The Effect of Culture on Email Use: Implications for Distance Learning

The Effect of Culture on Email Use: Implications for Distance Learning

Jonathan Frank (Suffolk University, Boston, USA), Janet Toland (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and Karen Schenk (K.D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-178-0.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter examines how students from different cultural backgrounds use email to communicate with other students and teachers. The South Pacific region, isolated, vast, and culturally diverse, was selected as an appropriate research environment in which to study the effect of cultural differences and educational technology on distance learning. The context of this research was two competing distance education institutions in Fiji, the University of the South Pacific and Central Queensland University. Three research questions were addressed: Does cultural background affect the extent to which students use email to communicate with educators and other students for academic and social reasons? Does cultural background affect the academic content of email messages? Does cultural background influence students’ preference to ask questions or provide answers using email instead of face-to-face communication? To address these issues, two studies were conducted in parallel. Subjects were drawn from business information systems and computer information technology classes at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Central Queensland University (CQU).  Four hundred students at USP were surveyed about their email usage. In the CQU study, postings to course discussion lists by 867 students were analyzed. The results of these studies suggest that there are significant differences in the use of email by students from different cultural backgrounds.

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