Andrew Miller

Culturally Responsive Online Teaching

Online education can help solve the issues of equity and access for students across the United States. We have heard fantastic stories of student success in graduating from high school due to access to online courses.

Last year, Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USAToday showcasing how some students are using online courses to graduate on time. It's a great window into the potential and echoes many stories we hear from students, families, and community members who are experiencing online education. A diverse population of students was able to take classes to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past.

How could online learned have helped solve this in the first place? We know there are many online course providers as well as online schools that provide a variety of choice for online and hybrid schools. It is a budding area of education that we know is paving the way for equity and access, but it does have its potential pitfalls.

Online educators run into the same struggles of engagement that brick-and-mortar teachers run into and, in fact, the technology can serve to distract many students. How do we engage students? Look at culture and the role it plays in the engagement of online learners. A researcher in online learning recently published an article that examined culture in distance learning:

Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain "physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher."

—Sedef Uzuner in Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review

Culture, of course, includes a variety of identifies and aspects, from race, ethnicity, and gender to religion, socioeconomic status, and place in the world. Geneva Gay recently printed a new edition of her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, and it explains many of the dispositions and practices teachers need to have. The next step is to ensure this sort of practice occurs consistently in online course instruction. We need to remember that simply having access to great online courses does not mean they will be culturally responsive, nor does it mean the teachers themselves will be.

Culturally Responsive Online Teaching

So what is culturally responsive online teaching? Culturally responsive online teachers identify and take advantage of cultural strengths and resiliencies through aligned online teaching best practices, while using diverse discourse structures and curriculum. These resiliencies vary across culture and experience.

As an example, many of our students have the resiliency to be highly adaptive and agile. They can look at a subway system map and easily navigate from place to place in a variety of ways. Many of our students have the resiliency to communicate across cultures. The common language at school might be English, but Tagalog is spoken at home. Even online students have a culture that they live in. They access a different language. They navigate and evaluate data constantly. Why shouldn't we make use of these resiliencies?

These resiliencies align with online teaching best practices. In their book Engaging the Online Learner, Conrad and Donaldson point to collaborative problem or project-based techniques and constructivist principles as an effective working framework. Many of our students have the resiliency to work in a group to build consensus, while other cultures work well in teams to complete a task. Some students are outspoken, while some are reserved; this is not because of they are "bad students" but because it is part of their culture. You as the teacher must know that cultures exhibit different ways of knowing and look for the online teaching tools and strategies that work toward the resiliencies and cultural norms.

In addition to instructional strategies and curriculum, the system that students enter needs to be culturally responsive as well. Learning management systems and their online structures need to be just as diverse as the cultures they serve. The typical paradigm of "reading and doing" that many online courses have needs to change. We are in danger of replicating a system for the online world that has not served all students in the brick-and-mortar world. Structures need to be examined and built to allow for diverse discourses that align with online teaching best practices. If the style of learning online is not as diverse as the students, then the powerful technology that is used in online learning is useless.

We need to ensure that we train our online educators with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations, especially as more students begin taking more courses online. All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure that we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learners, to engage the students in learning while using the technology as the tool.

Andrew K. Miller is an educator and consultant. He is a National Faculty member for ASCD and the Buck Institute for Education. Connect with Miller on Twitter @betamiller.

Comments (97)

Leah

August 9, 2012

Culturally Responsive Online Teaching is a challenge that exists not only in higher education but PK-12 as well.  Educators who use Culturally Responsive Online Teaching take prior cultural knowledge and experiences of students in order to individualize their instruction.  Utilizing this type of approach allows students to exercise their different strengths and learning styles. 

Sedef Uzuner’s article examines the challenges that are present in distance education due to different cultures.  Uzuner discusses a study conducted by Lim (2004) in which a survey was used to compare 236 undergraduate and graduate students’ online learning motivation by country.  The study found that regardless of the country affiliation, all students considered course relevancy (belief that a particular course matches a student’s needs) as the most important motivational factor in their online learning (Lim, 2004).  There was one particular difference between the two groups that stood out to me:  American students favored voicing their opinions during class and they felt a sense of belonging among their peers; however, Korean students did not like to voice their opinions and they remained quieter during class.  Uzuner states that the Korean students tend to remain passive during class due to the authoritarian classroom context of the Asian culture.  While the students of this study were undergraduate and graduate students, I believe similar findings exist in PK-12 education today.  I see some of these findings in online education today in my own classroom.  Many of my students are open in voicing their opinions and I believe they feel a sense of belonging because they aren’t afraid to participate in class discussions, activities, etc.  I also believe that they are motivated to participate if they feel the class is relevant to their lives.  However, if a student seems shy or afraid to participate, it may be that the student comes from a diverse cultural background in which they do not feel comfortable voicing their opinions.  This particular issue may continue to be a challenge with online learning as more and more students from diverse backgrounds enroll in distance education courses, and a distance learning environment can definitely foster these types of challenges due to the many different backgrounds of students.  After reading this article I am more aware of the cultural differences among students and I am going to ensure that I use the correct tools and resources available to become a culturally responsive online teacher.  By using prior cultural knowledge and allowing students to exercise their strengths, I believe these cultural differences can be overcome and a new classroom culture can be created in which all students feel comfortable. 

Lim, D. H. (2004). Cross cultural differences in online learning motivation.  Educational Media International, 41(2), 163-175.

J.Rudy

August 10, 2012

As Uzuner (2009) comments, “distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences.” Distance learning environments are not so different from on site environments and we can see this connection between distance learning and on site learning in higher education settings just as much as PK-12 settings. One study that Uzuner uses that is particularly interesting is that of Zhao, Lei, Yan, and Tan (2005). In this study, they “identified the factors impacting the effectiveness of distance education (Uzunar, 2005).” In the analysis of these factors, Zhao, Lei, Yan, Lai, and Tan studied over 400 studies that provided comparison of distance education and on site, or face-to-face education. Upon completion of the analysis, it was concluded that the identified factors that impact distance education also affected on site education. Since the effectiveness of education in each environment is affected by the same factors, it would stand to reason that both environments are susceptible to issues that arise in the face of cultural differences.

In the PK-12 setting, this is evident in how our students approach their education. Usuner defined culture “as acquired behaviors, perspectives, and values characteristic of a particular group or community.” Using this definition, whether we are in higher education or PK-12, we see students who have acquired negative perspectives of school, based on their family perspectives, while at the same time, we see students will positive perspectives about school, also learned from family perspectives. The acquired behaviors and perspectives do not necessarily change because the students are in PK-12. Additionally, Uzuner hold a strong point that distance education environments could be more susceptible to the cultural conflicts of the traditional educational setting. When students are withdrawn and on the path of pulling away, it can be more difficult to reach those students in a distance education setting since we are not in physical contact with these students. Again, this is just as evident in the PK-12 schools as it is in higher education. PK-12 students may even be more difficult to reach out to, as they are still in their home and cultural environment, which is why they are pulling away to begin with.
Uzuner really helps to open the mind to the factors that impact education and how to overcome the cultural differences that can impact the classroom.

Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., Lai, C., & Tan, H. S. (2005) What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1836-1884.

Julia Martin

August 12, 2012

Whether a student is taught online or in a physical classroom, there is no doubt that the skills, experiences and knowledge students bring to the classroom are indeed a reflection of their cultural background. Culturally Response On-line Teaching ensures that teachers take into account individuality and avoid cultural hegemony as Uzuner (2009) expresses in his research article. Reaching culturally diversified students in an on-line environment can be more difficult due to the lack of face and face contact and social cues students see in class. Further, students may get lost by cultural references made online and then not follow from fear of embarassment. Uzuner explains that culture is inseperable from distance learning and teaching. Therefore, teachers must be proactive in identification and adaption to make sure all students are learning from their online experience (Uzuner, 2009). One example that he uses to reiterate this notion is a study from Thompson and Ku (2005) where they explored 7 Chinese graduate students online learning experience in the United States. They found that the Chinese students were less critical and opinionated in their online discussions then their U.S. counterparts. Thompson and Ku found this to be the case because Chinese cultures values group efforts, compassion and emotionality. They were unable to understand some cultural references and were bothered by the lack of face to face contact associated with online learning.
Uzuner also states another study conducted by Al-Harthis in 2005 looked at 6 Arabic graduate students experience in the United States. Al-Harthis found that due to the high uncertainty avoidance in the Arab culture, these students feat threatened by a learning method that seemed uncertain and unstructured. They also viewed eagerness to participate as showing off, thus they were reluctant to participate in threaded discussions. Uzuner points out that culture played a large role in the successes of these Arabic students.
Culture is ingrained in us from birth, so its not surprising that it plays a large role in our thoughts and feelings about education. Particularly in a on-line environment, teachers need to be aware of cultural differences and differentiate their teaching to avoid cultural hegemony.  It may be more difficult to reach a student who isn’t in a physical classroom due to simple proximity and understanding. Students from varied cultures learn from things like social cues and references they may not experience in a on-line environment. In a classroom, there things may be more easily explained and identified.


Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6(3), 1-14.
Thompson, L., & Ku, H. (2005). Chinese graduate students‟ experiences and attitudes toward
online learning. Educational Media International, 42(1), 33-47.

Tammi Barney

August 13, 2012

We have many challenges when it comes to 21st Century Learning both in the classroom and online.  With our ever changing society, culturally responsive teachers are required to adapt our students to achieve their best through the foundations set forth by their ethnicities.  Best practices and identifying and utilizing cultural strengths will prepare our students for a diverse global market.  Working effectively and collaborating with people different from ourselves is a way of being that serves all communities. 

Everyone is identified through culture and every student alike has value and wants to be valued.  Culturally responsive teachers will adapt their classroom to affirm diversity and acknowledge the positive identities of society that they bring.  Create a safe, trusting environment, experience culture personally, take a stance on humility, and understand firsthand from the students their opinions, beliefs, and struggles. Make learning appropriate and effective for all students through their strengths, “find their greatness” within their culture and impact all students alike.  Respect their input and encourage comfort and acceptance regardless of cultural opinion.

Be especially open minded and understanding to on line students.  You may have very limited information to respond to and must understand that there may not always be “a right answer”.  Everyone has a story and as teachers, we must not judge a book by its cover but read every chapter from beginning to end.  Learning is more than a skill, it is an experience. 

Busenbach-Lucas (2003) examined the attitudes and behaviors of Asian cultures toward asynchronous discussions at an American University.  An interesting finding emerged that students avoided expressing disagreement with others and their posts “did not include the kind of reflection that showed critical evaluation and synthesis of information.” (p. 33).  Two factors came into play: they may consider challenging and criticizing other’s ideas culturally inappropriate, and/or they may “not know how to express disagreement appropriately in English. (p. 37). 

