* * * On the Internet * * *
August 2022 — Volume 26, Number 2
Walailak University, Thailand
Mark B. Ulla
Walailak University, Thailand
Integrating social media into classroom language teaching has been argued to be beneficial for both students and teachers. However, little is known about using two social media platforms in one online language class session, especially to support the teaching and learning process during the COVID19 transition to online teaching. This case study explores the use of Zoom and Facebook (henceforth referred to as Zoom-booking) as English language teaching support platforms during the COVID19 online teaching of a general English course by one English as a foreign language teacher (EFL) at a university in Thailand. We adopted the concept of teaching presence and netnography as a perspective. Findings from the online classroom observation, online traces (written text or posts, videos, PowerPoint slides, and images), and interviews revealed that our teacher-participant perceived Zoom-booking the online language classroom as personal and institutional. This suggests that while Zoom-booking supports teaching presence for synchronous and asynchronous teaching modalities, it also highlights the need for teachers to respond to their language learners’ needs. We discuss the implications, and we offer recommendations for future studies.
Keywords: Facebook; online class; online learning community; teaching presence; Zoom
Integrating information and communications technology (ICTs) in classroom teaching and using various social media platforms have been reported to positively impact students’ language learning skills and benefit teachers’ classroom pedagogical practices. For example, social media platforms allow students to connect with their peers and their teachers, obtain academic information online, and share that information in the class, and promote knowledge exchange (Madge et al., 2019; Ulla & Perales, 2020). In language teaching, Dehghan et al. (2017), Dizon (2016), and Safdari (2021) recognized that social media platforms could enhance students’ writing skills, reading, vocabulary, and communication. These platforms also serve as an online community space where students can work and learn the language together (Ulla & Achivar, 2021). More importantly, using social media to teach the English language can make the lessons fun, exciting, engaging, and motivating (Bailey & Rakushin-Lee, 2021; Ulla & Perales, 2020; Yeh & Mitric, 2019).
However, the use of these social media platforms and the teachers’ online pedagogical skills were challenged during the COVID19 pandemic, where all classes had to be moved to online and remote teaching and learning. Although some of these platforms were already integrated into the classroom teaching before the pandemic, the utilization was done only in the face-to-face classroom setup. In other words, teachers may not be prepared for the sudden shift to online teaching, especially if there is a lack of teachers’ training on using various information and communication technologies (ICTs), a lack of ICT facilities (Nhu et al., 2019), and no established learning management system (LMS) to support the online and remote teaching and learning. As a result, many English as a second or as a foreign language (ESL and EFL) teachers may rely only on the affordances of these social media platforms since these platforms are readily available and are convenient to use.
Notably, as social media platforms, Zoom and Facebook have become popular tools for online teaching and learning during the COVID19 pandemic due to their video-call, screen-sharing, post, comment, and messaging features (Kohnke & Moorhouse, 2020; Lee, 2021; Todorovic et al., 2021; Ulla & Achivar, 2021; Ulla & Perales, 2021). These features allow learners to be connected to their teachers and classmates remotely. Such features may also facilitate and support asynchronous or synchronous language teaching and learning depending on the nature of the course and learners’ and teachers’ preferences. In addition, although it depends on the teaching context, lesson design, and facilitation, these online platforms can make the delivery of the lessons “interactive and dialogic” (Kohnke & Moorhouse, 2020, p. 5) making them good online classroom alternatives to face-to-face teaching. Although a number of studies have explored the usage of these platforms as virtual classrooms in online teaching during the pandemic, none of the studies explore the combination of two platforms, Zoom and Facebook, and how they support the teaching of the English language in an online classroom during the COVID19 pandemic. Thus, Zoom-booking refers to the simultaneous use of the two platforms, Zoom and Facebook, in an EFL teaching class.
Drawing upon the concept of teaching presence (Garrison et al., 2000) and netnography (Kozinets, 2002), this case study explores how Zoom and Facebook as English language teaching platforms during the COVID19 online teaching were used to support “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson et al., 2001, p. 5) . The findings based on the data at a university in Thailand contribute to online teaching practices that other language teachers may consider in their contexts. The exploration of online teaching platforms in a university with no LMS may provide insight for academics, education policymakers, and education scholars to consider when planning the curriculum during or post COVID19 pandemic.
