Effective Technology-Mediated Education for Adult Chinese Learners

Effective Technology-Mediated Education for Adult Chinese Learners

Hsianghoo Steve Ching (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong), Carmel McNaught (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) and Paul W.T. Poon (University of Macau, China)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch110
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Abstract

This article will address several areas relating to online learning and technology. We will report on work done in the development of four models that have been used to deliver effective professional development for adult learners. The courses are run in Taiwan from a base at Feng Chia University in Taichung, and all the attendees are Chinese. The key content is developed by instructors who are all native speakers of English from a range of countries. Some of this key content is delivered face-to-face and some is delivered virtually. Course facilitators are experienced in online learning and are Chinese. Our models thus utilize both internationally known teachers and local expertise.
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Introduction

This article will address several areas relating to online learning and technology. We will report on work done in the development of four models that have been used to deliver effective professional development for adult learners. The courses are run in Taiwan from a base at Feng Chia University in Taichung, and all the attendees are Chinese. The key content is developed by instructors who are all native speakers of English from a range of countries. Some of this key content is delivered face-to-face and some is delivered virtually. Course facilitators are experienced in online learning and are Chinese. Our models thus utilize both internationally known teachers and local expertise. In addressing the training and education development needs of adult learners in a Chinese context, we needed to consider and accommodate three types of challenges:

  • the constraints and demands on busy adult learners;

  • the challenges of second language learning; and

  • the use of technology-mediated distance education.

Each of these areas is challenging and complex in its own right. Many of the contributions in this encyclopedia will address one or more of these areas in some depth. This article should be considered as complementary to those focused contributions. Our globalized world is complex and multi-faceted, and this article attempts to show how the application of knowledge and experience in several areas can be combined.

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Background

Adult Second Language Learners

There is a vast literature on adult education. Recurring themes in this literature are that adult learners are often more motivated than younger learners and come to a specific educational program with relatively clear goals in mind. They can also often relate course material to their own work settings and thus internalize and adapt knowledge in a way that can be immediately useful in the workplace. However, there are several problems that adult learners face. These include the need to juggle time constraints so that the demands of the educational program can be fitted into busy professional lives and family commitments. Adult learners, even those in senior positions, may no longer be accustomed to the discipline of structured educational offerings; many comment that it has been a long time since they were on the “education conveyor belt.” Finally, when technology is involved, many adult learners have lower levels of confidence in becoming accustomed to and using online forums and Internet searching. All these factors are well documented, for example, in Jarvis (1995) and Galbraith, Sisco, and Guglielmino (1997).

The adult learner who is working in a second language faces additional challenges. Spack and Zamel (1998) argue that the conventions, concepts, and terms that a teacher uses in any classroom creates a unique subculture, and successful learners are those who learn to read and interpret this culture. If the language nuances are not understood, it is very difficult for learners to work effectively. The level of English in Taiwan is not high (Yiu, 2003), and so this challenge needed special attention in the design of courses. Contributors to Duke (1987) echo this need and provide some local examples of successful practice in China. These examples all highlight the need for building flexibility into the design of educational programs so that the needs of individual learners can be met; in the language of constructivism, so that there is adequate scaffolding for all learners. These learning needs include both linguistic and cultural factors that are often difficult to define a priori; hence, the need for ongoing facilitation and negotiation. Chang’s (2004) study of different strategies adopted by adult education trainers in the United States and in Taiwan clearly demonstrates the primacy of the factor of cultural negotiation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Adult Education: This term is used to show awareness of the reality that many adults come to formal educational programs with different orientations to study, motivations, and prior experiences from younger learners. These differences need to be accommodated in the learning designs used.

Transnational Education (TNE): This term has arisen to describe the type of educational program that involves organizers, and usually teachers, from more than one country. The phenomenon is not new, but the rapid growth of TNE and the financial and cultural implications for educational institutions and teachers in both countries are significant. There are many arrangements that TNE can take, a few of which are described in this article.

International Instructors: In many regions of Asia and Africa, professional development programs rely on expertise from elsewhere in the world, and there is heavy use of experienced invited speakers. Increasingly, these invited speakers provide electronic resources and also teach online. They may even do all of their teaching in an online mode. These invited teachers, many of whom teach in English, are described as international instructors.

E-Press: A publishing service with a strong emphasis on the publishing of digital courseware. This does not mean that print and traditional media, such as film, are not used. However, the courseware packs are predominantly electronic.

Bilingual Learning Environments: Learning contexts where two languages are needed. Often this is because the course content is in English but the learners are not fluent in English. Discussion and exploration of meaning occurs in a language other than English. Translation is needed before questions can be asked of any international instructors (see below) involved in the teaching.

Bilingual Learning Facilitators: Tutors and local instructors whose first language is the same as the learners, but who are reasonably fluent in English as well, and also familiar with the content domain. These facilitators have a major role in bridging the gap between the international instructors and the local learners.

Technology-Mediated Distance Education: In many distance education programs, technology has assumed a central role. As in any educational situation, the relationships of significance are between teachers and students. The use of technology can facilitate or mediate this relationship. In this sense, technology provides strategies to bridge the gap between, or bring closer, teachers and learners

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