If teachers and students as well become culturally responsive, there is clearly room for respectable conversation.  Demonstrate anti racism and welcome a new understanding.  Graciously respect opinion and encourage students to express their views regardless of their stance.  Challenge their minds not their culture to agree to disagree.  And finally, emphasize the importance of response versus critique of grammar/English. 

Uzuner, Sedef. (June, 2009).  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review.”  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  Volume 10, Number 3.

CK Andrew

August 13, 2012

Uzuner (2009) rightly commented that “distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences” and that they “may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms” (p. 3). Uzuner’s examination of 27 studies revealed ample support for this hypothesis, despite several large gaps in the research. I was particularly interested in two of the studies because they made me more aware of issues of culture in my own K-12 online school.

First, it is important to note the findings of Rogers, Graham, and Mayas (2007), which stated that “instructional designers’ or instructors’ awareness of the potential differences between cultures does not necessarily mean this knowledge is integrated into the design of online courses” (p. 6). Too often in my own course development and instruction, I seek to gather information about my students but fail to use it appropriately as suggested at the end of Uzuner’s (2009) article. As a course developer, I have sought to make my course lessons interactive, but have given no consideration to cultural differences. In my instruction, and this is perhaps worse, I must admit to being a member of Gramsci’s (1971) “cultural hegemony”: I use the information I gather about students’ backgrounds to determine what I must “change” in order to integrate my students into the social order of the American classroom. This, I now realize, is entirely unfair.

Instead, I will do better in the future as an instructor and as a curriculum develop to follow the recommendation of Anakwe and Christensen (1999), who stated that “relationship building is foremost (p. 240). Instead of using my knowledge of students’ backgrounds as I have been, I can use that information to shape discussion, interaction and feedback in ways that builds a sense of community and multicultural awareness. Moreover, I will need to give my students more time to build relationships before engaging them in collaborative exercises in class. In my development of asynchronous courses, this means that early course activities should focus on community and relationship building, only gradually easing into more intense collaborative activities once the community has been established.

Overall, Uzuner’s (2009) insights seemed obvious to me while reading, but upon reflecting, I was shocked to realize how little I’ve been using my cultural awareness. I would be interested in seeing how my school can work to break free from the cultural hegemony, particularly with regard to considering the strengths and resiliencies of our school’s African-American population. Fortunately, there is an ever-growing abundance of information available on reaching diverse groups of students. I entirely agree with Miller’s (2011) conclusion that “we are in danger of replicating a system for the online world that has not served all students in the brick-and-mortar world.” Online education provides new alternatives for a diverse group of students, certainly, but unless we work to fully consider and integrate the cultural influences on our students, online schools will not be as successful in educating students as they can and should be.


References

Anakwe, U. P., & Christensen, E. W. (1999). Distance learning and cultural diversity: Potential users‟ perspective. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 7(3), 224-243.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Rogers, P. C., Graham, C. R., & Mayes, C. T. (2007). Cultural competence and instructional design: Exploration research into the delivery of online instruction cross-culturally. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(2), 197-217.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Ashley Williams

August 13, 2012

“Gouthro (2004) investigated Jamaican and Canadian women’s distance learning experiences in a graduate level adult education program. Although findings of this study were interpreted mainly from a gender perspective, a significant cultural issue emerged: both groups’ cultural expectations regarding women’s roles in the home did limit their learning, participation, and engagement in ALNs.” (p. 459).

Gouthro’s studies revealed that culture in regard to women’s roles plays a crucial role in their education. Gouthro suggests that teachers need to be aware of cultural issues regarding power and gender roles when teaching especially when encouraging group participation.

Gender roles start developing at a very young age. I teach preschool at a traditional school. I pair up 1 boy and 1 girl as partners to travel through the various learning centers. The Dramatic Play area has a kitchen set, costumes, nursery set, and various props. As a teacher I’m aware of certain expected gender roles. Some boys will dress up in girls’ costumes and some girls will dress up in boys’ costumes. Other boys would not even consider dressing up as a nurse and some girls would not dress as a fire fighter. It depends on the child and what they have been taught outside of the classroom.

This gender, cultural issue has implications for the pre-k -12 online learning students. There may be many different cultures with varying gender role traditions.Online educators need to be aware of these differences when grouping students for collaborative projects. Students that come from cultures and homes that see the women’s role as passive and submissive, need to be encouraged to participate. These students need to know that their insights and knowledge in just as valued as others.

Maryanne Jahn

August 13, 2012

In my experience in teaching online I can easily see that distance learning is prone to cultural conflicts.  As PA Cyber enrolls students from all over the entire state these students are able to participate with a more varied dynamic of diversity than if they were attending their local school district.  As a result many diversity factors come into play other than those that are derived from living in a certain area.  For example, there are many city and country areas in PA.  When you live in a certain area different things are important to you.  For a city student catching the transit authority bus may be important while to a country student waking up early to tend to farm animals may be important.  As a result the students in my class are extremely divers just based on where they live.  When you add their family heritage, religious beliefs, and other factors you can see from my experiences that distance learning certainly has the potential to employ more diversity issues than the traditional classroom.
  “Another qualitative study that looked at a particular national group’s ALN experiences was Al Harthi‟s (2005) study of six Arab students pursuing graduate degrees in the US. During in-depth interviews, these students expressed that they were at first scared and anxious about taking online courses because they equated online learning with independent learning, a finding reflecting Arab culture’s high uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1991). Students also reported that they intentionally participated less in online discussions than their American peers because they viewed eagerness to participate as “showing off or trying to appear smart” (p.9), a finding reflecting the importance of modesty in Arab culture. Other cultural factors that interfered with the students‟ successful ALN learning were found to be feelings of shame originating from Arab culture’s social restrictions on the interactions between genders and communication difficulties with instructors arising from students‟ fear of confrontation with authority figures.” Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).
This was very interesting to me as I find that these findings affect me even though I am not an Arab.  Posting Blogs for this Master’s program has made be very aware of the audience I have. It is not just my teachers who are reading my work but the entire class.  In some cases this audience can work effectively because it allows students to have the ability to connect with outside audiences rather than just the teacher. It can create a sense of a public audience creating an atmosphere where students of specific cultural background will take more pride in their work rather than if their work was just being viewed by the teacher.  However, considering diversity in the classroom and the research findings stated above it is apparent that this type of audience will not be appropriate for everyone.  One of the videos for this learning session stated that teaching with diversity is just taking the best practices for teaching and tweaking them.  In this case study it is obvious that the teacher needs to create other methods for the student to share their capabilities with the teacher rather than putting them in this situation that is uncomfortable them.  This study also shows that it is relevant to know your students and their culture. 

Sandy Boyer

August 13, 2012

    According to Dr. Gay in the video titled,  More on Culturally Responsive Teaching (2012),  Dr. Gay states that the cultural responsive teacher knows that we teach diversity because, “We are all culturally socialized, culture shapes our behaviors and culture is a filter” Uzuner (2009) states that “online teaching methods still adhere to the same, if not worse cultural differences”. This is indeed very true as students today do not actually communicate the same way we, as adults are accustomed to. They begin an online class by texting to each other using computer lingo such as, “How r u?” or “Waz up?” However distressing this may seem to English professors, one must acknowledge the fact that this form of communication by our youth does, for the most part bridge the communication gap within the notion of cultural diversity. Today’s students have created a new form of communication. In this form of communication they are all the same. Texting/email computer language has become a culture that the Millennial’s have created amongst themselves. Their creation of this new language has in itself become its own cultural filter.
    Research Review Study #1: Wang (2007) established that “Course requirement was found to be the major factor behind Korean and Chinese students’ participation in online discussions and activities. American students, on the other hand, indicated that they participated in online discussions because they enjoyed connecting with their peers. All three cultural groups preferred asynchronous discussions to synchronous ones” (p.9).
As a virtual online high school instructor I was not surprised that the course requirement was to be a major factor on choice of class, however I was quite surprised to read that all three cultural groups preferred asynchronous to synchronous classes. I have noticed that during online live instruction students do not want to have to complete any assignments. They simply want to text and discuss topics. They prefer to do their work after class is over, often asking for more time and permission to email instead of submit the in class assignment. Students, especially at the high school level like to connect with their peers, but in a more non verbal way. I have found that discussion boards, in class texts, as well as emails seem to be the preferred method of communication. Speaking out loud is not very popular among teens. This can also be seen outside of education. I recently observed the following at a Denny’s restaurant. A parent and three teens all of whom are texting, while the parent sat and watched. It was the Millennial Generation defining a whole new culture.

References
Dr. Gay. (2000). More on Culturally Responsive Teaching [Video file]. Retrieved from https://franciscan.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp
Wang, M. (2007) Designing online courses that effectively engage learners from diverse cultural
backgrounds. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(2), 294-311.

Carla Krochak

August 13, 2012

  “Traditional learning environments may become sites of struggle for teachers and learners when there is a collision of different cultures.” (Uzuner 2009).  Sedef Uzuner’s article Question of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review focuses on studies that shed light on the effect of culture on students’ learning in asynchronous learning environments. The author is clear to describe his definition of culture in terms of a particular group or community with respect to their acquired behaviors, perspectives, and value characteristics (Uzuner, p. 2). One study Uzuner cites, is rather unique as its finding were based upon a gender perspective to include Jamaican and Canadian women’s distance learning experiences in a graduate level adult education program. Gouthro (2004) revealed that both groups’ cultural expectations with respect to women’s roles in the home did have an impact as it limited their learning, participation and engagement in asynchronous learning.
    In PK-12 learning today, it is clear that students are more diverse than ever before. This applies to gender as well, as more women in the United States are attending college, and even exceeding men in attainment of both Bachelor and Master’s degrees as statistics show. With an emerging immigrant population who are steeped in rich culture, age old tradition and long standing gender norms for women, these individuals face the pressure of balancing education into their lives, as it may clash with home life. Through 21st century education, technology has liberated these women, allowing for them to properly balance their home life with their education, and not having to sacrifice the integrity of either.

Gouthro, P. A. (2004). Assessing power issues in Canadian and Jamaican women’s experiences in learning via distance in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 9(4), 449-461.

Uzuner, Sedef. (June, 2009).  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review.”  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  Volume 10,  Number 3.