Issues in online teaching
Although online teaching is beneficial for both teachers and students, its implementation also comes with challenges and issues. Such issues are predominantly true to the present context, where the COVID19 pandemic forced educational institutions in the world to close their physical classrooms temporarily. In the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) classrooms, such challenges can also be reflected, considering that some teachers may not have the skills for online pedagogy. Additionally, transforming their classroom teaching materials to be suitable for online teaching may be challenging. In addition, teachers may also find it challenging to maintain the level of support and feedback, including the teaching strategies they may employ from their classroom teaching to online teaching.
For instance, Khan et al. (2021) explored the challenges students face during the transition to online teaching in India. The results showed that students complained about the lack of interaction in the online class. Students also had low motivation to study online because they easily got distracted. They felt isolated since they could not do their group activities and talk to their classmates. From teachers’ perspectives, the study by Zou et al. (2021) revealed that the main issues faced by teachers were pedagogical. Teachers reported that students’ disengagement, difficulties in assessing how well the students learned, and students’ lack of discipline were among the issues they encountered. In addition, teachers also complained that shifting to an online teaching modality had given them additional work, considering that a few of them lacked technical skills and had poor internet connectivity. In other words, teachers struggled to manage online teaching and navigate the online teaching platforms. Given the challenges teachers face in online teaching, they may lose the motivation to teach and become ineffective. In a study by Teng and Wu (2021), it was reported that one of their teacher-participants, who was an inexperienced teacher, felt less motivated and effective in online teaching.
Apparently, the sudden transition to online teaching and learning may be tedious for teachers and learners. However, it should be noted that online teaching may be the only alternative teaching modality if any educational institutions would want to continue the teaching and learning process during a health crisis. Although some pedagogical factors need to be considered, academics, education policymakers, and education scholars may also try to revisit their policies to address the issues mentioned by previous studies in the literature. Adapting to the new normal of online teaching may become an essential part of the curriculum.
Zoom and Facebook as online language classrooms
Zoom and Facebook are two of the most common online platforms that have gained traction regarding online teaching during the COVID19 pandemic (Kohnke & Moorhouse, 2020; Lee, 2021; Todorovic et al., 2021; Ulla & Achivar, 2021; Ulla & Perales, 2021). For example, Zoom has teleconferencing, screen sharing, and breakout room features, making it popular among online teachers. These affordances may allow both the teacher and students to easily navigate online teaching. Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020) emphasized that Zoom could make online language teaching and learning interactive since it has features that allow students to engage with the lesson and interact with their classmates and their teachers. They mentioned that using Zoom in online classes facilitates meaningful language production as it creates an opportunity for students to participate in various online class activities. Lee (2021), who explored 25 South Korean undergraduate students’ perceptions of using Zoom’s breakout rooms in their online synchronous class during the COVID19 pandemic, supported the claim by Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020), emphasizing that Zoom provides students a way to continue the learning process. Lee (2021) found that students held positive views towards using Zoom because it enhanced their language skills, enabled them to connect with their teachers and classmates, and allowed them to participate in online group activities.
However, the use of Zoom in online teaching also comes with some constraints. Among these issues that Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020) recognized include the difficulty of the teachers to monitor students, especially when conducting group discussions, students feeling tired and anxious, and security issues involving Zoom log-in details. For Lee (2021), these technical issues hindered some students from participating in the speaking activities. Despite these issues, Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020) found that students felt comfortable using Zoom for their online language learning.
While Zoom may be widely used as a teleconferencing application, Facebook is also the most popular social media globally (Todorovic et al., 2021). It is also the most popular social media platform among teachers, who may use it “for content generation, resource sharing, collaborative interaction, and socializing. Facebook can facilitate the delivery of synchronous and asynchronous teaching through didactic live streaming webinars or lectures” (Todorovic et al., 2021, p. 1261). González-Ramírez et al. (2015) maintained that since Facebook highlights students’ experiences, it may be a good alternative platform for online teaching, providing students a venue for communication that encourages participation and motivation. Likewise, Ulla and Perales (2021) also argued that using Facebook for online asynchronous teaching allowed students to become responsible and independent learners. Students became active and participative in online class activities as they constantly engaged in the discussion forum on their class Facebook group. They also became creative in their online classwork, and they also managed to build a supportive community where they could exchange ideas about their learning practices among their classmates. Thus, Ulla and Perales (2021) reiterated that Facebook could be a potential online teaching and learning platform, especially in times of emergency health crisis when classes have to be moved online and when the university does not have an established learning management system (LMS).
