The Impact of Sociocultural Factors in Multicultural Communication Environments: A Case Example from an Australian University's Provision of Distance Education in the Global Classroom

The Impact of Sociocultural Factors in Multicultural Communication Environments: A Case Example from an Australian University's Provision of Distance Education in the Global Classroom

A. Ragusa (Charles Sturt University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-213-8.ch018
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Abstract

Changes in the availability and quality of communication technology have revolutionized, and fundamentally altered, learning environments. As citizens of the “Information Age,” the breadth and impact of global communication are triggering unprecedented transformation of social structures and institutions. This chapter explores the impact of commodification on education when institutions of higher education sell knowledge as a commercial good. The contemporary phenomenon of distance education is increasingly offered and purchased by an international market which experiences heightened pressure for standardization from the global citizens it serves. It is argued here that technological changes necessitate reevaluation of communication processes, discursive practices, and organizational policies. To stay competitive and produce quality products for increasingly international audiences, institutions must create well-articulated policies. By providing insight on the impact multiple socio-cultural and communicative norms have on virtual communication, this research uses qualitative discursive analysis of case examples to examine how variance in the structure and delivery of virtual communication environments at a leading distance education university in Australia affects student satisfaction, perception, and learning outcomes. Whereas previous research fails to include a theoretical or conceptual framework, this work draws upon interdisciplinary work from the fields of sociology, education, and science and technology studies. How “cyberspace” changes interaction rituals, masks cultural norms, and alters entrenched social expectations by creating new sensitivities is discussed, along with the ramifications of variation in technological availability, competence, and expectations in global classrooms. In sum, ideas for informing change in policy, administration, and the delivery of distance education and virtual communication in global environments are discussed to equip leaders and participants with skills to foster effective communicative and interaction strategies.

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