Mark Iannini

August 13, 2012

I feel that the quote from Sedef Uzuner is accurate and makes great sense.  When you are working in an online environment the students and teachers are already placed in an environment that they may not be adjusted to learning in.  Students must interact with other students in which they may not usually interact if they were in a traditional setting.  In order to develop rapport with students, one must be able to interact, engage, and understand that specific student.  This can be extremely difficult in an online environment.  Through online education, a teacher is not able to read facial expressions or clearly recognize if students are having difficulty unless they contact the teacher or by poor work submission.  Due to these barriers, students may not be able to fully express themselves and therefore can cause minimal achievement in a course.

In Uzuner’s review, he references a survey research that explored the similarties and differences between Australian and Chinese undergraduate students and their different “engagements in online discussions.” Smith, Coldwell, Smith and Murphy (2005) findings indicated that that compared to their Australian peers, Chinese students were less engaged in critical thinking in their posts.  Smith (2005) noted that the reason for not being as engaged could have been because the discussions were in English. 

This study can be directly related to K-12 online education today because teachers may face the same challenge.  Teachers must be aware of the types of discussions and the language utilized in a discussion board.  Although when we first view the data we could imply that the Chinese were less engaged in the discussions.  Yet, with further review, it is made clear that it wasn’t whether or not the students were engaged, it was lack of engagement due to lack of understanding because of the language barrier.  I is important that in online education today, teachers make sure there are the least amount of barriers in regards to communication as possible.  This will ensure maximum learning from every student.

Another study by Wang (2007) also focused on the topic of discussion board.  In Wang’s study, Chinese, Korean and American students were researched in order to determine their motivation to participate in on line discussions.  The findings of the different surveys indicated that a student’s cultural identity has a significant impact on their participation in the discussions.  American students indicated that they participated in online discussions because they enjoyed connecting with their peers, while Chinese and Korean students participated because it was a requirement of the course.  A cultural trait of Asians is “think more, talk less, and think it through before speaking.” 

This study can also be directly related to K-12 online education as well.  When students interact in an online discussion, there are always various responses.  Some responses by students are detailed, some are short, and some are long.  I feel that culture does have a lot to do with responses in a discussion board.  Some students may enjoy the discussions and interacting with other students, while others may want to meet the minimum requirements to get the points and focus more time on reading and preparing or exams.  I believe that the culture of the students plays a major role in their communication and work ethics.

Shannon F.

August 13, 2012

Sedef Uzuner is correct in stating that online learning environments are more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms. When students are in an online learning environment they are separated from their native culture and placed in an environment with many different cultures. All I have to do is think about the diverse population of students we have at PA Cyber. Pennsylvania has very diverse residents, so when you bring students into a school from all corners of the state you have a culturally diverse school. Yet, another challenge to online learning is that you don’t see the students and can’t pick up on body language that may indicate a student being uncomfortable. In Zhao and McDougall’s study they found that Chinese online learners struggled because they do rely on non-linguistic cues and the lack of hindered their engagement in the course.

One way that I like to help close the cultural gap in my classroom is to give the students an opportunity to get to know each other better and find that they have things in common. In my third grade classroom I put together a class yearbook towards the beginning of the year. The students submit a picture of themselves and supply information of likes and dislikes. Although this past year I discovered that this idea doesn’t help to incorporate all cultures as I had one family tell me their culture doesn’t allow for them to take pictures of living things. So even though this idea won’t work for all cultures, just as Thompson and Ku suggested it’s important to get to know the students. If they can’t send a picture they can still share their background information with the class. It’s also important to encourage communication among the students and give them time to discuss non-school related topics. Through these interactions there can be more understanding of the different cultural backgrounds.

Zhao, N., & McDougall, D. (2008). Cultural influences on Chinese students’ asynchronous online learning in a Canadian university. Journal of Distance Education, 22(2), 59-80.
Thompson, L., & Ku, H. (2005). Chinese graduate students’ experiences and attitudes toward online learning. Educational Media International, 42(1), 33-47.

A Wojtkowiak

August 14, 2012

      Uzuner (2009) finds that distance learning environments “may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms” (p. 3) because the students have not actually removed themselves from their culture to take the class, and because the instructor is not able to identify whether the student’s culture is different from their own.  In the K12 online environment it is important to identify a student’s cultural background to a certain extent in order to fully engage and not offend them in the classroom.  An online instructor could very easily choose not to learn a student’s culture and justify it by making the claim that race or gender or ethnicity doesn’t matter in their class, so that everyone is on a level playing field.  But, race, gender and ethnicity do matter, and failure to acknowledge that in the online classroom can lead to poor progress for students of cultures that are unlike the teacher’s culture.  Uzuner claims that “when knowledge is embedded in the dominant culture, learners who are foreign to that culture lose their motivation to understand it” (p. 12).  Thompson and Ku (2005) cite many examples of Chinese students who became very frustrated by courses in which American slang was used in discussion boards, as it was hard to translate without the context clues an in-person discussion would provide.  Frustration of course can often be followed by withdrawal.  Teachers in a K12 environment need to understand that many of their students come from different cultures and keep that in mind when creating lessons and assignments, and when addressing concerns they may have about the student.  If a student appears to lack motivation, teachers need to take a moment to see what the underlying factors may be and not jump to a conclusion such as the student is lazy or doesn’t care.

Thompson, L. & Ku, H. (2005) Chinese graduate students’ experiences and attitudes toward online learning.  Educational Media International, 38(1), 45-60.

Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning:  A research review.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

 

Abbey Scarsella

August 14, 2012

In Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review, Uzuner provides many research studies of how distance learning environments can be more prone to cultural conflicts.  Uzuner included a study by Al-Harthi that claimed cultural factors interfered with a group of Arab students’ success in the online classroom.  The Arab students stated that they initially were nervous and worried about taking online courses because they associated online learning with independent learning.  These feelings reveal Arab culture because if Arabs are unsure or uncertain about something, they avoid it.  The students also participated less because they did not want to look as though they were showing off in front of their peers.  This report shows Arab culture because it reflects the importance of being modest and humble.  Finally, Uzuner cited other cultural factors that hindered their performance were “feelings of shame originating from Arab’s culture social restrictions on the interactions between genders and communication difficulties with instructors arising from students’ fear of confrontation with authority figures” (p. 5).

In my experience as a virtual teacher, I agree with the author’s statement that distance learning environments may be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms.  At PA Cyber students of all demographics are enrolled across the Commonwealth, which accounts for a lot of diversity within each classroom.  Al-Harthi’s study that cultural factors interfere with success can be seen in my 5th grade classroom.  At the beginning of the school year, many students are timid and hesitant to participate because they do not know what to expect.  During the first week of school, I make sure to address expectations, rules, procedures, and more so that the students feel more comfortable about what to expect and to help ease any anxiety.  I also find that students of certain cultural background do not verbally participate as much as others.  Although they participate through sending notes to show they know the material, they do not volunteer to say their answers aloud.  I was unaware that the cause may be cultural and they do not want to show off in front of their peers.  Throughout this learning session, I have gained a deeper insight about how culture affects the performance and success of students.  It is important for me to get to know and understand where my students come from so that all can feel comfortable in my classroom and succeed.

Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6(3), 1-14.

Hofstede, G. (1991).  Cultures and organizations:  Software of the mind.  London:  McGraw-Hill.

Chera Pupi

August 14, 2012

“Traditional learning environments may become sites of struggle for teachers and learners when there is a collision of different cultures. More often than not, it is difficult for the teacher to accommodate each and every student’s culture” (Uzuner, 2009, p. 2). In his research review, Uzuner (2009) states that online learning environments are susceptible to the same issues resulting from cultural differences in today’s learners, and in some cases, even more so due to the fact that teachers are typically removed from their students who remain in their native cultural environments. The author provides an array of literature to support this claim.

Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzalez, and Mason (2001) considered various cultural groups in their study which focused specifically on the performance of non-English speaking adult students completing graduate level course work from a higher education institution in the UK (as cited in Uzuner, 2009). “They found that these students’ unfamiliarity with the linguistic and academic culture of the UK negatively impacted their success and academic performance” (Uzuner, 2009, p. 5).

When considering culture, one must consider language. Language barriers obviously provide obstacles in any classroom; however, in online learning where a large portion of instruction is relayed in an auditory fashion, language barriers can be a sole contributor to students’ failure. Similarly, in a classroom where a teacher may never physically see or meet a student, the teacher may never have the luxury of actually knowing the specificities of each individual student’s culture; if the student is unable or unwilling to provide that background knowledge for the teacher, or if the school does not communicate it, it can be incredibly difficult for the teacher to accommodate those cultures. These sensitive cultural issues will continue to appear in today’s classrooms, however, Uzuner (2009) is precisely on target in theorizing that distance learning by nature is more prone to cultural conflicts, especially as global boundaries continue to diminish allowing students educational opportunities previously unavailable to them.

References
Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning:  A research review.  International Review of
Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Shawn Z.

August 14, 2012

Rather than focusing on one particular nation, some studies investigated the distance learning experiences of various cultural groups. For example, Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzalez, and Mason (2001) focused on non-English speaking adults undertaking graduate level course work at a UK-based higher education institution. They found that these students‟ unfamiliarity with the linguistic and academic culture of the UK negatively impacted their success and academic performance. Shattuck (2005) studied Asian and Middle Eastern students taking distance education courses delivered by an American university, and Walker-Fernandez (1999) investigated non-American graduate students‟ experiences in an American distance education program while they were situated within their local cultures. These two studies found that cultural differences hinder students‟ communication and success in ALNs, causing them to experience feelings of isolation, alienation, and “dissonance out of conflict with the dominant educational culture” (Shattuck, 2005, p. 186).



Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).


 

 

I see this research as very informative and so very true. If I was told to go out and research this very same topic my hypothesis would have been what their outcome was. If I was asked to go over to Italy or to attend an online school based in Italy without any prior knowledge of how their education system works I would fail every course. Even though I am Italian and was brought up Italian I still do not know enough to be successful in an Italian school whether it be brick and mortar or online. But taking what I have read and bringing it to a national level instead of an inter-national level we see similar things today here at PA Cyber. Here are just some examples of many. When going to any school students have to have a language requirement other than English. So that right there to them is going to be difficult. The student has to learn to speak it, learn their culture and their ways of living, but what makes it harder for our students is that they have to do it from behind a computer. One positive I see from that is that for those students who learn by hearing instead of seeing have a great advantage. Another example of this that I see is students who aren’t taught the right things in order to succeed. There is always talk about teachers just teaching enough to students so that they can pass tests (PSSA’S, OGT’S, etc.) but are they teaching them enough for them to move on to be successful in other classes. A lot of us in this cohort can kind of relate to this. Some of us have zero education background; a lot of us have an undergrad in something other than education so this is a whole new field for us. We have learn and act the way educators do in order to be successful, so in a way this is all kind of foreign to us. But with relating this to the article and Online education anyone that walks into an environment that their not familiar with would have a difficult time. It may take a while to click if it does at all.

