USING ELECTRONIC MAIL TO FOSTER COLLEGE-LEVEL EFL STUDENT ENGAGEMENT IN ENGLISH LEARNING - A PILOT STUDY
English is a required subject for all freshmen in Taiwanese colleges; all of them are mandatory three-credit-hour classes on English when they came into university for their first year. However, it is a common belief in Taiwan that students’ English proficiency in technology universities is, on the average, far below that of academic universities. After having taught at Technology University for sixteen years, I found that most students have very weak motivation to learn English. They usually lack confidence and are not very willing to take part in any English activities even though technology university students are also expected to achieve satisfactory English competence. Thus, the most immediate and persisting issue for us, technology university teachers, is not low achievement, but student disengagement.
Many researches revealed that students are generally more “engaged” and express more positive feelings when they use computers than when they are given other tasks to do. The advancement of modern technology in recent years has brought about innovative use of computers in second language learning and teaching. Especially, computer-mediated communication (CMC) through different networking tool such as e-mail, synchronous computer conferencing and the World Wide Web has been introduced into second/foreign language instruction. Among the various forms of CMC in language instruction, electronic mail (e-mail) has so far been the most popular. Taking advantage of the e-mail technology, language teachers around the world have implemented various e-mail projects involving students of language and culture learning in recent year.
This paper is considering how to use technology to foster student engagement. The study set out to investigate whether or not using e-mail exchanges fosters the EFL (English as Foreign Language) student engagement in the area of English learning. Moreover, it also tried to explore if E-mail messages could improve student’s confidence in using English to communicate with others. It analyzes the effectiveness of using e-mail as a tool to have students engage in task-based e-mail activities. The study discusses the main features of electronic mail and its role in pedagogical instruction. It describes a statistical method for quantitative and qualitative e-mail analysis to confirm the prediction that foreign language learners motivated by e-mail exchanges would become engaged learners of the foreign language beyond the classroom context.
Results of the study revealed that the topics chosen for e-mail exchange might be one of the main factors influencing content and word length and in of motivating students to write more. Furthermore, the study hopes to provide pedagogical implications for designing effective e- mail tasks for enhancing and developing student engagement in EFL context.