An investigation of EFL students' online literacy practices

Year: 2012

Author: Sawatdeenarunat, Sirinut

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



The purpose of this paper is to contribute to our understanding of the kinds of literacies that are required in the digital age. This research presented was aimed at examining the ways in which Thai EFL students use online resources to complete English tasks as well as the challenges they face during these processes. These issues are particularly important for literacy teachers as students are increasingly being exposed to online texts within and beyond classrooms.


The data were collected with think-aloud protocol and stimulated recall methods while students were completing tasks in natural online environment. These tools allow the researcher to gather rich data on the spot without having to rely on participants' memories. Data drawn from videos of students' computer screens recorded by screen capturing software, Camstudio and the retrospective recalls provide prominent insight into online reading processes and skills required to become competent online readers.


The results have shown that students are required to achieve six phases of online literacy practices in order to completely fulfill task demands. These phases include 1) understanding given instruction and goal-setting, 2) generating search terms to locate relevant information, 3) evaluating the relevancy of information, 4) evaluating reliability and accuracy of the retrieved information, 5) comprehending selected information and 6) using online information to respond to task. It should be noted that the nature of online reading is complex and these phases do not occur in a linear fashion. There are some overlapping dimensions of online reading processes and readers progress back and forth between phases. The highlights of the findings and the implications of each phase will be presented.


The rich data collected from students working on online tasks will assist EFL teachers in conceptualising effective practices. It is necessary for EFL teachers to acquire comprehensive understanding of effective literacy practices within online environment in order to support students' development of those required literacies. As technologies continue to grow, teachers will need to take into account the different literacy practices that the students are involved in. This study serves as a starting point for developing a theoretical framework for language teachers and researchers who wish to support students' literacy.