Electronic portfolio use in Thailand
First Monday

Electronic portfolio use in Thailand

Although the use of the Internet in Thailand has a short history, it continues to develop at a rapid rate. The adoption of the Internet helps the Thai government to apply e–learning into national educational system. This paper presents a brief introduction on how the Thai government is using the Internet and e–learning in education. Beginning with Internet and e–learning issues, this paper discusses different occurrences of electronic portfolio use found in Thailand. Finally, it will examine the potential for electronic portfolio use in the future in Thailand.


E–learning in Thailand
Benefits of e–learning in Thailand
Challenges to e–learning in Thailand
A definition of electronic portfolios in Thailand
Development issues
Uses of electronic portfolios
Types of electronic portfolios
Benefits of electronic portfolios
Problems faced by the adoption of electronic portfolios
Educational and pedagogical considerations
Thai studies on electronic portfolios
Constructing electronic portfolios
Future trends of electronic portfolios
Suggestions and conclusion




Development of the Internet in Thailand

Generally speaking about the early development of the Internet in Thailand, Kanchana Kanchanasut was the first Thai woman to bring the Internet to Thailand, with the use of e–mail. When she was a student at the University of Melbourne (UM) in Australia, she used e–mail routinely to check her assignments and contact her classmates. In 1984, she returned to Thailand to teach at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). At that time, Thailand was not connected to the Internet. Kanchanasut realized that she lost an important part of her routine. As a remedy, “she used a modem for dialing through the Communications Authority of Thailand [CAT]” [1] with the only X. 25 network to e–mail her friends and instructors for the next two years (Sutharoj, 1999). In 1988, she tried to access the Internet in Thailand, as an instructor at AIT. She succeeded in accessing a Sun workstation to use as a server to create an Internet connection with UM. Unsurprisingly, this first experiment enabled AIT staff, Thai academics, and Kanchanasut to use e–mail via cable, to contact others around the world (Sutharoj, 1999). According to Palasri, et al. (1999):

“In early 1988, the [Australian International Development Plan] IDP helped [Prince of Songkhla University] PSU, AIT, and Chulalongkorn University (CU) set up the first e–mail network in Thailand, called the Thai Computer Science Network (TCSNet). With PSU and AIT as the main local gateways, Thai academics were able to dial–up to either the PSU (striang.psu.th) or the AIT (ait.ait.th) servers which were connected to the [UM] (munnari.oz.au). TCSNet used SUNIII software, [a] UNIX–based software widely used in the Australian Computer Science Net (ACSNet) … .” [2] .

By the middle of 1988, it was time for a second try for Thailand to set up the Internet. “Australian IDP assisted PSU in the south of Thailand to set up the dial–up e–mail connectivity system with the [UM].” [3] The word Sarn in the Thai language refers to some kinds of information. Following this line of thought, Koanantakool (1999) demonstrated that “the Internet was introduced to Thailand in 1991 through academic and research applications.” [4] Accordingly, in 1992, ThaiSarn’s Internet connection began with only a 9600 bps international link, and it took three years to get the first two Mbps international link. Additionally, “ThaiSarn was technically supported by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center’s (NECTEC) in–house lab, the Network Technology Laboratory (NTL), and collaboratively by participating sites. The network expanded rapidly in the first year.” [5] Consequently, the quality of Thai education has improved, given that the ThaiSarn network aimed at linking all Thai schools and universities together, as well as encouraging Thai scholars to communicate with one another digitally. Hence, aspects of IT, especially the Internet, have been used to improve the quality of education to motivate students to “use the Internet as a research tool to access a vast array of information located worldwide in cyberspace.” [6]

In terms of hardware, ThaiSarn has been supported by “Bangkok–based international computer vendors, such as IBM (Thailand), Digital Equipment Corporation (Thailand), and Hewlett Packard (Thailand) which donated servers for testing. Shinawatra Datacom Company [Dr. Taksin Shinawatra was the previous prime minister of Thailand], a local operator, donated the leased line circuits to ThaiSarn.” [7] Thus, in April 1999, there were more than 850 schools using SchoolNet services, “with more than 200 schools running their own Web sites.” [8] In fact, a survey by Bangkok University indicated that the use of the Internet was soaring thanks to an increasing availability of Internet in schools and cybercafes. Forty percent of primary, secondary, and university students were online three or four times a week, with more than 16 percent online everyday, while nearly 28 percent were using the Internet one or two days a week.