Community of inquiry (CoI) framework: Teaching presence
A community of inquiry (CoI) is a framework introduced by Garrison et al. in 2000. CoI emphasizes that learning happens in a community consisting of teachers and students as principal participants. Since it promotes “the quality of the educational experience and learning outcomes” (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 92), the framework has become a popular tool in higher education studies relating to online teaching and learning environments. It also becomes the basis “for conceptualizing the online learning process” (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007, p. 158).
Additionally, CoI holds three vital elements interacting with one another for a successful computer-mediated online teaching and learning. These elements include cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Cognitive presence highlights the process where students think, create, and apply knowledge through communication, reflection, and collaboration in an online learning community. Such a process can be done in various learning activities designed and facilitated according to the needs of the students. As a central element for critical thinking (Kanuka & Garrison, 2004), cognitive presence provides opportunities for students to have a higher level of thinking and learning.
The second element, the social presence, refers to how students present themselves in the online community. It involves emotional responses and how students identify themselves in the community (Maddrell et al., 2017). Kanuka and Garrison (2004) considered social presence a vital element in the community since it facilitates and supports the element of cognitive presence. It allows meaningful collaboration, especially on how other members relate to the online learning community.
The last element, the teaching presence, is the binding element for cognitive presence and social presence (Maddrell et al., 2017). It concentrates on how the educational experience is designed and how the online learning activities are facilitated in the online community (Kanuka & Garrison, 2004). While the cognitive and social presences focus on the learners, teaching presence centers on how teachers manage, organize, conduct, and facilitate online teaching and learning. In other words, it describes the responsibilities of the teachers as contributors to new knowledge.
Although these three elements focus on three different online teaching and learning areas, they have one common goal: to create a meaningful online learning community. The CoI model elements emphasize teaching and learning environment, support, and pedagogical content necessary for achieving such a meaningful learning community. However, in this study, we only focused on teaching presence to describe and determine the role of the teacher in designing, facilitating, and supporting students in an online environment through the use of two online platforms, Zoom and Facebook.
Using online platforms such as social media in teaching creates an impact that greatly benefits students and teachers. They have become sustainable in helping both teachers and students with online language teaching and learning. However, while previous studies have reported these benefits, the current COVID19 pandemic sees the need to explore more of the uses of these social media platforms, notably to support online teaching and learning. Although one of the affordances of Zoom was for online synchronous classes (Kohnke & Moorhouse, 2020) and Facebook for online asynchronous teaching (Ulla & Perales, 2021), studies on how these two platforms are used together in an online class to support both synchronous and asynchronous teaching modalities are not yet conducted. Most importantly, there is a need to explore how these platforms are utilized to reflect the instructional design for the online environment and how such an environment positively affects learners’ learning discourses (Garrison et al., 2010). Thus, this study addresses the following questions.
- What are the teacher’s considerations and motivations in Zoom-booking the online language classroom?
- How are online learning activities facilitated when Zoom-booking the online language classroom?
“Netnography” is a new methodology used in qualitative research. It combines ‘internet’ and ethnography that studies digital online communities. It was introduced by Kozinets (2002) when he did marketing research online. Additionally, netnography “adapts ethnographic research techniques to study the cultures and communities emerging through computer-mediated communications” (Kozinets, 2002, p. 62). In other words, netnography “provides a nuanced understanding of different social phenomena related to community practices” (Kessler et al., 2021, p. 6).
Although netnography was used by Kozinets in studying consumer behaviors in online communities, its methodological application in a number of language education and applied linguistics studies (see Eaton & Pasquini, 2020; Kessler et al., 2021) has also grown in recent years. As a method, netnography should be conducted online by doing participant observation on one online platform. Thus, researchers may become passive observers or participant observers (Kessler et al., 2021). As regards conducting a netnography, Kozinets (2002) suggested that researchers should have “specific research questions and identify particular online forums appropriate to the types of questions that are of interest” (p. 63) to the participants. Researchers must also learn and understand the dynamics of the online community, including the participants, by examining the interaction, pedagogy, and learning activities in the online community.