 

BMalinowski

August 14, 2012

To begin, Uzuner (2009) defines culture as “acquired behaviors, perspectives, and values characteristic of a particular group or community.”  This definition is important to understand and consider due to the fact that educators and people in general each have their own thoughts of this definition.  Uzuner demonstrates several examples of how culture plays a major role in education. 

For example, Al-Harthi (2005) expresses a unique cultural belief with Arab students and how their participation level during an online class was significantly lower than that of their American peers.  The Arab culture, as expressed by Uzuner demonstrates social restrictions resulting in less social interaction with their peers to due feelings of shame and fear.  The Arab students also expressed anxiety and fear when beginning the class, due to their culture and the amount of independent learning that comes with online learning as well as fear of trying to “show off” (Hofstede, 1991). 

In our virtual classrooms, we experience students of a variety of cultures throughout the entire school year.  Frequently, we, as teachers, require students to participate and interact with their virtual peers, however, at times we tend to forget culture barriers that may exist.  In conclusion, in agreement with Dr. Nieto in “Affirming Diversity” we as teachers must open our minds and learn who our students are beyond what we see in the classroom by learning what their culture is, what language they speak, etc. 

Resources
Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the
    United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance      
    Learning, 6(3), 1-14.
Dr. Nieto.  Affirming Diversity [Video File].
Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. London: McGraw-Hill.
Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning:  A research review.  International Review of
    Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Leslie Stack

August 14, 2012

    Being culturally responsive to your students may be more challenging and even more important in an asynchronous learning network (ALN) than traditional, face to face classrooms because students are able to take courses from great distances while immersed in their own cultures.  When students interact with other students and the teacher from vastly different cultures, the distance learner may not be aware of subtle or not so subtle cultural norms that he would be aware of if he were physically in the same room as the teacher and his classmates.  The teachers may also not be aware of the different cultures within their classrooms or be knowledgeable enough about the different cultures to know how they may affect their teaching and the ability for all of the students to equally achieve at the highest level of their potentials. With more and more students attending classes online, the probability that students from geographically distant cultures will be expected to understand and learn within other cultural norms that they have never encountered before.  In Uzuner’s article, “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review”, the author gives an example of Arabs not participating in online discussions with their American peers because their cultural does not feel comfortable with uncertain circumstances or with giving the appearance of showing off or appearing more intelligent than others.  They also are uncomfortable because of their cultural restrictions on interacting with the opposite sex.  This could be especially difficult if their teacher was unexpectedly a female and they were males.

      As our world becomes smaller and we increasingly interact with people from different cultures, when both are unfamiliar with each other’s cultural norms, our educational culture needs to be more sensitive to the verbal and nonverbal cues that may indicate that some student to student or student to teacher interactions are being misunderstood in distance learning classrooms.  As teachers, we need to be aware of the different cultures of our students and the possible ramifications that these different cultures may have on our subject content, on the different cultural learning styles, on accurate assessments of learning and on successful student achievement. If we as teachers do not learn about the educational cultural differences of our students, we will continue to foster miscommunication and misunderstandings between different cultures. This will only cause more divisive behaviors between cultures and countries and will not help our world work together for the good of all mankind.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-
    related values.  Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research
    Review. Retrieved from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com .

Melissa Francona

August 14, 2012

There is no doubt that distance learning environments are not immune to problems from cultural differences.  Culturally Responsive Online Teaching is an up-hill battle not only for higher education but for PK-12 also.  Especially since some of our families and students come to our online school specifically for numerous cultural reasons.  Along with religious, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and individualized beliefs, online teachers must take all of these factors into account when teaching to different cultural learning styles and strengths. 

Tu (2001) and Zhao and McDougall (2000) also looked at Chinese online learners.  Tu examined the impact of social context on Chinese graduate students’ online interactions in ALNs in the U.S., and Zhao and McDoughall explored Chinese graduate students’ experiences and attitudes toward online learning in a Canadian university.  Tu’s study looked at the importance of social context in Chinese culture and showed how dependence on non-linguistic cues is linked to the way Chinese students interacted in ALNs.  In Zhao and McDougall’s study, cultural factors that were found to hold back six Chinese student’s engagement in ALNs were their conservative, modest, and face-saving cultural traits and their unfamiliarity with the disciplinary culture of education in Canada. Even though these findings were completed in higher education, these can be related to PK-12 online learning today.  For instance, non-linguistic cues are crucial for some students to grasp what is ask or expected of them.  In different cultures, students are taught in different ways and they might not pick up on the cues that are not said.  Such as, at PA Cyber we have many students who have been home schooled their entire lives.  Then one day, this student is supposed to jump right into Cyber school which is foreign to them.  Some students are not technological savvy or understand how our learning management systems work.  It is our job as the teacher to train the student on how to understand how to use all of the new tools.  These new students may have a hard time with not seeing their instructors face at all times, due to video streaming of the teacher is not always turned on.  Many cues come from a teacher’s face.  Video of the teacher may help, but the screen of the video may be too small for the student to see all the expressions.  Active engagement is a necessary learning tool that must be used in the classroom.  Culturally, some students are not as out spoken as others, so the teacher must find a way to include all students in the activities by trying to tie the learning material with prior knowledge or experiences of the students in class. 

 

Carol Newell

August 14, 2012

Your comments about the need for training online educators strike at the heart of what I perceive to be one of our greatest challenges within the distance learning community.  With students from many different cultures joining the e-Learning opportunity, how does this affect student learning and our teaching?  Does the use of Web 2.0 tools change our focus in this process?  You quote Sedef Uzuner in your initial post as he comments on the nature of the virtual learning environment and the education of students from various cultures.
 
As I reflect on my experience in a neighborhood brick and mortar school, the children came from one community with similar values and culture.  As an online instructor, I have contact with children throughout our state.  On further examination of an article referenced by Uzuner, “Perceiving the Useful, Enjoyable and Effective: A case study of the e-learning experience of tertiary students in Singapore” by Linda Fang, she highlights two areas to consider when teaching students from Singapore.  First, Fang (2007) states, “Online materials and purposeful activities that led to new learning were useful.  Assigned tasks had to be meaningful and serious; they had to address real needs, not hypothetical or perceived ones” (p. 246).  As an online instructor, I am reminded that my focus needs to be on knowing what my students find meaningful in the learning process.  Knowing how and when to incorporate Web 2.0 tools as well as low-tech educational options should be included as part of ongoing teacher training.

A second point made by Fang when studying the responses of the engineering students in Singapore was that “the participants found feedback provided by the trainer for themselves and others useful.  They learned by reading from the feedback.  It was interesting to note that the participants did not mention feedback from their peers” (p. 246).  As an educator developing online learning course work it is important for me to remember that my task is not done once the course design is uploaded into the online system.  The work of providing feedback, especially for students whose culture views the educator as the expert, is imperative.  Although there can be variances within the culture of the Singaporean people when it comes to the desire to avoid uncertainty within educational settings, Fang observes that “uncertainty avoidance determines the level of expertise a teacher is expected to have.  The stronger it is, the more students expect their teachers to be experts with all the answers” (p. 238).  Educating new online teachers about the importance of feedback will help ensure a quality educational experience for students whose culture seeks expertise from the teacher.

Knowledge of how various cultures perceive educational activities and understanding their expectations should guide us in the training of online educators, not only at the college level, but within the educational systems from PK-12.

References
Fang, L. (2007). Perceiving the useful, enjoyable andeffective: A case study of the e-learningexperience of tertiary students in Singapore. Educational Media International, 44, 237-253.

M. Grim

August 15, 2012

Culture plays a role in our everyday living, it doesn’t matter where one is from they come a culture that helps to define who they are. With that all students learn differently and their needs should be addressed to help them to perform to their fullest potential. Chen, Hsu, and Caropreso (2006) found that Americans are more fasted paced learners in online messaging and that tends to lead to aggressiveness in their learning. Taiwanese students tend to take the more delayed approach to understand what they are learning and would be considered passive and weak. Students in North America are encouraged to have an active part in their learning however, the article felt that the teachers should make more of an approach for students to critique and also find a place in where they can share their thoughts.

Morse (2003) evaluated the difference between low context cultural groups and high context cultural groups. The groups were low context: the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand and from the high context: Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The findings were that the low context cultural groups were more “outwardly oriented in their computer mediated communication (CMC), meaning that these students valued the time afforded by the CMC to reflect on people’s opinions” (Morse, 2003). The high context cultural groups on the other hand were more “inwardly oriented meaning these students valued the time afforded for the CMC to think more about their own contributions” (Morse, 2003). It also revealed that the students who came from the low context groups didn’t believe that not having a face to face teacher was impacting their learning ability positively or negatively whereas the high context groups felt that without have a face to face interaction with teachers and peers that it was challenging to their ability to learn and create social relations.

In today’s society, we see these findings a lot. In working on the North Side of Pittsburgh we get students from a number of different cultures. The students all come in with different needs and learning abilities. Our challenge comes to figuring out what works best for them and helping them to succeed. Along with Chen, Hsu, and Caropreno, we have students who are very loud and aggressive in their learning styles. They are often the students who are very talkative and are quick to respond to their teacher because they want to be the first one to answer but their comprehension is lacking because they usually have the most questions when it comes time to complete their homework. They are so intent on answering the questions at hand that they forget about what they are learning and it doesn’t go to their long term memory. We also have students who are similar to the Taiwanese students because they are more passive in their approach and want to learn what is being taught to them and absorb the information like sponges. These students are very independent and often times do not need help on their homework. With both of these types of students, it depends on their upbringing and how they learn. What works for one person may not work for the next.

Being on the North Side of Pittsburgh we do seem some families that come from the low context cultural groups and I think that being in a virtual class and not being able to see their teacher does affect them because they have no one to make that connection with besides their voice. I feel that this is why these students come to the North Side Satellite Office to get the best of both worlds. They can take a virtual class and hear the teacher teaching the lesson and then once class is over they have a teacher available to help them with their homework or answer questions that might have been confusing. It is also great that our students have the option of a playback if they are confused on a lesson. All students need the social aspect to their learning and they also need to know that someone is there for them and willing to help them. Encouragement is very important to these students because they may not get that at home and need their teachers to push them and show their inner strength. As in the podcast by Dr. Chris Harrison and Fluke Fluker we need to bridge the achievement gap. We as educators need to scaffold and help the students to move their performance up to where they can reach their greatest potential. We also need to help them know who they are and what they can become since there is a lot going on around them and they need to figure out their identity.