E–learning in Thailand

The Thai government set up a plan to become a knowledge–based society under the National Information Technology (IT) policy framework 2001–2006 or IT2010. IT2010 consisted of five elements: e–government, e–commerce, e–industry, e–education, and e–society. Hence, the goal of the IT2010 plan was to prepare Thailand for an era based upon a knowledge–based economy. The vision of this plan was to provide opportunities for Thais to access the Internet, use IT for lifelong learning, and improve the quality of life and the environment throughout the country, equally and efficiently.

The necessary components to enable e–learning accessibility are connectivity, capability, content, and culture. Thai universities, such as Rhamkhamheang University, Sukhothai Thammatirat University, and the College of Internet Distance Learning (CIDE) at Assumption University, are providing new e–learning programs and degrees. More importantly, Web–based instruction (WBI) and e–learning in Thailand have been growing.

Briefly, the Thai government adopted e–learning to support distance learning which can be divided into two forms: Web–based learning (WBL) and e–learning. WBL is an educational tool that uses Web sites to reach a variety of learners. Currently, WBL has become one of the most useful tools for teaching and learning in Thailand. The Thai government has been encouraging universities, schools, and institutions to offer e–learning for particular programs, courses, and degree programs at NECTEC, Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, Chula Online, and Assumption University.

In adopting e–learning for educational purposes in Thailand, WBL content appears in three forms — text online, low cost multimedia online, and full multimedia online. Text online provides contents in PDF or PowerPoint files. Instructors put their teaching materials online for students to download, making this content useful and convenient for students unable to attend both online and traditional classroom sessions. Low cost multimedia online combines video and Web programming to deliver content. Full multimedia online uses multimedia environments such as learning management systems (LMS). These environments help both instructors and learners. Students interact with these environments to submit assignments and discuss course–related topics with other students. Instructors provide online exams track the online behavior of students, and encourage discussion with multimedia–based lectures.



Benefits of e–learning in Thailand

Some of the benefits of e–learning in Thailand include:

  • Flexible learning: E–learning does not require class meetings on specific dates and times, so learners can register for courses as long as they have Internet access;
  • Learning for all: E–learning eliminates barriers of time and distance, so that those in rural areas can have equal access to educational opportunities;
  • Enhance technological skills: Given that many employees to require skill–based training, e–learning provides abundant opportunities to gain technological experiences; and,
  • Reduction of problems related to access to specific instructors.

Benefits of e-learning to individual learners include:

  • Enhanced self–confidence;
  • Increased variety of choices;
  • Access to more diverse information resources; and,
  • Support of a great number of individuals with greater opportunities for more stimulating interactions.



Challenges to e–learning in Thailand

There are a number of challenges to e–learning in Thailand. Thai educational administrators need to consider the following factors:

  • Cost: Policy–makers must consider both the initial investments to purchase computers and software as well as the ongoing costs of maintenance (i.e., upgrading hardware and software) and technical and staff support;
  • Language: According to some sources, approximately 70 percent of the information on the Internet is in English. In other words, Thais are discouraged by the predominance of the English language on the Internet and in related software applications. Some Thais, therefore, may be uncomfortable with the Internet until more resources are developed in Thai (Hongladarom, 2000);
  • Culture: Policy–makers need to implement programs that will encourage the use of the Internet. However, Hongladarom (2000) pointed out that “many fear that this power of the Internet might bring harmful results to a community.” [9]; and,
  • Resources: A variety of Thai–specific online resources, such as online libraries, databases, journals, and search engines, are needed. A national plan should be created to encourage the optimal use of the Internet for educational purposes throughout the country.