The current study employed netnography to explore teachers’ teaching presence in an online teaching and learning community. The researchers believed that one of the strengths of this methodology is its applicability in the current COVID19 context. Not only does netnography allow the use of the internet as a research site, but it also makes data gathering possible, especially during the COVID19 pandemic.
Context and participant
The study was conducted online, where online teaching was facilitated by a language teacher in a university in Thailand during the COVID19 pandemic. Thirty-one second-year EFL students majoring in Pharmacy took the general English course of Academic Communication in the first term of 2021-2022. The class was taught for 12 weeks with two class sessions of two hours every week (4 hours in total). Pih, a pseudonym of the teacher, taught the class using Zoom for synchronous teaching and Facebook for asynchronous teaching.
Moreover, the students and the teacher were provided with a licensed Zoom link to their online class schedule during the term’s enrollment. However, Pih, who held an MA degree in language teaching and has been an EFL teacher for almost five years, decided to use Facebook alongside Zoom for her class as a language learning support platform. Among the EFL teachers in the university, she was the only one who used those two platforms for online teaching in a class and was willing to participate in the study. Likewise, considering the nature of netnography, Pih’s teaching schedule did not conflict with our teaching timetable, which allowed us to join and observe her online class as a site for our netnographic research. It also gave us the chance to look at the online teaching and learning traces (written text or posts, videos, PowerPoint slides, and images) on her Facebook class.
Data gathering procedure
Before joining and observing Pih’s class, approval from our institution’s human research ethics board was sought. When approved, we approached our participant, handed her the letter of consent, and explained to her the purpose of the study. We also made sure that she was certain to participate in the study and could withdraw anytime she felt uncomfortable. We also assured her anonymity throughout the study and eventually in the paper’s publication. In other words, all the information she would share would be treated with confidentiality.
As this study followed the netnography approach to data collection, our data source came from online observation (Kozinets, 2002), online traces (Kessler et al., 2021), and an interview. Since the study was conceived when the online class for the term had already started, we joined and observed Pih’s class both on Zoom and Facebook from week 6 to week ten or for 20 hours. We explored how Pih designed, facilitated, and directed her online class. In other words, we observed how she started her lesson, delivered her teaching, gave instructions, conducted the activities, facilitated the online practices, and reinforced students’ learning.
Additionally, we also used online traces to gather more in-depth data. These online traces refer to written text or posts, videos, PowerPoint slides, and images posted on Pih’s online platforms for her online class. Such traces were taken from her closed-class Facebook group, where the asynchronous lesson was conducted. We joined her closed-class Facebook group and observed the activities and how they were posted, including the instructions and the exchanges of comments in the comment section of every post.
Similarly, an in-depth semi-structured interview was conducted in English and recorded via a mobile phone in week 12. The interview focused on Pih’s considerations and motivations in Zoom-booking the online language classroom and how she facilitated the online learning activities.
Lastly, drawing upon the concept of teaching presence that focuses on how teachers manage, organize, conduct, and facilitate online teaching and learning, we manually identified and coded the data based on specific research questions posed for the study and analyzed them thematically. We, therefore, focused on how Pih managed, organized, conducted, and facilitated her online teaching on both Zoom and Facebook. Since there was only one participant in the study, we read the transcripts repeatedly, highlighted the recurring patterns of words and answers, and assigned those to either of the two research questions. Interview excerpts were also included in the presentation of the findings.
Findings and Discussion
In this section, we present the teaching practice of Pih, our research participant, and how she utilized Zoom and Facebook to manage, organize, conduct, and facilitate her online teaching during the pandemic. We then discussed her teaching practice to shed light on how Zoom-booking can be a potential pedagogical practice during health emergencies.
Synchronous online language teaching on Zoom
Since the class had to meet for two hours every class session, Pih started her class by meeting everyone online synchronously via Zoom for the first hour. The excerpts presented below showed how Pih managed one of her online synchronous class sessions.