Chen, S., Hsu, C., & Caropreso, E. J. (2006). Cross-cultural collaborative online learning: When
the West meets the East. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 2(1), 17-35.
Morse, K. (2003). Does one size fit all? Exploring asynchronous learning in a multicultural
environment. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 37-55.

Emily Bittner

August 15, 2012

In today’s schools, the classrooms are made up of students of many different cultures and backgrounds. Some students are very involved and active in their culture, while some students are more removed from the daily involvement of their culture. In a brick and mortar school teachers have the advantage of adapting and working with the students who are from different cultures, having them in the classroom and allowing them to have a personal relationship with these students gives the teachers the opportunity to create a learning space that is productive for both the student and the teacher.
In the online class room the lack of physically interacting to the cultural differences makes it harder for the teachers to create a learning environment that works for all students. This road block just makes the online teacher adjust and adapt in a different way that can work best for the student and the teacher. It also allows the teacher to learn themselves from the difficulties and provide a learning environment that is productive for the student.

julie nas

August 15, 2012

Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review by Uzuner (2009) explores the difference between students taught online and in a physical classroom and if their cultural background impacts their learning. One of our goals as educators is to embrace the cultural diversification amongst our students.  Teaching in an online setting this goals can sometimes be difficult to achieve because there is limited face to face interactions.  The author states that culture and education are mutually exclusive and therefore as educator we must not try to separate the two.  Uzuner employs Thompson and Ku (2005) to reiterate his point.  They focus of the learning experience of seven Chinese graduate students’ online learning experience in the United States.  The authors explain that the Chinese students were less vocal than their U.S. counterparts. Thompson and Ku found that the lack of face to face interaction in this case actually impeded the learning of students as they had a hard time crossing cultural barriers.  Uzuner also shares another study as carried out by Al-Harthi (2005) investigated the learning performance of six Arabic graduate students experience in the United States. The Arab students in this study felt nervous and intimated by some of the learning experiences thus making them less eager to participate. Uzuner uses this study to reference that culture in this case impacted the Arabic students.

        As a social studies teacher I try to embrace all cultures and use their experiences in my classroom.  In the aforementioned studies these students were not made part of the process instead they were just forced to join in and assimilate.  An online course can make this difficult for teachers to determine however it is a teacher’s due diligence and responsibility to understand at there are a myriad of cultures in our classroom and embrace the differences.  Teachers should differentiate instruction and in the case studies above it appears that the teachers did not and unfortunately the students felt uncomfortable.


Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in       Open and Distance Learning, 6(3), 1-14.


Thompson, L., & Ku, H. (2005). Chinese graduate students‟ experiences and attitudes toward   online learning. Educational Media International, 42(1), 33-47

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved     from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com.

Maria Hosein

August 16, 2012

As online learning grows in popularity we need to be conscious of the audience that we as educators reach out to.  By being conscious we should make ourselves aware of their cultural norms, and how they may present themselves in the virtual environment.  We must examine term like: participation, comfort levels and their ability to interact or share with staff and their peers.  The Uzner (2009) article shed light on many areas that are taken for granted due to lack of our own personal experiences or those of the students with our culture.  Factors like: the ability to understand to cultural references, face restrictions with gender interactions, facilitate meaningful interaction between students and teachers, as well as with their peers etc. play a large role in the comfort levels, community development, participation levels and information taken away from these online learning experiences for students. 
Educators need to become familiar with these nuances and become open to adapting their instruction to accommodate various cultural backgrounds within the online environment.  For all students to be successful and have the same opportunity to succeed the playing field must be leveled.  What may appear to be small cultural issues may impact learners in major ways. 
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review.   
International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).


Chen, Hsu and Caropreso (2006) investigated the influence of culture on the learning behaviors of 10 American, and 5 Taiwanese graduate students during online collaborations.  They found American students preferred individualistic division of labor in collaborative assignments, and worked well when they communicated in short patterns that were content driven.  Taiwanese students however were prone to long messages that expressed emotion and made personal references.  This research shows how cultural differences can create tense situations between groups working together in the online environment.  American students saw the Taiwanese students as weak and passive, while the Taiwanese students viewed their American counterparts as aggressive.
As this research shows the implications for online learning need to be carefully examined when dealing with diversity in the online environment.  In the preK-12 online learning environment we as educators can begin to expose ourselves to these nuances through trainings.  Professional developments based on diversity can be used to introduce teachers to the populations they may encounter within their teaching.  In addition diverse staff would greatly benefit any school with a population that has mixed backgrounds.  As teachers of PreK-12 students we differ in to the educators in these studies due to their roles teaching graduate and undergraduate students.  We on the other hand have to be prepared to deal with students who may not know how to express their cultural concerns, as well as their parents who may encounter the same experiences.
Chen, S., Hsu,C.,&Caropreso;, E.J.(2006). Cross- cultural collaborative online learning:When the
West meets the East.International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning.
2 (1), 17-35.

Kevin Percic

August 16, 2012

I agree that the problems in regards to cultural differences can become more apparent in the online education setting.  The lack of regular student-teacher and student-student interaction can force teachers and students to only take their own cultural values and beliefs into consideration when it comes to learning.  Regular exposure to a diverse group of cultures in a real-life setting brings about cultural awareness and the willingness to embrace cultural differences.  It goes without saying that online education has inherent barriers to the real life interactions that I just mentioned.  Online interactions can help to break down the walls, but I feel that promoting face-to-face interactions between students and teachers within the online education setting can help to foster and promote cultural awareness.

Erin Durkee

August 16, 2012

“Liang and McQueen (2000) examined the impact of e-mail interaction on the learning outcomes of 18 culturally diverse adult learners from China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Taiwan, and the US. Data from questionnaires, observations, and interviews revealed that Western students were more open to the idea of learning from peers online and perceived peer interaction to be beneficial intellectually, affectively, and interpersonally. On the other hand, Asian students valued teacher input more than peer input and perceived online peer-to-peer interaction to be beneficial only when it assisted their learning.”

Although distance education seems to have positive results in regards to the diversity of learning styles it still has difficulty bridging the gap culturally. Therefore, reaching out to different cultures often becomes more difficult in an online setting rather than in the traditional classroom. This is because there are fewer opportunities to really get to know and understand someone culturally in a purely online setting. The above study by Liang and McQueen indicates cultural differences in regards to Western students and the Asian students. According to the study more of the Western students preferred working with peers and collaborating where as, the Asian students preferred more interaction with the instructor. That being said there seems to be an equal need for differentiated instruction within the online setting as there is in a traditional setting in order to ensure every students needs are being met based on their cultural background.

Liang, A., & McQueen, R., J. (2000). Computer assisted adult interactive learning in a multi-cultural environment. Adult Learning, 11(1), 26-29.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).

 

J Flaugh

August 16, 2012

Online education is not void of the problems associated with cultural differences. Although online educators cannot visually see these cultural differences they can “hinder students’ communication and success in ALNs, causing them to experience feelings of isolation, alienation, and “dissonance out of conflict with the dominant educational culture” (Shattuck, 2005, p. 186). Online educators must be aware that these differences do exist and find ways to work with students of different cultural backgrounds.

One study that I personally found interesting was the study of Jamaican and Canadian women in distance learning experiences. Uzuner (2009) states that “both groups’ cultural expectations regarding women’s roles in the home did limit their learning, participation, and engagement in ALNs” (p. 6). This made me realize that my own work as a homemaker and mother does limit my participation in my education. This hit home to me and made me realize that everyone has their own experiences that can influence their education. This is even true for the young girls that have a child and find themselves finishing high school. Online and Traditional educators must discover these differences and work with each of the students. Having a child as a teenager is one of these differences that can influence the educational experience.

After reading this article, I came to the realization that I truly know very little about my students. I find myself wanting to start off the school year with a completely different attitude. I want and need to learn more about my students so I can understand their educational needs.

Shattuck, K. (2005). Cultures meeting cultures in online distance education: Perceptions of international adult learners of the impact of culture when taking online distance education d and delivered by an American University. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning:  A research review.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Brandon C

August 16, 2012

Anakwe and Christensen (1999) found that “relationship building is foremost” for students from collectivist cultures (p. 240). This finding has significant implications for online instructors who emphasize collaborative work in their courses. One implication is that online instructors should allow sufficient time to develop relationships prior to engaging learners in collaborative activities (Liang & McQueen, 2000). In addition, they should allow learners to work in small groups, encourage diversity in those groups (Thompson & Ku, 2005; Wang & Reeves, 2007), and always monitor the nature and scope of team work (Wang, 2007).

Uzuner, Sedef. (June, 2009).  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review.”  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  Volume 10, Number 3.


Although collectivist cultures tend to be Asian or from Eastern society, I think this is true for most cultures, even our Western, individualist culture.  In order to work effectively in a collaborative environment, students need to build a certain level of trust, understanding and familiarity with their classmates.  As a virtual teacher, I have no way of knowing, for certain, the ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status of any of my students, but one thing that I do know, is that most of my students are much more willing to participate individually and in group settings, if they have been given the opportunity to build relationships with their classmates.  That’s why I always have my students present a PowerPoint, where they introduce themselves to the class.  This also gives me some insight into who each of my students are, makes it easier to create diversity in their collaborative breakout sessions.  I have also found that if they have time before class begins to chat, they are more likely to openly and actively participate once class begins.  It’s difficult to build the commraderie that comes easily in a brick and mortar setting when the students are isolated in their own little world and have no connection with their peers.  Regardless of race, cultural heritage, religion, or gender, students in an online setting need to build relationships with one another if they are expected to work collaboratively.