According to the NECTEC and the NSTDA, there are 3,536,001 individuals out of a total population of approximately 62,000,000, using the Internet in Thailand, or only 5.64 percent of the Thai population. This low utilization of the Internet may be due to many fators, including the Thai government’s initial lack of enthusiasm in recognizing the importance of the Internet. Nevertheless, the growth of the information technology sector in Thailand has been significant over the past decade.



A definition of electronic portfolios in Thailand

An electronic portfolio can be defined as a set of rules, ideas, beliefs, and information, collected for a particular aim or as an evidence of an individual’s or group’s achievements (Challis, 2005). An electronic portfolio may also be called a digital portfolio or a Webfolio. It is a tool that facilitates learning processes by promoting either an individual or a group. As such, electronic portfolio can be very helpful in making individuals aware of different learning strategies and needs. Furthermore, creating an electronic portfolio allows learners to improve their academic skills as well as to evaluate learning outputs.



Development issues

The use of portfolios is not new to Thailand. It has been developed over the past decade in order to develop the Thai educational system. In Thailand, portfolios have been preferred in some professions (e.g., architecture, advertisement, and photography) with student portfolios illustrating a variety of work representing educational outcomes and professional experiences. For example, the College of Agriculture and Technology in Phetchburi (http://www.pkaset.net) featured a portfolio showcase in February 2009. This showcase provided details about learning processes, allowing students to present their works to others. Students in turn earned a variety of constructive comments, which ultimately improved their work. In another example, electronic portfolios are used by the Faculty of Education at Khon Kan University, one of the famous universities in Thailand, located in the northeast part of Thailand. Electronic portfolios are used to evaluate employees’ performances based on their job descriptions. In this case, electronic portfolios assist individuals in human resources in assessing the progress of employees to reach specific outcomes of the organization. Speaking of teachers’ portfolios, students can learn from their teachers in several ways. For example, Satern Munpin, a teacher at Ban Sang Pan School, built his personal electronic portfolio so that students, parents, and other interested parties could learn from his portfolio.



Uses of electronic portfolios

In general, there are three major uses of electronic portfolios. First, students can use portfolios to demonstrate their capabilities as well as improve their competencies (Milman and Kilbane, 2005). Second, graduates or recently employed individuals use portfolios (Milman and Kilbane, 2005; Pecheone, et al., 2005) to provide evidence of their abilities in job interviews in attractive ways (Milman and Kilbane, 2005). Finally, electronic portfolios are powerful tools for assessment programs in organizations (Lorenzo and Ittleson, 2005a).

As mentioned earlier, traditional and electronic portfolios have been used in Thailand for some time. Nevertheless, some students are unfamiliar with electronic portfolios, missing opportunities to express ideas and personal achievements. In some cases, instructors need to provide support to students. In November 2007, the ICT department of Dusitwittaya School arranged a seminar on the use of electronic portfolios for 40 teachers to encourage their development. Teachers were encouraged to upload their own portfolios to http://www.thaigoodview.com. Needless to say, this seminar generated a great deal of enthusasism among teachers about portfolios.

Portfolios could play a larger role in Thailand. For individuals, a portfolio might mean the difference in securing a specific job or gaining entrance to a special school or program. Portfolios might indeed play a larger role for a variety of Thai organizations. For example, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) uses electronic portfolios in order to promote tourism.



Types of electronic portfolios

There are four types of Thai electronic portfolios:

  • Personal portfolio: The author creates diaries, drawings, and other creative products. A portfolio represents an individual’s character, behavior, favorites, talents, and progress;
  • Project portfolio: This portfolio provides information about the background and purpose of a given study, along with an anticipated outcome;
  • Academic portfolio: This portfolio outlines specific curricula or projects, as evidence of classroom experiences; and,
  • Professional portfolio: This portfolio gives details on personal achievements and experiences. These portfolios are helpful in recognizing individuals with special abilities.



Benefits of electronic portfolios

There are benefits to constructing electronic portfolios for both teachers and students. For example, the Lamengob School addressed a mixture of ideas in order to encourage the use of portfolios, such as:

  • Foster students’ sense of creativity;
  • Develop academic skills of students;
  • Encourage students to collaborate;
  • Allow students to work on their long–term development;
  • Stimulate students to identify problems among a number of issues;
  • Build satisfaction of students in developing electronic portfolios; and,
  • Provide straightforward evaluations.