A. Pih: How are you today, everyone. I hope all of you are doing good. For today, we’re going to talk about plagiarism. But before anything else, let me check your attendance first. [called her students’ names individually]
B. Pih: Can you all see my screen?…OK, [name of the student] can you read the lesson objectives of the day?
C. Pih: Read the sentences that are showing on your screen now. These sentences contain words related to our topic for today. They are underlined. I will give you 2 minutes to read these sentences and tell me the meaning of the underlined words. [called some students to read the sentences and give the meaning of the underlined words]
D. Pih: What do you think is plagiarism? Any idea?…[called some of her students and proceeded to discuss the lesson]
E. Pih: For your online group discussion, we still have 30 minutes, so please go to your respective breakout rooms and discuss the following questions in your group [showed 2 discussion guide questions]. After 15 minutes of your group discussion presentation, come back to our main room. Group leaders, please take charge. I will be visiting your room later.
[Everyone was back in the main room, and the group presentation began].
The last 15 minutes were spent for group sharing back into the main Zoom room before moving to Facebook for the last remaining hour.
F. Pih: Thank you very much for coming to our Zoom class today. It’s already 1:50 pm, so let’s move to our Facebook group for your reinforcement activity. I will be posting the instruction for your learning activity there, and please complete it anytime this week.
It was observed that during the first hour of the online synchronous class session via Zoom, Pih organized the class time by allotting the first 30 minutes for the class preliminaries. This includes checking the class attendance, presenting the lesson objectives of the day, doing a vocabulary exercise, discussing the day’s topic, and asking students to share their thoughts about the lesson of the day. She shared the lesson objectives and the day’s lesson using a PowerPoint. Meanwhile, she also used Zoom‘s screen sharing feature to present her students’ vocabulary activity on Socrative, an online platform. Likewise, she used the last 30 minutes of her online synchronous class on Zoom for students-to-student engagement of the topic. She asked her students to group themselves and prepared discussion questions as a guide. Each group was assigned to a breakout room corresponding to their group number. For 15 minutes, students were engaged in the discussion by sharing their thoughts about the questions and contributing to their group discussion output.
In one of the breakout room’s observations, students discussed the assigned topic/question and how they would present their discussion back to the main room creatively. Students were engaged in the activity, and each group member shared their thoughts about the topic. One group leader facilitated the activity in the group discussion, calling everyone to share their ideas. He also acted as the moderator. Likewise, a group secretary also opened, shared, and made PowerPoint slides for their discussion to share in the main room later. All the group members appointed a secretary to take note of their discussions. When back in the main room for class sharing, the group leader shared their group discussion, and the secretary shared the screen for their slides.
However, it should be noted that while Pih provided the lesson content and sent her students to assigned breakout rooms in her Zoom online classroom to discuss and share their ideas about the lesson, students were still the ones who synthesized their learnings. They shared their group discussion with the rest of the class in their Zoom main room. In other words, as a teacher, Pih only guided her students by giving them feedback, especially after the group presentation on Zoom. This implies that teaching presence should be regarded as a collaborative activity in online teaching. Teachers provide the lesson materials, and students act on their learning activities as online community members.
Generally, Zoom can be considered an ideal platform for online synchronous teaching and learning as it has features necessary for online instructions, such as screen-sharing and breakout rooms. According to Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020), as a synchronous online teaching platform, Zoom allows students to participate and interact with their teacher and classmates, facilitating meaningful language production. Similarly, Lee (2021) reported that South Korean undergraduate students perceived using Zoom‘s breakout rooms for online synchronous learning positively because it gives them the chance to enhance their language skills and connect with their teachers and classmates. However, Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020) and Lee (2021) also revealed that some students did not participate in the speaking activities due to technical issues; and felt shy and tired.
