Cross Cultural Adaptation in E-Learning

Cross Cultural Adaptation in E-Learning

Emmanuel G. Blanchard (McGill University, Canada) and Claude Frasson (University of Montréal, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-116-2.ch011


This chapter introduces the concepts of culturally aware systems (CAWAS), a new family of adaptive systems that try to adapt learning contents and pedagogical strategies according to learners’ cultural background. CAWAS is based on the notion of cultural intelligence and on the representation of a culture as both a static system, that is, a “relatively stable system of shared meanings, a repository of meaningful symbols…” and a dynamic one, that is, “a process of production of meanings.” A methodology for cultural evaluation and selection of appropriate resources is described. A system implementing this methodology is finally introduced. The aim of this work is to develop systems that will be better accepted by learners and de facto will work more efficiently by showing a cultural proximity with learners during a learning session.
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According to Kashima (2000), there are two schools of thought when defining culture. Some researchers see a culture as “a process of production and reproduction of meanings in particular actors’ concrete practices or actions or activities in particular contexts in time and space.” For others, it is a “relatively stable system of shared meanings, a repository of meaningful symbols, which provides structure to experience.” From our perspective, a major distinction between the two definitions is the way culture is seen as a static or dynamic system. Both definitions agree on the fact that culture and concept/symbol interpretation are closely linked. In fact, many studies have shown that, depending on one’s cultural background, the learner can give drastically different meanings to concepts, symbols, and practices (Hofstede, 2001).

But concept representation is just one among others’ examples of elements that are important in the e-learning and ITS research fields and can be influenced by the cultural background of a learner. The following are examples that illustrate the aforementioned points:

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