In summary, electronic portfolios help students develop a variety of skills, such as critical thinking, writing, problem–solving, and manipulation of multimedia. Psychologically, electronic portfolios assist in developing personal mastery over a variety of skills and an overall feeling of satisfaction (Canada, 2002; Sherry and Barlett, 2005).

Thammachart (2007) acknowledged that creating and designing electronic portfolios assists both students and instructors in developing computer skills, thanks to the computer systematic use of digital tools. Electronic portfolios save instructors’ time in assessment as well as improve teaching methods. In addition, on a larger scale electronic portfolios help communities (Ahn, 2004).



Problems faced by the adoption of electronic portfolios

There are obstacles confronted during the implementation of electronic portfolios. The literature on portfolios (Canada, 2002; Lorenzo and Ittleson, 2005a, 2005b; Sherry and Bartlett, 2005; Tosh, et al., 2005; Wetzel and Strudler, 2005) addresses some of these issues, including:

  • Inadequate technological skills for both students and staff;
  • lack of support when problems exist;
  • software and hardware issues;
  • privacy and security of data;
  • trustworthiness and reliability of equipment; and,
  • lack of standardization across a variety of electronic portfolio systems.



Educational and pedagogical considerations

Portfolios are based on the constructivism paradigm; knowledge is constructed through activities integral to the development of portfolios (Abrami and Barrett, 2005; Chang, 2001; Klenowski, et al., 2006; Meeus, et al., 2006; Strudler and Wetzel, 2005). Portfolio pedagogy “seeks to encourage students to become dynamic participants in their own learning … students are not merely the users of the system; they are, or should be, the authors of it.” [10] Thus, an overall emphasis should be on learning, rather than treating electronic portfolios as a technology to facilitate learning processes. Electronic portfolios allow students to build their academic skills through feedback and collaboration from their instructors (Lynch and Purnawarman, 2004).



Thai studies on electronic portfolios

In nursing, Kulprateepanya (1999) analyzed the use of portfolios by investigating students’ attitudes before and after using portfolios in teaching and learning. She found that students were positive about portfolios as a means to develop cognitive skills. Saipet (2005) examined the use of portfolios by teachers. The results of this study implied that:

  • Workshop training should be provided for teachers by professionals;
  • Documentation should be widely available;
  • Continuous development of teachers must occur throughout the system; and,
  • Teachers must cooperate to develop students’ skills.

In light of these findings, we might re–examine Rodden’s (1999) findings. Rodden demonstrated that most elementary schools had a policy to support the development of portfolios. Successful portfolios in these schools were based on an multi–step semantic model.



Constructing electronic portfolios

Here are some steps that might be helpful for students in constructing their electronic portfolios:

  • Planning the portfolio: Students need to think about relevant issues, such as the purpose of a given portfolio. This planning will aid in the collection of evidence of accomplishments and experience.
  • Organizing the portfolio: A portfolio should emphasize the most significant achievements, aimed at the target audience and their expectations.
  • Personalizing the portfolio: A portfolio should reflect the identity of its creator, distinguishing it from other portfolios by emphasizing unique aspects of its creator.
  • Reflecting metacognitively: Each portfolio should represent an on–going effort, with improvements based on comments and comparisons to other portfolios.
  • Self–assessment: Assessment needs to be part of the routine of the development of the portfolio, taking training and coaching into consideration.
  • Final evaluation: Instructors play an important role in analyzing the quality of portfolios, since they have a much larger perspective on the significance of a given portfolio related to a given student’s individual progress and experiences.