In the current study, Pih addressed the issues Kohnke and Moorhouse (2020) and Lee (2021) reported by conducting the synchronous online class on Zoom for one hour only for every class session. She also had the speaking activities in a group in the breakout room, giving the students the space to discuss the topic within their group first before finally presenting their discussion to the whole class back in the main room. Such an online teaching style revealed how Pih managed, organized, conducted, and facilitated her online teaching by considering the issues that could affect her online lesson. Thus, having a specific class time for synchronous instruction for one hour allowed Pih to meet her students virtually, giving them the necessary learning support. Likewise, although the class was synchronous, where speaking activities could be challenging, utilizing the Zoom breakout rooms facilitated engagement and language practice for her students. This was observed when Pih asked her students to choose their group members and form a group with five members. Since students knew and were comfortable with each other, they actively participated in the discussion. It can also be observed that allowing the students to choose their groupmates was crucial in why students were active and participative in their discussions. Thus, the breakout room allowed students to interact with their classmates and collaborate in their online language learning, an essential element in the CoI framework. After all, Wu et al. (2022) emphasized that “teaching presence is never exclusively limited to instructors and may be taken up by students also, although teachers may take on more responsibilities of organizing and facilitating online exchange” (p. 3).
Although Pih varied her approach to managing her online language class during the second-class session of the week, she always had a part of her online classroom instruction where students were given a chance to interact and discuss the topic. For instance, in one of the meetings, she let her students discuss the topic themselves and share their discussions with the rest of the class.
G. Pih: We will just do an online discussion for today’s meeting. I have created five breakout rooms, so please go to your respective room, the same group you had last time, and discuss among your groupmates these questions [screen-shared a ppt slide]. For group one, please discuss question number one, group two, question number two…I will give you 30 minutes, and after that, please come back here [main room] to share your group discussion with your classmates. I will be visiting your rooms later.
During the 30 minutes breakout room discussion, Pih was an observer, facilitator, and adviser. In the interview, she said she had to join all the breakout room sessions and stay there for at least 3 minutes to monitor the activity and guide students in their discussion.
I had to monitor them. I had to join all the breakout room sessions not only to observe what was going on there but also to guide them. Sometimes they ask for clarifications regarding the activity, so it is better if I join them.
Such online teaching practice, where lesson facilitation was shared by the teacher and the students, “support and enhance social and cognitive presence for the purpose of realizing educational outcomes” (Garrison et al. 2000, p. 90). This suggests that teaching presence enables learners to engage actively in the online classroom since students are supported and feel that they are part of the online learning community. Garrison and Arbaugh (2007) noted that both the teacher and the students play an equal role in the online learning community. While the students are “engaged in interacting about and building upon the information provided in the course instructional materials,” the teacher also facilitates “reflection and discourse by presenting content, using various means of assessment and feedback” (p. 164).
It is also worth mentioning that Pih used the screen recording feature of Zoom to record their synchronous online class. The recording was done to be posted on their class Facebook group for others to review the lessons anytime, especially those who were absent from the synchronous class. She believed that by recording the lesson and posting it on their class Facebook group, she supported her students who may have difficulty logging in to their Zoom meetings. This suggests that Pih showed a strong teaching presence in the design and facilitation of her lesson and how she treated her students. This can be reflected in how she organized and planned for her class. She prepared PPT slides, introduced the lesson objectives of the day, engaged her students in online activities, and facilitated the learning practices with her students.
In addition, as a teacher, Pih was calm, encouraging, and motivating to her students, especially when she monitored her students in the breakout rooms and in listening to them during their class discussions. Zhu et al. (2019) stated that “posting encouraging social words and maintaining a positive emotional tone…created an open communication environment for student discussion” (p. 205). This suggests that teaching presence is not only about managing and promoting online pedagogy and instruction. Teaching presence should also be about displaying positive emotional support for students to demonstrate social and cognitive presence.
Asynchronous online language teaching on Facebook
After an hour of class in Zoom, Pih told her students to move to their Facebook group as she would be posting activities for them to do for the last hour of their class. On Facebook, she posted different group work, pair, and individual work that her students needed to complete. Other online asynchronous activities on Facebook were also posted.
H: …if you have no questions regarding our lesson for today, let’s proceed to your asynchronous activity on Facebook. I will post the instruction on what you’re going to do for the rest of week. Please be mindful of the word limit, and do not forget to comment on one of your classmate’s answers. I will also be posting some additional references for you to read.