Jon Dunlap

August 16, 2012

In the quote on Uzuner (2009) he comments that distance leaning is susceptible to challenges presented by cultural differences among student and that they, “may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms” (p. 3).  In examining his research on this topics I found one study that was enlightening in thinking about how culture impact students engagement in distance learning.
Morse (2003) observes that students from westernized nations (low context cultural group approached distance learning as a positive experience that allowed them to review and comment on the opinions of other. This group did not feel that their ability to learn was impeded by the lack of face-to-face interaction. On the other hand students from “Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand (the high context cultural group)” approached distance learning as a positive experience that allowed them to focus on their own contribution. This groups was felt their ability to learn was challenged by the lack to face-to-face interaction.
I found this study to enlightening because it reveals the depth of influence that culture has on the way we think and learn. It has been and is still largely true that online learning is anonymous with student have little personal interaction with others. And it is also true that most online learning has been geared more toward the western, low context culture, where the knowledge of the individual is more highly valued, and this can create a detrimental environment for student from other cultural traditions. I think is the one cultural obstacle that new technology development will help overcome and will help student think in new ways and engage student from all cultures. The technology exists for teachers and students to meet face-to-face online with great ease and often little cost. Further, social media has exploded since the time that the Morse study was completed and this has led to online relationship building. The challenge that remains is for schools like PA Cyber to find ways to use this technology while maintaining student safety and privacy. This is problem that will take time and broader social acceptance to ease the way for these technologies to be used.
References
Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning:  A research review.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.
Morse, K. (2003). Does one size fit all? Exploring asynchronous learning in a multicultural environment. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 37-55.

Hiedi Smith

August 16, 2012

Sedef Uzuner discusses a study that was conducted by K. Morse.  Morse (2003) looked at two different groups and compared “their computer-mediated communications (CMC), meaning that these students valued the time afforded by CMC to think more about their own contributions.” (2009, p. 5)  The author describes the groups as “the low context cultural group and high context cultural group.” (2009, p. 5)  The low context cultural group, “believe that the lack of face-to-face contact impacted their learning abilities positively or negatively.” (2009, p. 5)  This is compared to the high context cultural group “viewed the lack of face-to-face contact with faculty and peers as a challenge to their ability to learn and form social relationships.” (2009, p. 5)

This article showed that there are differences in how the different cultures learn, even in an online environment.  Schools need to ensure that there are different ways for the students to communicate with each other and teachers.  Schools also need to ensure that the students cultures are represented in the schools curriculum.  Everyone participates in different ways, it makes sense for the schools to ensure that it is possible for the students.  In the Fang (2007) study, the author did a study on “the impact of multiple levels of cultures on students ALN experiences.”(2009, p. 6)  It is very important to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in being able to communication with diffferent cultures in different ways.

Morse, K. (2003). Does one siz fit all?  Exploring asynchronous learning in a multicutural environment.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 37-55.

Fang, L. (2007). Perceiving the useful, enjoyable, and effective: A case study of the e-learning experience of tertiary students in Singapore. Educational Media International. 44(3), 237-253.

 

D. Costa

August 16, 2012

I am particularly interested in the means by which students cultural experiences and histories affect their interactions with educational technologies and operational processes. Specifically, insofar as the online environment, by its nature, requires consistent access to successfully functioning tools and systems, I am curious about the extent to which differences in culture affect access to educational opportunity in the virtual space.

Uzuner (2009) asks if cultural hegemony can be present in the online classroom (p.2) as well as in traditional educational settings, and in the context of access, we can certainly imagine circumstances in which technological resources are not evenly distributed across cultures, and nor would the individuals who comprise those cultures necessarily advocate for or employ such access in the same ways, even if it were to exist.

For example, Morse (2003) finds that students from high context cultures are challenged by the attempt to meaningfully connect with members of the learning community (both instructors and learning peers) in an online setting. To extend this observation, we must consider the effect that such a set of challenges would pose in terms of the inclination to join an online learning community at all.

Given the importance of virtual education in reaching geographically remote and demographically diverse communities, it is crucial that educators examine their practice to define the strategies that will promote meaningful participation in online communities on the part of the very students who may be best served by the opportunities that the new medium represents. To that end, we must promote the distribution not only of the physical technological resources that make online education possible, but we must also understand the cultural motivations that drive participation in the communities that those technologies occasion.

Cori Kusik

August 16, 2012

According to Sedef Uzuner’s findings on six Arabic students’ uncertainty and trepidation in participating more in an online class, their cultural values were underscored in their modest nature.  “Another qualitative study that looked at a particular national group’s ALN experiences was Al-Harthi’s (2005) study of six Arab students pursuing graduate degrees in the US. During in-depth interviews, these students expressed that they were at first scared and anxious about taking online courses because they equated online learning with independent learning, a finding reflecting Arab culture’s high uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1991). Students also reported that they intentionally participated less in online discussions than their American peers because they viewed eagerness to participate as “showing off or trying to appear smart” (p.9), a finding reflecting the importance of modesty in Arab culture. Other cultural factors that interfered with the students’ successful ALN learning were found to be feelings of shame originating from Arab culture’s social restrictions on the interactions between genders and communication difficulties with instructors arising from students’ fear of confrontation with authority figures.” (Uzuner, 5)  In my own limited experience with Americanized persons of Arabic origins in last year’s classes, I found the opposite to be true.  The majority of students with Muslim or Arabic backgrounds were some of the most outspoken, participative, and responsive as compared to other students of different cultural origins.  Perhaps there is a difference between Arabic students depending on how far they are removed from their more concentrated cultural beliefs?
As an online teacher, I find it valuable to instruct students in a variety of ways.  I use oral storytelling methods, reading aloud, question and answer as a large group, breakout sessions with small groups, projects, debates, peer supported constructive criticism, use of blogs and discussion boards, and plenty of games, music and videos.  I carefully monitor student completion of each assignment to see which students were most successful.  To be honest, though, I had not thought to monitor student success in terms of culture before.  It will be a new goal of mine to see which students do better according to their culture.
In the video featuring Dr. Gay, it was specifically pointed out that African American students’ strengths lie in the oral storytelling method.  I will be discreetly monitoring my students who are African American as we read certain pieces of literature aloud.
References:
Gay, G. (2000). More on Culturally Responsive Teaching [Video file]. Retrieved from https://franciscan.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved   from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com.

J. Allen

August 16, 2012

I can definitely see the validity of Sedef Uzuner’s (2009) statement regarding distance learning environments and problems arising from cultural differences.  As online teachers we do not see the students and rarely know the locations of the students let alone the environments from which they come.  We typically know little about the ethnicity, class, religion, race, or situation of the student.  If we do not know the cultural diversity of our class we can hardly begin to be sensitive to cultural needs, to utilize cultural strengths, or to facilitate cultural understanding and sensitivity among students.
One study reviewed by Sedef Uzuner in “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” (2009) I found particularly interesting was that of Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzalex, and Mason (2001).  The study of Goodfellow et. al. focused on adults who did not speak English but were enrolled in graduate level course work at a UK-based institution (Uzuner, 2009).  Through their study the authors found that the students’ success and academic performance suffered because they were unfamiliar with the academic culture and language of the United Kingdom (Uzuner, 2009).  Unfortunately I have seen similar findings in my online classes.  Within the last two years I have had several students of latin descent who came from families whose primary language was Spanish.  On one occasion the student spoke English very well and adjusted to the course quickly.  In another circumstance however, the student had difficulty understanding all of the content and language and had a difficult time adjusting.  The language barrier can be especially difficult in science when students are learning terms for items and ideas they may not have been previously exposed to in either language.  This student’s parent spoke very little English and I speak very little Spanish.  When the parent and I needed to communicate the student had to translate for us.  This made it difficult for the student to rely on either of us for support.  Eventually the student withdrew from the class.  In the future I hope to have a better way of supporting these students through either collaborating with the Spanish teacher or learning Spanish myself. 

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved   from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com.

Goodfellow, R., Lea, M., Gonzales, F., & Mason, R. (2001).  Opportunity and e-quality: Intercultural and linguistic issues in global online learning. Distance Education, 22(1) 65-84.

Christina Hayes

August 16, 2012

Educators across the globe should be prepared to practice culturally responsive teaching whether they are in the brick and mortar classroom or online facilitating asynchronous or synchronous instruction.  The difference between those two types of teachers is that the culturally responsive online teacher has the ability to take advantage of the cultural strengths and resiliencies through teaching practice and diverse structure and curriculum within the nature of the class.  The variables and characteristics may vary across cultures and personal experiences.  When reflecting on the work of Uzuner (2009) and reflecting on his distance learning environment quote, one of his studies caught my attention by Kim and Bonk’s (2002) cross-cultural study which examined the differences in Finnish, Korean, and American undergraduate pre-service teachers’ online collaborative behaviors.
“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher”

Kim and Bonk (2002) discuss rates of communication, socialization and participation in asynchronous discussion boards in online classes.  When students join class from different backgrounds, they are bringing their culture to class with them. Therefore, it is expected to have differences in these areas among different diverse backgrounds.  As a result of the study, Finnish students were concerned with theory and demonstrated a higher level of reflection during communication, while American students were concerned less with theory and more with practice. Korean students were contextually-driven and demonstrated the highest level of social interaction behaviors among the groups studied (Kim and Bonk, 2002).

Kim, K. J., & Bonk, C. J. (2002). Cross-cultural comparisons of online collaboration among pre-service teachers in Finland, Korea, and the United States. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(1).

Uzuner, Sedef. (June, 2009).  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review.”  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  Volume 10, Number 3.

Orsola Nebel

August 17, 2012

As a virtual teacher I know firsthand that distance learning environments are not immune to problems arising from cultural differences.  Coping with diversity among students in an online classroom, synchronously or asynchronously, is just like coping with diverse students in a traditional school, but with more complicated issues.  In a virtual world it is very important to get to know your students as best as possible, whether it is by chatting with them through audio or visual, having them create media about themselves, through blogs, etc.  Virtual teachers have to design their lessons for different learning styles as best as they can without real face to face interactions.  Students in a virtual classroom belong to their own culture.  This culture involves a learning community of students that create, share, and apply their own knowledge.  These students do not just acquire or absorb knowledge created by others.  Virtual communities connect with and learn from others through collaboratively participating in the construction of new knowledge.


Wang (2007) investigated the differences among Chinese, Korean, and American students in terms of their motivation to participate in online discussions, perceptions of online team work, and comfort level in approaching their online instructors.  In the online asynchronous classroom the course requirement was found to be the major factor behind Korean and Chinese students’ participation in online discussions and activities.  American students liked participating in online discussions because they enjoyed connecting with their peers.  All three cultural groups preferred asynchronous discussions to synchronous ones.  Think more, talk less is seen as an Asian cultural trait.  Also, in this study individual work was seen as boring and challenging for all groups participating, although Korean students were found to be the least comfortable with collaborative work.  Lastly, the American students tended to communicate more with their teachers because they perceived them as equals, whereas Korean and Chinese students did not, because they saw them as power figures.  (p. 9)


The majority of my students are American, and I would have to agree that they like participating in online discussions, chatting through notes before class or breakout sessions during class.  They especially like chatting in asynchronous (not in real time) discussions on the Schoology website.  A lot of times it is a struggle to get students to complete collaborative work, because they feel it is challenging or they fear of getting something wrong.  Students like to complete their own problems.  From these findings in this study, I believe that future PK-12 online learning teachers have to keep in mind that students need encouragement to talk.  Talking collaboratively will put new ideas and thoughts into one’s mind, and working collaboratively helps students learn best when they are actively involved in the process, as well as retaining info longer.

