Cultural Implications of E-Learning Access (and Divides): Teaching an Intercultural Communication Course Online

Cultural Implications of E-Learning Access (and Divides): Teaching an Intercultural Communication Course Online

Pauline Hope Cheong (Arizona State University, USA) and Judith N. Martin (Arizona State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1885-5.ch005
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This chapter presents a case study of developing and teaching an intercultural communication (IC) course online, within the context of a department in a large research University in the U.S. In so doing, we discuss a broadened and recursive model of cultural access and divides in E-learning. Expanding on Van Dijk’s (2005) framework, the authors present several ways in which their IC course attempts to address multiple pathways of E-learning access, including motivational, material, skills and usage access. They describe both the successes and challenges of meeting the goals of e-learning access with specific examples of the content, activities, assignments, pedagogical strategies, and student assessment in this online course. Finally, they identify challenges of this e-learning at the micro and macro level context—in the course, university writ large and in the communication discipline.
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Background And Setting The Stage

We begin by first discussing the backdrop and circumstances leading to this IC course development. The online course was first delivered as a face-to-face course (Elements of Intercultural Communication), an integral part of the department’s offerings - a popular major choice among undergraduates. The course is designed “as an introduction to the basic concepts, principles, and skills for improving communication across racial, ethnic and cultural differences.” The course has been offered each semester since Fall 2006. The course is always enrolled to the maximum capacity (30 students) and there is usually a waiting list of students. While the course is designed as an introductory level course, most of the students are juniors and seniors, a few sophomores and occasionally one or two freshmen. This is due to the fact that courses in this department are impacted in general and students are not able to enroll in required courses until late in their college career. The students in this online course have a variety of majors. Most are business or pre-business majors, a few communication students and the remainder represent a range of majors including pre civil engineering, anthropology, music, art, biotechnology. The cultural backgrounds of the student usually reflect the make up of the University (approximately 65% white, 35% international students, and ethnic and racial minorities)—the largest minority group is Latino and the smallest American Indian.

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