Students were asked to answer two discussion questions about the topic discussed for the day. Students were advised to limit their responses to 100 words. Pih monitored their responses and addressed irrelevant ones by individually replying and commenting on her students’ responses. Furthermore, some YouTube video links were also posted to facilitate understanding and comprehension of the lesson. Students had to comment on their reaction to the video in 100 words in the post’s comment section. Students were also tasked to read and comment on their classmates’ responses to the video posted. The photo below shows a sample writing activity instruction for her students.
Figure 1. A Sample Writing Activity Instruction on Facebook.
In the teaching presence model of the CoI framework, there is a greater emphasis on the role of the teachers, especially on how they give lesson instructions and activities, facilitate the online discourses, and design the lesson’s structure (Garrison, 2007). These roles are considered of primary importance as they “link learners and instructors who are not physically connected” (Zhang et al. 2016, p. 3). In Pih’s online class, specifically on using Facebook as a support platform, students could participate and complete their online activities since their teacher permitted them to do the language learning tasks asynchronously. Having asynchronous online activities is vital to support students’ language learning, especially since some students struggle with their internet connection (Nhu et al., 2019; Ulla & Achivar, 2021). Students can complete the learning tasks anytime, motivating and encouraging them to engage actively in the online tasks. This suggests that students’ online learning conditions should also be considered in the teaching presence model to have a meaningful online learning experience in an online community of learners. Since students equally play an essential role in the online learning community, providing them the support they need can build a strong online community.
Zoom-booking means engaging students in online learning
During the interview, Pih revealed that having two online language teaching platforms, especially Zoom and Facebook, can offer two learning modalities for her students. Pih emphasized that students can attend the online class in Zoom for synchronous teaching and Facebook for asynchronous teaching, especially for students who may have a problem with their internet connection. She explained:
The university has provided us with a Zoom account for our online class already, but I feel that having only Zoom, I could not monitor and assess the progress of my students. After a class in Zoom, if I don’t use Facebook, how can I ask them to interact with their classmates asynchronously. What will happen to my students who don’t have a strong internet connection to attend the lecture in Zoom? At least having a Facebook, I could just post the video recording of my class in Zoom so that students who missed the online class session can still cope with the lesson.
She believed that by using Facebook and Zoom, she could provide equal opportunities for students’ language learning and emotional needs. Such support has been highlighted in recent studies (Moorhouse et al., 2021; White et al., 2021), maintaining that such support is needed by students, especially since they may feel isolated and alone during these difficult times. Therefore, teachers should be responsive to students’ needs to allow effective learning.
Furthermore, consistent with the findings by González-Ramírez et al. (2015), Sánchez et al. (2019), and Ulla and Perales (2020), students became participative and engaged in various in-class practices asynchronously, especially in the discussion forum since they were familiar with Facebook. Students also became interactive, which surprised Pih since, according to her, most of her students were timid in the face-to-face classroom teaching. She emphasized that if in the face-to-face teaching, students were shy to answer and respond to questions, Facebook, as a platform for the asynchronous online, gave them an equal chance to participate, contributing to the discussion forum. Most importantly, students become creative and confident, especially making videos for their speaking practices. Moreover, Pih also noted that her students were more engaged in doing the writing practices as they responded to the discussion questions and their classmates’ answers.
As a support online learning platform, Facebook permits asynchronous lesson modality, where students can perform and complete all the language learning tasks. However, while Awidi et al. (2019), Henry et al. (2020), and Ulla and Perales (2020) acknowledged that Facebook provides students an opportunity to engage and participate in the online learning process, this present study maintained that students only engage in the online learning process actively if they feel and get the sense of community. Although Shea et al. (2012) noted that “learners and instructors do not perform identical roles and thus must engage in different behaviors to succeed” (p. 93), having a sense of community provides belonging to the same community with a shared learning identity among students.
Likewise, the affordances of Zoom in teleconferencing, screen sharing, and breakout rooms also provided Pih and her students the avenue to discuss the lessons and share ideas synchronously. However, it should be noted that the purpose of using these two online platforms for online teaching in Pih’s class was not to compare and leverage one over the other. Instead, the role of these two platforms is complementary. In other words, Zoom complemented Facebook for synchronous teaching and Facebook for asynchronous teaching. Although they vary in their approach, such a complementing role implies students’ engagement and participation in online activities.
