated and difficult because developers needed to
have intermediate or advanced information skills (Riegle, 1996). The
teachers may not know how to use the Internet to serve these purposes
so they may employ other ways to analyze learners' needs and evaluate
their courses (Nunan & Lamb, 1996).
Although the current use of the Internet for analyzing the
students needs, for classroom communication between teachers and
students, and for evaluating and assessing students performance was
low, teachers intention to use the Internet for these purposes was high.
Teachers intended to do needs analyses to find out learner needs and
interests so that they could implement language courses that mostly
suited and satisfied learners preferences. The result suggested that
English teachers emphasized the learner-centred approach. It was
found that English teachers used the Internet mostly in the planning
phase. This study agrees with Frizler (1995), Warschauer (1996a),
Nunan and Lamb (1996), and Kumari (1998). Most teachers use the
Internet to plan their teaching and to provide practice opportunities for
the students.
Conclusion
More than half of the respondents said that they currently used
the Internet in their teaching. Most of them said that they used the
Internet in the classroom setting only. Many teachers planned to use a
class web page in their teaching. Thai teachers hardly used the Internet
to analyze students needs while many use the Internet to plan their
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teaching. More than half of the participants stated that they use the
Internet to serve the following teaching purposes: for classroom
communication between teachers and students, for teaching online, for
analyzing the students needs, and for evaluating and assessing the
students performance.
Recommendations for Further Studies
1. Research on the factors to organize online courses should be
conducted.
2. Classroom research on how well the Internet aids in discrete
language skills should be conducted.
3. Comparative studies on finding effective ways to use CMC should
be conducted in future research.
4. Discourse analyses on the Internet should be done to investigate
how language differs, and how that affects communicative
competence.
5. Research to identify key problems that occur often should be
conducted.
6. Training in computer skills is necessary. In tandem, there should
be a study to investigate pedagogical principles of Internet use and
how to best apply it.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to sincerely thank Dr. Saiwaroon
Chumpawan and Mr. Jacques Paulin for their valuable suggestions.
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About the authors
Sabaiporn Charupan is the Head of the English Department,
Rajamangala Institute of Technology, Uthenthawai. She has taught
English for vocational students for 20 years. She is a part-time lecturer
at Bangkok University and Mahidol University. She is a freelance
translator as well.
Songsri Soranastaporn is currently an English teacher for first
year university students and an instructor of computer assisted
instruction for both intensive courses and graduate courses at Mahidol
University.
Nongpanga Suwattananand is presently an English teacher
for first year university students at Mahidol University. She is also a
freelance translator.
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