Assessing ESL Learners’ Online Learning Self-Efficacy in Thailand: Are They Ready?

Araya Ramsin, Hayley J Mayall
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 18  •  2019  •  pp. 467-479

The purpose of this study was to examine whether ESL students in Thailand felt comfortable and confident using online course management tools as indicated by the levels of their online learning self-efficacy.

While online learning has become commonplace in most US based universities, some international educational institutions are just now dealing with the enormous task of introducing online learning to their academic communities and working with both faculty and students for successful implementations. In Thailand, there is a national initiative to harness the power of online learning together with other technological innovations to facilitate an increase in learning outcomes and provide additional access to education for students within public educational institutions.

Online learning self-efficacy data was collected from 856 newly admitted English as a second language (ESL) students at a large public university in Thailand. Participants were provided an email link to an online survey either via a direct email solicitation or a web link posted by their course instructors. The survey consisted of 8 demographic items and 29 self-efficacy items on a 4-point Likert-type scale.

This paper adds to the body of research on self-efficacy in online learning context by examining the levels of online learning self-efficacy of ESL students in Thailand, where online learning is still not as prevalent as in the United States and many other regions.

Significant correlations were found between online learning self-efficacy levels and demographic characteristics including self-report computer skills, comfort level using the internet, self-reported English proficiency scores, and prior online learning experience. ESL learners participating in this study were found to have high levels of online learning self-efficacy, which indicated a readiness for engagement in online learning courses.

As indicated by the results of the study, ESL students who were better at using computers and more comfortable surfing the internet were found to be more confident that they would do well in online learning environments. Therefore, it is recommended that sufficient training should be provided to support this transition by helping students, especially those with lower computer skills and comfort levels using the internet, get started and supporting them along the way. Also, at the very first stage of transitioning into online learning, the institution may first start with partially online courses into which a mixture of both online and face-to-face elements is incorporated. This will allow students to gradually adjust themselves into the new instructional delivery system and technologies that come with it. Once students are well-adjusted and familiar with the new learning environment, and assessment of the effectiveness of the partial integration has been conducted, the institution can consider offering courses that are entirely online.

Faculty and institution readiness for the adoption of online learning should also be taken into consideration in future work. To address the identified limitations, we recommend that inclusion of participants from across content domain would provide a more representative and generalizable result.

Incorporation of online learning as a standard instructional strategy will improve access to the educational system within Thailand. Assessing student readiness for this non-traditional way of learning may facilitate institutions’ ability to better plan how to effectively incorporate online learning into its curricula.

This student focused study was a follow-up to a faculty focused study attempting to indicate the level of readiness for this institution to broadly adopt online learning. Future research could be conducted at the organization/institution perspective using appropriate frameworks to address the last element of readiness for online learning adoption that considers the three facets of student, faculty, and institution. After the completion of this phase of affective/attitudinal research and the implementation of online learning within this institution, we recommend moving on to the measure effectiveness of the new instructional methodology.

online learning, ESL learners, self-efficacy
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