Pedagogical Issues and Challenges for Cross-Cultural Online Instruction

Pedagogical Issues and Challenges for Cross-Cultural Online Instruction

Chien Yu (Mississippi State University, USA), Kun Huang (University of Kentucky, USA) and Gabe Posadas (Mississippi State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8286-1.ch019


Due to the increasingly multicultural nature of online learning environments, it is crucial that instructors and instructional designers be aware of the importance of cultural factors in online teaching and learning. This chapter examines current educational and strategic studies of cross-cultural distance learning based on a review of scholarly publications, and helps readers develop an up-to-date understanding of the issues as well as challenges pertinent to cross-cultural online teaching and learning. In addition to reviewing the notion of cultural differences, the chapter seeks to provide instructional strategies that incorporate multicultural experience in designing online teaching or training. The chapter can help extend readers' knowledge and understanding of cross-cultural perspectives, influence of cultural differences on learning, and implications for designing cross-cultural distance learning.
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Diverse Definitions Of Culture

Although culture is a complex and difficult concept to define in a formal sense (Gunawardena, Wilson, & Nolla, 2003), many definitions of culture can be found in literature. For example, Matsumoto (1996) defined culture as “the set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a group of people, but different for each individual, communicated from one generation to the next” (p. 16). According to Branch (1997), “Culture is regarded as the epistemology, philosophy, observed traditions, and patterns of action by individuals and human groups” (p. 38). Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1998) explained that the essence of culture is not what is visible on the surface, and Hall (1998) added that “culture hides much more than it reveals and, strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants” (p. 59). Culture could be also described as “a shared set of practices associated with a shared set of products based upon a shared set of perspectives on the world, and set within specific social contexts” (Moran, 2001, p. 24). Because different definitions reflect different theories for describing, understanding, explaining or valuing human thought, activity, discourse and subjective experience (Vatrapu & Suthers, 2007), there is not a universal definition that can satisfy every situation. As a result, defining culture is a problem that cannot be solved because the values underlying any specific definition are closely bound up with the dynamics of cultural ambivalence (Nuckolls, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Indulgence or Restraint: Which implies whether a culture allows freedom of speech. A relaxed structure governs the relationship between individuals.

Augmented Reality: Refers to computer-generated imagery that is visible through the use of virtual visualization where the images are overlaid onto real-life surfaces in the present environment.

Pragmatic or Normative: Based on the “learning by doing” approach (i.e., students build knowledge by practicing by themselves instead of garnering knowledge through repetition).

Masculinity or Femininity: Which is concerned with the nature of social values as either nurturing or competitive.

Power Distance: Examines how inequality is experienced.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI): Explores the manner in which cultures deal with the uncertainty of everyday life.

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