The World Wide Web and Cross-Cultural Teaching in Online Education

The World Wide Web and Cross-Cultural Teaching in Online Education

Tatjana Takševa Chorney (Saint Mary’s University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch663
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Abstract

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) and the properties of the online environment in general are inherently suited to help educators reconceptualize their role and engage in constructive cross-cultural communication. This is due to the new technologies’ potential to enable collaborative teaching in an environment of diverse users and to support multiple learning styles. At the same time, the presence of collaborative technology itself does not guarantee that successful cross-cultural communication and learning will take place. The disembodied nature of online communication can sometimes add to the inherent challenges that accompany face-to-face cross-cultural communication. Instructors who teach in cross-cultural contexts online will need to engage with the new technologies in a more purposeful way and apply that engagement to program design and teaching practice. They will need to devote some time to designing for interaction and collaboration in order to overcome common challenges in cross-cultural communication. A more systematic study of the open-ended and interaction- enabling properties of the World Wide Web would help those who design for diversity in online educational environment. The open-ended and interactive nature of the World Wide Web, as the main platform for online crosscultural teaching, can serve as a conceptual model to help teachers overcome common challenges in cross-cultural communication.
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Introduction

The increasing number of virtual universities and online training with a global reach indicates that the opportunities and demands for successful cross-cultural communication expand exponentially, and that instructional paradigms are shifting. Online and distance education is increasingly becoming part of traditional universities as well (Irele, 2005). In 1997, over 60% of all public institutions of higher learning in the U.S. offered distance education courses; by 2001, that number rose to 90% (IES, 1997; 2001). In Canada that number is currently estimated to be 85%a. An online teaching environment “goes beyond the replication of learning events that have traditionally occurred in the classroom and are now made available through the Internet”; it provides for different and new approaches to learning, and calls for “flexible teaching….that incorporates a variety of access opportunities as well as a variety of learning modes” (CATL, p. 1). Online teaching here refers to teaching that takes place in programs and courses that incorporate an online component such as WebCT, those that rely completely on WebCt and other similar applications to deliver course or program content, as well as courses offered internationally as part of institutions’ distance education degree programs. As online teaching is gaining prominence, educators are compelled to interact meaningfully with individuals from different cultures daily. These interactions demonstrate that teaching and learning are culturally-based processes and that instructional content and how it is experienced reflects the values and practices of a particular cultural group.

The new realities place new demands on educators’ knowledge and skills. The cross-cultural context of instruction poses a number of challenges associated with cross-cultural communication in general, such as different communication and decision-making styles, different approaches to task-completion, knowledge, disclosure, and different attitudes toward the learning situation in general. These challenges can lead to misinterpreting the intentions behind certain actions and behavior. In addition, teaching in an environment where many students possess knowledge that they do not, educators have to become collaborative designers, instructional planners, mentors and facilitators of learning, rather than transmitters of authoritative knowledge in a traditional sense. They need to acquire greater familiarity with different learning styles, as well as understand that many of the components determining the nature of learning styles and attitudes toward learning are culture-based (Chorney, 2007; Hao, 2004; Kim, 2001).

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) and the properties of the online environment in general are inherently suited to help educators reconceptualize their role and engage in constructive cross-cultural communication. This is due to the new technologies’ potential to enable collaborative teaching in an environment of diverse users and to support multiple learning styles. At the same time, the presence of collaborative technology itself does not guarantee that successful cross-cultural communication and learning will take place. The disembodied nature of online communication can sometimes add to the inherent challenges that accompany face-to-face cross-cultural communication.

Instructors who teach in cross-cultural contexts online will need to engage with the new technologies in a more purposeful way and apply that engagement to program design and teaching practice. They will need to devote some time to designing for interaction and collaboration in order to overcome common challenges in cross-cultural communication.

A more systematic study of the open-ended and interaction-enabling properties of the World Wide Web would help those who design for diversity in online educational environment. The open-ended and interactive nature of the World Wide Web, as the main platform for online cross-cultural teaching, can serve as a conceptual model to help teachers overcome common challenges in cross-cultural communication.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Analytical Learning Style: (In contrast to global learning style); According to one classification, a style of learning associated with students from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and with being text -oriented and competitive, asserting oneself, learning by reasoning, preferring direct expressions, and valuing the rational and objective.

Vicarious Interaction: Indirect kind of interaction that takes place when a student actively observes and processes both sides of interaction between two other students or between another student and instructor.

Intentional Learners: Model learners of the 21 st century, as identified in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Report (2002 AU22: The in-text citation "American Colleges and Universities Report (2002" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). They are those who can adapt to new environments, engage in meaningful dialogue, integrate different kinds of knowledge from different sources, demonstrate intellectual agility, and the ability to deal successfully with interrelations within and among global and cross-cultural communities.

Transformative Communication: The model of communication between students and instructor through which collaborative teaching happens. It emphasizes the instructor’s willingness to learn from students while helping to establish expectations and clear assessment standards.

Global Learning Style: (In contrast to analytical learning style); According to one classification, a style of learning associated with Japanese students, and with being image-oriented and cooperative, avoiding standing out, depending on insight and intuition, learning by experience, preferring indirect expressions, and valuing the subjective.

Collaborative Technologies: Technologies enabling computer-mediated communication (CMC) have been termed “collaborative” because of their inherent affinity with definitions of learning emphasizing social, interpersonal, and collaborative interaction.

Learning Styles: a broad, nonrestrictive combination of cognitive, affective and physiological factors influencing how a learner perceives, interacts and responds to the learning environment.

Cross-Cultural Communication: Communication between members of different cultures through which each member’s values and patterns of thinking, communication and behavior are often revealed as contrasting the values, patterns of thinking, communication, and behavior of the other.

Collaborative Teaching: “Open-ended” teaching practice according to which learning is a process achieved through social and interpersonal interaction. It demonstrates the coexistence of multiple and often contradictory perspectives on the same issue; it encourages the discovery of connections among those perspectives, and emphasizes the importance of individual contexts to which new concepts can be applied productively.

Culture: Sets of social relationships, values, patterns of thinking, communicating and behaving that reflect ideas and actions established and accepted by one group of people as habitual, appropriate, or traditional.

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