Given the following findings, it is also essential to consider that students’ engagement in online learning is much more complex than in face-to-face classroom teaching (Cole et al., 2021). Unlike in face-to-face classroom teaching, where individual students are physically engaged in learning activities with their classmates in a group, in the online learning community, students are engaged only in learning activities virtually. In other words, students feel physically isolated. Therefore, students’ engagement in online learning should be treated differently from face-to-face students’ learning engagement. Engagement in online learning may mean that students participate in various learning activities online remotely and individually; hence, individual to individual learning engagement. However, such online engagement isolation can be mitigated by how teachers show their teaching presence and design, facilitate, and direct “cognitive and social processes to realize personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson et al., 2001, p. 5). Thus, it can be argued that Zoom and Facebook can be great tools to use in online teaching since Zoom-booking the online classroom during the COVID19 pandemic facilitated students’ engagement in various online language learning activities.
Lastly, while the present study provides some insight into the use of online platforms and contributes to the discussion of the teaching presence model, it offers some limitations that may become the basis for future research. For example, the focus of the study was only on the teaching presence, highlighting the importance of support, collaboration, and a sense of community and belonging in the online community. Cognitive and social presences must also be studied alongside teaching presence to understand better these three elements and how they work together in online teaching and learning. Second, there was only one participant in the study, an EFL teacher at a university in Thailand. Increasing the sample size and widening the research context by including other HEIs may offer a deeper insight into the CoI framework in online teaching. Lastly, another limitation concerns the methodology used in the study. Phenomenology or narrative inquiry methods might be interesting for future research on the CoI framework as they may provide different perspectives towards understanding the dynamics of online teaching.
This study explores Zoom and Facebook as English language teaching support platforms during the COVID19 online teaching by an EFL teacher in a university in Thailand. Findings revealed that Zoom-booking the online language classroom supports the teaching presence and students’ learning process since it provides both synchronous and asynchronous teaching modalities. Moreover, pedagogical skills (teaching presence) are crucial in an online learning community. Despite the lack of training, Pih could facilitate her online class by using available online platforms that are easy to use. By combining the teaching modalities, Pih mitigated the issues when transitioning to online teaching. In other words, she displayed a strong teaching presence, as evident in her direct online instruction and pedagogy and her approach to students in synchronous and asynchronous teaching. The findings of the study contribute to the current debate on the use of online platforms in education, especially during the pandemic. We argued that using these online platforms would become sustainable for online language education if there is any evidence of teaching presence, especially if the teachers are well-aware of the teaching modalities and the context of using these platforms.
Although teaching presence emphasizes the role of the teacher in designing, facilitating, and supporting students in an online environment, the concept of online teaching and learning must be taken as a collaborative activity where teachers and students play an equal role. Teachers must see that the design of their teaching materials and the facilitation of the online activities must be accessible and engaging to the students to create meaningful online language learning. Doing so enables students to contribute to knowledge creation, where they actively participate.
The findings of the study also offer practical implications that EFL teachers can benchmark for their online classes. For example, an online class should be synchronous and asynchronous so that students who may have a problem with their internet connection can cope with the lesson. Second, the online class should not be limited to using only one platform. Facebook and other social media sites could also help learners learn online. As mentioned earlier, teaching presence should be regarded as a collaborative activity. Teachers provide the lesson materials, and students act on their learning activities as online community members. Likewise, when doing the synchronous online class on any platform, it is best to limit the screen time to only an hour to avoid students feeling Zoom fatigue and hesitation to participate in an online discussion. Guiding the students on the expected learning output and giving them reinforcement activities, assessment, and feedback may be essential for students to continue engaging and participating in the online learning process. We also suggest that future research explore other features of Zoom and Facebook to maximize the use of these two platforms in online language teaching and learning.
About the Authors
Pavirasa Praditsorn is a lecturer at the School of Languages and General Education, Walailak University, Thailand. Her research interests are language education and studies and computer assisted language teaching. ORCID ID: 0000-0001-9249-2150
Mark Ulla is Assistant Professor and Head of Research at the School of Languages and General Education, Walailak University, Thailand. His research interests are teacher education, EFL teaching, language education and studies, and teacher training. ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1005-5120
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