References:

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved     from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com

Wang, M. (2007) Designing online courses that effectively engage learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(2), 294-311.

Ed Breaux

August 17, 2012

As a teacher, one cannot hope to keep track of all the cultural variations.  One just has to be open to such variations.  Nowhere is this more obvious in Uzuner (2009) than in the study of Smith and Smith (2000), where the behaviors of three different groups of Chinese students were compared in online educational interactions.

Theoretically, Hong Kong and Singapore citizens are raised on Chinese beliefs and principles, and presumably Malaysian-Chinese students would similarly be heavily influenced by those living in China, given its proximity to the nation, suggesting a ready flow of people in and out of China.  Nevertheless, probably because the populations have grown up rather isolated from each other, there are observable differences among the three cultures. 

In the study, the three groups of students were all taking online courses from an Australian university.  The Malaysian-Chinese and Singaporean students were equally dependent on a structured learning environment, while the Hong Kong students were notably less so.  The Hong Kong students also showed a greater fear of failure than the other two groups.  Although the Malaysian-Chinese and Singaporean students were similar on several variables, the Singaporean students showed deeper level learning than the Malaysian-Chinese students, which demonstrated more surface learning and less organized forms of learning.  Here, the Hong Kong students paralleled the Singaporean students, and demonstrated deep level learning.

References

Smith, S. N., & Smith, P. J. (2000). Implications for distance education in the study approaches of different Chinese national groups. The Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 71-84.

Uzuner, S.  (2009).  Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10 (3), 1-19.

Brian C. May

August 17, 2012

I agree that distance learning environments are not immune to the problems arising from cultural differences.  When dissimilar worlds collide, technology does not have the capability to protect those involved from conflict.  I also am in support of the fact that these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms because of the reason stated; but, also because when people can’t see facial expressions and or body languagewe are more likely not to understand each other.
In Uzuner’s review, he references a case study involving 18 “culturally diverse adult learners” from different cultures.  Liang and McQueen (2000) inform us that the students from the western countries responded differently than the students from Asian countries in terms of peer to peer versus teacher input.  Western students were open to feedback from their peers while Asian students thought teacher criticism was more important understanding that folks are different is important regardless of the age group.  Appreciating, respecting and understanding others culture, perspective and values is the key to culture responsiveness in any and all instances.  Whether it is PK-12, online, traditional, undergraduate or graduate, awareness is the key to success academically, professionally and or socially.  Therefore, this study can be directly correlated to online learning today in elementary, middle and high school.
References
Liang, A., & McQueen, R., J. (2000). Computer assisted adult interactive learning in a multi-cultural environment. Adult Learning, 11(1), 26-29.

Laurie Cabell

August 17, 2012

In the article, “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review,” Sedef Uzuner covers many studies about different cultures and how they respond to online learning.  Teachers must take into account their students cultures even in online classes.  It is harder to do in distance learning usually because you can’t see your students and it takes longer to get to know them and their cultures.  Teachers need to be able to meet the needs of their students and teach to their different learning styles.  Some students work better in groups because of their culture.  Others work better individually.  Some students are better with oral assignments.  At the beginning of class, the teacher must try to learn as much as possible about their students.

Lindsay Michael

August 17, 2012

When reading the article by Sedef Uzuner, I found a lot of beneficial articles addressed about cultural differences in distance learning environments.  One article that I found quite interesting was a study of six Arab students.  This study by Al-Harthi noted that Arab students showed an importance of modesty which is a cultural trait.  These students were concerned of how their American classmates would view them as “know-it-alls”.  Cultural differences are not just found in traditional brick and mortar settings but through an online atmosphere.  Different cultures have specific cultural traits that are shown through their gender or religion.  Through this study, they also found that cultures have social restrictions. 

In PK-12 education, all of our students are from different cultures which make our classrooms so diverse.  By having other cultures and learning about other cultures in the curriculum we are creating well-rounded students who are accepting of others viewpoints and can rise above judgmental stereotypes.  By having different cultures within our school district is gives the educators an opportunity to learn about those cultures and broaden our cultural education.  This also provides an opportunity to educate others about cultures that they do not know.

T.Kubis

August 17, 2012

I agree with Uzuner in that distance learning environments are in no way immune to the problems from cultural differences.  In a study by Lim (2004), it was shown that American students who participated in an online learning study, were more prone to feel the need to be heard in classrooms and voice their opinions.  In the same study, Lim found that a group of Korean students were more concerned with holding their opinions and keep passive throughout the class.  The Korean students were more in to learning about the Korean culture than the American students, thus felt less of a need to speak in class rather than just take in the information.  This study agrees with Uzuner’s quote regarding problems that will still occur from culture to culture in the online environment.

This goes to prove, again, that online education is not for every single student.  Some students who may be more prone to speak out in class and be noticed will fair better in a traditional classroom setting.  For a student who participates in online learning, it is important that this type of learning benefits them.  Some need the structure of a real-time classroom, where others may be better working at their own pace or sitting in and listening online.  The study by Lim showed that their are sets of students that may, and will, feel out of place in an online classroom setting.

Lim, D. H. (2004). Cross cultural differences in online learning motivation. Educational Media International, 41(2), 163-175.

Nathan Delp

August 17, 2012

Online education in grades K-12 can indeed suffer from these same problems which arise from cultural differences, and the online environment can potentially exacerbate these issues as well. Uzuner notes a study (e.g., Al-Harthi, 2005; Bing & Ai-Ping, 2008; Smith et al., 2005; Smith & Smith, 1999; Wang, 2007) that students from strong uncertainty avoidance cultures (such as China and Korea) tend to struggle in online discussions. Because of the often informal and lax guidelines for online discussions forums, these students are left wondering if there are any unspoken rules or traditions to follow when posting. When faced with this uncertainty, the students may withdraw and avoid adding to the discussion at all for fear of violating proper tradition.

One way a teacher may combat such issues would be to post discussion forum guidelines, giving a general overview of proper posting behavior for all students to follow. If these guidelines are made with cultural competency in mind, they can help students on both ends of the spectrum come to a better understanding of how to interact with a diverse set of peers.

Kelly Creel

August 17, 2012

In the Research Review by Uzuner (2009), he discussed how students differ when it comes to “distance learning”.  It is important to understand the learning process is different all over the world.  We are all learning, but are we are comfortable leaning like the next student?  Wang (2007)  conducted a cross-cultural study to investigate the differences among Koren, Chinese and AMerican students.  The study focused on what motivates the cross-cultural students to participate in online discussions, online team work and the relationship with an online instructor?  Students identy has a large impact on their participation in online studies.  Korean and Chinese students struggle with online participation due to the course requirement, while American students particiated because they like the interaction with their peers.  One thing the three culturally different student groups had in common where they all favored the asynchronous over the synchronous.  Chinese and Korean student found they favored asynchroous because it helped them to associated to a Asian cultural trait, “think more, talk less, and think through before speaking”. Wang also explained the comfort level the students had for their instructors.  American students have a high level of comfort because they think they are on the same level, while Korean and CHinese students find the comfort level to be low.  Reading this article I find it interesting yet not surprising who different student associate with the onlin instruction.  Online instruction is popular for convience in my opinion.  THe more comfortable a student is, the more information a student will retain and the better they will perform on exams.

Wang M. (2007) Disigning online course that effectively engage learners from

    diverse cultural backgrounds. British Journal of Educational Technology, 

      38(2), 294-311.

J. Cilli

August 17, 2012

Online learning environments are confronting problems with cultural differences that are harder to predict and resolve than in a traditional classroom. The study conducted by Fang (2007) revealed that students from different cultures will be most interested in class activities that match their cultural values. Additionally, students may value teacher feedback over peer feedback based on cultural norms. In the context of a traditional learning environment, students are from a smaller region and are more likely to share values in regards to class activity preferences and feedback preferences. However, in the distance education model, the students come from various geographic regions, and in turn student preferences will be drastically varied. As a result, an online class will have a difficult time providing the favored types of activities and feedback to the students. This problem relates to the issue of cultural hegemony identified by Gramsci (1971). The dominant preferences, most likely those of the teacher, will shape the class and therefore the course will serve the interests of students who share that cultural value.

Today’s online schools have the potential to combat this problem, particularly in an asynchronous learning environment. Technology has evolved to the point that customized learning paths are possible. Students participating in an asynchronous class could theoretically choose different activities than their classmates, moving students along parallel pathways in the same class. The asynchronous class of the future could share similarities with the “choose your own adventure book.” When students reach an assignment, the students can select an option that matches their values. Students who value peer feedback can select activities that include peer feedback, while those who prefer teacher feedback can choose that path as well. The idea of individualized education is not simply placing a student in a classroom setting selected for that specific student, but rather adapting the learning experiences as they unfold so that students can select the experiences that fulfill their needs.