Future trends of electronic portfolios

Electronic portfolios are undoubtedly useful for restructuring curricula and improving teaching and learning processes. In Thailand, the significance of electronic portfolios can be summarized as vehicles for:

  • Exchanging knowledge and skills between teachers and students as well as between students and parents, to enhance awareness of students’ behavior and knowledge;
  • Assisting teachers in recognizing students’ competencies and achievements;
  • Helping students recognize their own educational progress;
  • Presenting students with opportunities to improve their skills;
  • Supporting authentic learning;
  • Encouraging cooperative learning among students, teachers, and parents;
  • Instigating efforts by students to collect, analyze, synthesize, and arrange data for presentation in a given portfolio;
  • Revitalizing students by recalling their own educational histories; and,
  • Creating a tool to note individual performances, rather than applying standardized tests for more generic assessment (Sirimahasakorn, 1998; Sareerak, et al., 2000).

Hence, the Thai educational system is looking for more widespread adoption of electronic portfolios in order to improve both teaching and learning processes. The greater use of electronic portfolios additionally will help teachers, students, and parents develop technological skills, in turn accomplishing the goals of the Ministry of Education (MOE).



Suggestions and conclusion

Given the benefits of electronic portfolios, policy–makers in Thailand should strongly encourage the use of portfolios. This sort of encouragment could be included in all future educational plans as well as plans and policies related to technologies. Indeed, policy–makers and administrators could work with educators as change agents.

Governmental policies should promote the following objectives:

  • Give all teachers, college lecturers and professors as well as all school children and college students opportunities to learn about and use information technologies. Technologies should be promoted as enabling tools to access information and gain knowledge through self–paced learning or through interactions with a rich variety of teachers and students;
  • Link schools, colleges, universities, and libraries digitally to provide students, teachers, and lecturers with a rich environment of resources; and,
  • Make full use of IT and distance education facilities to meet the needs and aspirations of all citizens for continuing education regardless of age, profession, distance, or geography. Special attention must be given to the disabled.

Many people in Thailand use networked computers as both personal and professional tools for communication. The Thai government’s first reaction to the Internet was to reserve facilities only for state academic institutions and government agencies. Political uncertainty, changes in the bureaucracy, budget issues, and corruption have all hampered the growth of the Thai IT industry. In addition, Thais are discouraged by the predominance of the English on the Internet and in many software applications. Unless Thailand develops more Thai–specific software as well as more Thai content on the Web, use of the Internet will be limited to a small percentage of the total population.

There are some solutions to these problems. The Thai government has taken steps forward with its Telecommunications Master Plan and the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan, emphasizing the need to resolve problems relative to human resources, local development of technology, and expansion of the Internet. The success of these plans will determine, in large measure, the future economic fate of the country. Right now, there is a need for effective coordination among Thailand’s IT agencies and personnel in government, including the military as well as ministries of finance and communications. Each has a stake in the technological future of Thailand. Hence, IT investments in students and instructors in all of Thailand’s classrooms will reap enormous benefits for all. End of article


About the authors

Noppadol Prammanee holds a B.A. from Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand, a M.S. from Fort Hays State University, Kansas (majoring in Instructional Technology), and Ed.D. from Northern Illinois University, Illinois, (majoring in Instructional Technology). His research interests include instructional design, e–learning, computer–mediated communication, human–computer interaction, and training and coaching. He is currently a faculty member at International Graduate Studies Human Resource Development Center, Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand.
E–mail: nprammanee [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Mahmoud Moussa comes from Egypt, and has been working and studying in Thailand for the last three years. He holds a B.A from Helwan University (majoring in Arts of Philosophy) Cairo, Egypt, a M.A. in the International Graduate Studies Programs from Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand (majoring in Human Resource Development). He is interested in publishing some information, and making it available to the public. His research interests are e–learning, human–computer interaction, and engaging learning with technology. He is currently a faculty member at the International Business Management program, and the College of Integrated Science and technology in Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, Chiangmai, Thailand. He is also a project manager in the College of Integrated Science and Technology.
E–mail: rmutlhrd [at] gmail [dot] com.



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Editorial history

Paper received 23 December 2009; accepted 29 January 2010.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution–No Derivative Works 3.0 Thailand License.

Electronic portfolio use in Thailand
by Noppadol Prammanee and Mahmoud Moussa.
First Monday, Volume 15, Number 2 - 1 February 2010

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