Cross-Cultural Issues in Online Learning

Cross-Cultural Issues in Online Learning

P. Clint Rogers (University of Joensuu, Finland) and Minjuan Wang (San Diego State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch077
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Abstract

The rapid pace of technological change and development in the world has given those working in the field of online and distance education great opportunities to extend the reach of their programs across national boarders and cultural boundaries (Albritton, 2006; Rogers, 2006). Examples of educational initiatives that aim globally include projects such as MIT’s Open- CourseWare project (ocw.mit.edu); corporate initiatives like Cisco, already delivering academic curriculum to hundreds of thousands of students in 150 countries (Dennis, Bichelmeyer, Henry, Cakir, Korkmaz, Watson, Bunnage, 2005); and even private universities such as Global University, based in Springfield Missouri, offering courses to students in over a hundred different countries and languages (Rogers and Howell, 2004). And the size and scope of cross-cultural online learning is growing.
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Introduction

The rapid pace of technological change and development in the world has given those working in the field of online and distance education great opportunities to extend the reach of their programs across national boarders and cultural boundaries (Albritton, 2006; Rogers, 2006). Examples of educational initiatives that aim globally include projects such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare project (ocw.mit.edu); corporate initiatives like Cisco, already delivering academic curriculum to hundreds of thousands of students in 150 countries (Dennis, Bichelmeyer, Henry, Cakir, Korkmaz, Watson, Bunnage, 2005); and even private universities such as Global University, based in Springfield Missouri, offering courses to students in over a hundred different countries and languages (Rogers and Howell, 2004). And the size and scope of cross-cultural online learning is growing.

Challenges associated with any cross-cultural interaction, such as the misunderstandings that arise from the assumptions we unknowingly make (Hall, 1976), also influence teaching and learning. John Dewey (1916) observed almost a century ago that deep and sustainable learning is dependent on the relevance of the curriculum to one’s life-situation. Relevance itself is individually interpreted and culturally influenced. Berger and Luckmann (1966) point to the fact that relevance is relative to cultural context saying that “questions of ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ [are] thus initially justified by the fact of their social relativity. What is ‘real’ to a Tibetan monk may not be ‘real’ to an American businessman. The ‘knowledge’ of the criminal differs from the ‘knowledge’ of the criminologist” (p. 2). In addition, learners’ cultural attributes affect how they perceive an online learning setting and how they present themselves online, cognitively, socially, and emotively (Wang & Kang, 2006; Wang, 2007). Therefore, it is essential that cross-cultural issues in online learning be more critically examined (Rogers, Graham, & Mayes, 2007). With the increasing global outreach of online programs and courses, there is a great need to design and deliver online learning that can be engaging to a culturally diverse audience. This article outlines what difficulties exist in understanding culture and developing cultural competence, explains why culture matters in education, and gives an overview of the existing questions and concerns regarding culture in the arena of online learning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Competence: (Also referred to as intercultural competence) A process by which people and systems become able to learn to address cultural differences without either minimizing them or stereotyping people.

Culture: Social system that provides a framework for shared expectations and values, and accepted ways which people live and operate in a shared context with others.

ADDIE: An instructional design model that includes the following stages: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.

Relativistic: Regarding truth as relative and completely dependent on the groups and societies that define it.

Ethnocentric: Regarding one’s own culture as superior to other and automatically judging other cultures from the perspective of your own culture.

Cross-Cultural Communication: (Also frequently referred to as intercultural communication) A field of study that examines effective ways for people from differing cultural backgrounds to communicate with each other.

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