Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Use Of Digital Technologies In An English-Medium Instruction Context: A case study of Vietnamese higher education teachers and students

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posted on 2021-03-30, 00:16 authored by Tho Vo
English-medium instruction (EMI) is a global trend in higher education which coincides with the digital age. This thesis examines the uses of digital technologies in an EMI context in Vietnamese higher education. It explores how teachers and students used digital technologies and how they perceived the development of students’ learning through digital technologies in the EMI environment.

The methodological approach taken was a qualitative multiple case study underpinned by an interpretive paradigm. Each case included one subject teacher and a class of 40 to 50 students in an undergraduate economics-related courses taught in English. Data from the four cases were collected during the first year of EMI implementation, from August to December 2017 from three sources of information: teacher semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and student focus-group discussions. The data were abductively analysed following the process of constructing themes suggested by Vaismoradi et al. (2016) and adapted from the thematic analysis method of Braun and Clarke (2012).

Within this context, the teachers and students used a range of digital technologies for teaching and learning activities. The technologies included digital devices (e.g. computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets), search engines (Google, and Wikipedia), presentation tools (PowerPoint, and Prezi), organisation tools (Google drive, and Dropbox), social networks (YouTube, and Facebook), and the learning management system (LMS). The teachers used technology to address challenges they faced through EMI teaching. Their practice with technology included curating and developing materials with digital resources, presenting subject matter with multimedia and organising classes with cloud storage and the LMS for uploading materials or communicating with the students. They believed that using technology improved their students’ understanding of content knowledge, learning of English vocabulary, engagement and motivation. The students expressed confidence in using digital technologies for learning within and beyond the classroom. They reported deploying technology to search for materials, upload and download information and resources, and to organise lesson content. They proactively used technology to personalise their learning by accessing informal online activities and engaging with collective learning networks, which enabled them to collaborate and gain support for learning. The students believed that digital technologies played an integral part in enhancing their understanding of subject matter and improving their English vocabulary and skills.

Teachers and students became agentic as they adapted to the new EMI context. The teachers endeavoured to adjust their teaching in response to changes including the neoliberal system in HE, the rapid technological development and practices demanded by the change of instruction language. Access to digital resources appeared to enable them to independently make pedagogical decisions and take a proactive role in EMI programmes. However, there were few substantive changes in pedagogical practice. Different influences which possibly reduced the teachers’ professional agency in completely changing pedagogy with technology included their technological, content, and pedagogical knowledge and beliefs, or conflicting influences from Confucian educational practices, belief in a teacher-centred and content-driven approach, and the exam-oriented system. The students had a strong sense of agency as proactive learners in the digital age. They were autonomous in their learning with innovative uses of technology in the EMI environment. Those uses of technology offered them collective support and facilitated them to independently cope with many changes in the EMI learning context. This raises some implications not only for institutional policy for professional development which encourages teachers’ collaboration but also for the learning support scheme and teaching practices which offer students opportunities to access collaborative support and tasks.

The ROAD-MAPPING framework (Dafouz & Smit, 2020) shed light on the multifaceted nature of EMI programmes in the Vietnamese context. It highlighted the impact of glocalisation in shaping EMI policies in Vietnamese HE institutions. The introduction of EMI at the participating university was the policy makers’ response to internationalisation where global academic programmes were imported into this local context. A number of contextual factors influenced the process of EMI implementation such as the predominant role of Vietnamese as language of instruction in most academic programmes, the lack of focus on English development and requirement in EMI curriculum and language policy, the textbook-based system, and inadequate preparation for both subject teachers and students. These characteristics in the Vietnamese education context shaped EMI teaching practices in which the teachers and students focussed on disciplinary knowledge and expected English skills to follow. This suggests the synergy of ‘global’ and ‘local’ factors needs careful attention if EMI is to work in practice.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Starkey, Louise; Gleeson, Margaret