Fang, L. (2007). Perceiving the useful, enjoyable, and effective: A case study of the e-learning experience of tertiary students in Singapore. Educational Media International, 44(3), 237-253.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Sara Kelly

August 17, 2012

Uzuner’s article was very interesting.  It is eye opening to see just how different cultures respond to online education.  The study by Chen, Hsu and Caropreso (2006) showed that Americans were viewed as aggressive by Taiwanese students and Taiwanese students were viewed as passive or weak by American students.  Another amazing study was conducted by Gouthro (2004) looking at women in the distance learning setting.  The findings were interpreted by a gender viewpoint, yet it is fascinating to see just how gender can make a difference in cyber education.  These women were limited to their learning and involvement because of their responsibilities in the home.  These and the other researches from this article show just how important it is to understand cultural backgrounds of students.  I do have to agree with Mr. Miller…distance learning environments are not immune to cultural conflicts.  They might even be at a higher risk to experience these issues than a traditional classroom setting.  It is our jobs as educators to really take the time to communicate with students and get to know them.  Without knowing our students we can truly harm them and get in the way of earning a great education.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review, 10(3), 1-19.
Retrieved from http://franciscan.blackboard.com

Emilee Atkins

August 22, 2012

Any given classroom at PA Cyber can be a diverse community with multiple cultures bringing their own perspectives and ideals to daily discussions.  PA Cyber’s curriculum is developed and structured in the United States.  Therefore, the initial curriculum is influenced by United States culture.  Selinger (2004) explored a global e-learning program based on Western learning theories, in countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the UK.  Selinger’s study supported Edmundson’s (2009) study that, “e-learning courses are cultural artifacts, embedded with the cultural values, preferences, characteristics, and nuances of the culture that designed them, and inherently creating challenges for learners from other cultures” (p. 42).  These studies concluded that it is extremely important to take a developed learning program and make it relevant and culturally appropriate.  As teachers at PA Cyber it is important to consider the multiple cultural backgrounds in each class.  For example, a few years ago I taught a lesson about celebrations to my third graders.  The curriculum did a fantastic job of discussing celebrations in many cultures (some that I had never heard of). However, I also asked students to share their own cultural celebrations.  I was pleasantly surprised with all that I learned from my own students.  They taught me celebrations and traditions, food and customs, that I was unaware existed in my classroom.  This was an experience I will never forget and has made me more aware of my classroom community.  In an online learning session it is easy to overlook cultural differences, but as Uzuner explains and many studies distinguish, it is imperative to be more aware of the curriculum and the students’ cultures in each classroom you teach. 
Edmundson, A. (2009). Culturally accessible e-learning: An overdue global business imperative.
Retrieved May 15, 2009, from http://www.astd.org/LC/2009/0509_edmundson.htm
Selinger, M. (2004). Cultural and pedagogical implications of a global e-learning programme.
Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(2), 223-239.

Jim Mello

October 24, 2012

A cultural disconnect, exampled in language, has been found to inhibit academic success and performance, even at the graduate education level (Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzales, & Mason, 2001).  International students taking distance learning courses at institutions in the United States also experienced feelings of being disconnected to the majority culture (Shattuck, 2005).

In online learning today, technological infrastructure and virtual connectedness cannot address all of the cultural and social issues of the classroom.  Learners still come to the classroom as individuals with cultural and social identities that need to be expressed.  The presence of an online learning environment does not create a brand new and isolated cultural environment; the online classroom mirrors the face-to-face classroom and requires teachers and learners to identify, acknowledge, and express their personal values, perspectives, and assets.  A failure to do so is not really a learning environment but instead implies a channel of indoctrination and uniformity foreign to most positive and nurturing classrooms.

Shattuck, K. (2005). Cultures meeting cultures in online distance education: Perceptions of international adult learners of the impact of culture when taking online distance education courses designed and delivered by an American University.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

Goodfellow, R., Lea, M., Gonzales, F., & Mason, R. (2001).  Opportunity and e-quality: Intercultural and linguistic issues in global online learning. Distance Education, 9(4), 449-461.

Nicolette Bukta

October 26, 2012

Gouthro (2004) investigated Jamaican and Canadian women’s distance learning experiences in a graduate level adult education program. Although findings of this study were interpreted
from a gender perspective, a significant cultural issue emerged: both groups‟ cultural expectations regarding women’s roles in the home did limit their learning, participation, and engagement in ALNs. In light of this finding, Gouthro wrote, “distance educators teaching in higher education need to be aware of the complex circumstances in which women learners come to participate, and be attentive to power issues around gender and culture in the classroom and in the homeplace” (p. 459)
I find this citing of evidence most interesting in the Uzuner research review, especially as it focuses on gender roles.  I feel that in my current position I see this daily trend with young women especially at a high school level. Women because of their gender often do sometimes have an immediate disadvantage.  Often women are left as caregivers which is a huge distraction. 

I understand this is more evident (gender issues with women in post secondary programs) in an adult level program, however I do see this trend appear in high school aged girls.  Many girls that have teenage pregnancies attend cyber schools.  These girls do not want to walk through their traditional school halls pregnant or become a “spectacle” as many peers would make it.  Also, sometimes traditional schools offer alternative education programs as an option for pregnant students and this becomes more of a hassle for the expecting mothers as they feel alienated from their class.
When these students finally become mothers they are trying to complete course work while tending to their infant child. Oftentimes these students are living with a parent or parents that work.  Or these girls are doubling up with friends or their boyfriend/husband.  Either way the day to day demands of their lives does affect their performance and focus in the classroom.  Even the demands of an online environment sometimes proves to be too much and student’s end up dropping out or obtaining a GED. 
In this sense distance learning does have the same aliments that plague traditional schools regarding young women in this particular situation.  I find that it takes a great amount of emotional support in the young woman’s life to get her through the extremely hard time where she may feel overwhelmed. This is not mentioning student mother’s who are learning disabled or need additional assistance.  For students that are young mothers that finish school with a high school diploma that is nothing sort of a miracle.  Therefore, when teachers are assigned a student who is a young mother or expecting mother we must give them some leeway and try to support them as much as possible, giving them hope to finish when they feel hopeless. This situation transcends both distance learning as well as traditional learning enviornments.

Darlene RADANOVICH

October 28, 2012

Cultural “differences” are complicated by differences in status and power between cultures. When one cultural group has more power and status, the norms of that culture permeate the institutions of society as the “right” way. Cultures of less status and power become seen as “other” or even deviant and deficient.
When knowledge is embedded in the dominant culture, learners who are foreign to that culture lose their motivation to understand it. The frustration felt by a Chinese student in Thompson and Ku’s (2005) study as a result of being unable to understand the cultural references used by her American peers in online discussions is a case in point.

Researchers express that online instructors should be more sensitive to cultural issues and become aware of variations in students’ learning strategies and avoid adopting a one size fits all approach when viewing processes of learning for their students in ALNs.

Using focus group interviews and student surveys/assessments can help educators get to know
students as individuals and can help them create curriculum that meets the needs of a diverse population.

Incorporating Performance-based or Collaborative type learning brings down the barriers, encouraging creativity and innovation, discussion/opinion, opportunities to share ideas, and apply critical thinking skills. Prior knowledge/personal experiences are brought to the table connecting students to their classmates, creating common ground. Communication, compromise, and mutual respect are also generated as part of the learning process.
Even though distance learning doesn’t provide a physical space to meet with your fellow students, most online courses do provide chat rooms or forums where you can meet and talk with your classmates. Taking advantage of these message boards, as well as email and instant messaging software can help students get to know students taking their class. Students can also form online study groups.
I have never taught Asian students, but I have been in college classes with them, and for the most part, they are highly motivated, assertive and competitive. Asian children are raised and conditioned to be disciplined, respectful, and have good work ethics. In a diverse classroom setting, whether it is traditional or online, every student needs to feel valued and inclusive.
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).
How to Stay Motivated Retrieved by http://www.learn-source.com/education/motivation.html

Amanda Peduzzi

October 28, 2012

The problems that students and teachers face in both brick and mortar and online schools are very similar, however I believe the cultural differences are more prevalent in online schools.  Students that live around the same area, know the same surroundings, and are familiar with their communities’ way of life all attend the same brick and mortar school.  Their cultural differences are few and far between. In an online school like PA Cyber, we have students from the entire state enrolling and attending our school.  This can pose a potential issue because what one student may be familiar with and used to another student may not have that same familiarity and prior knowledge.  That’s why it is very important for online teachers to be culturally responsive. It’s also important for them to activate prior knowledge for those that may have it and build prior knowledge for those that don’t in order to bridge that gap.
In Uzuner’s review, “Thompson and Ku (2005) explored seven Chinese graduate students’ online learning experiences in an American university. One of the key findings of this study was that the participants were less critical and opinionated in online discussions than their US peers.”  This is a very similar issue to that I described above.  The same issues can arise when people from different backgrounds and cultures work together in the same class.  It can definitely have some problems that need to be worked out but if done properly, not only can the students learn the material in class but they can also learn similarities and differences to that of other cultures and how to work together when working towards a common goal.
I see these findings in PK-12 online learning today still happening because we will always have people in our classes that are different than us.  We will always have students that are individual learners.  What is normal for one family is not for another. Just as Miller says, we need to practice culturally responsive teaching in order to best meet the needs of all our students, because “if the style of learning online is not as diverse as the students, then the powerful technology that is used in online learning is useless” (Miller, 2011).

References:
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Katie McGuire

October 28, 2012

Citing:

Smith, Coldwell, Smith, and Murphy’s (2005) survey research explored the similarities and differences between Australian and Chinese undergraduate students’ engagement in online discussions. The findings indicated that compared to their Australian peers, Chinese students were less engaged in critical thinking in their posts. Smith et al. (2005)  noted that “the lower number of intellectual postings may not indicate that these students had less to say, but that they were constrained in saying it, possibly further compounded by the fact that the discussion was in English” (p. 131). This study also found that Chinese students displayed a higher level of anxiety in ALNs than their Australian counterparts over issues such as course requirements and assessment, and they showed a strong need for transparency in course structure. This finding echoed another survey report by Smith and Smith (1999), which indicated that Chinese heritage students tend to display more anxiety than Australian students in terms of their general approaches to learning.

Effect for online learning

When reading the article, I was very surprised when reading this statistic. As a society we have always put the “asian” ethnicity on a pedastol. It was surprising to find that australians engaged in more online learning discussion, while the Chineese had a lower number of postings. I thought this would be a great piece to site being that this is what we do every week in our online program. At PA Cyber, we engage in online discussion everyday, whether it be in the virtual classroom or just an online tutoring session. After reading this article, it took me back to a conversation I had with a teacher that I was resourcing for. We had both noticed, that with the cultural difference of the students in the class, it was more difficult to understand some than others. There is the language barrier, the struggle during group work between the students, and the academic lag.  We have to face that when students have a different cultural background, there is going to be learning defecits. In an online school, I believe we need to do a better job of recognizing this issue and addressing it so that our students can be and will be successful. 

Jill Morrison

October 29, 2012

Research done by Al Harthi, (2005), of 6 Arab students in US online class, (ALN), uncovered fear and anxiety because independent learning is not compatable with the Arab culture of high uncertainty avoidance.  Also observed was that this group participated less, due to the importance of modesty in this culture.  Interactions between genders also created difficulty.

Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the

United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6(3), 1-14.

Although I work with elementary students, I have discovered cultural differences in our classroom, just as Al Harthi discovered in the research he did with Graduate students.  Group work with this culture is difficult at first.  I could do a comercial for cooperative learning and want my students to also enjoy doing it, so when I had a student who was very bright, not contribute cooperatively, I did some research myself.  I have found that sharing traditions in our classroom community is a great first step.

Kristina Williams

October 29, 2012

The Quantitative Studies included in the article “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” by Sedef Uzuner discusses a survey produced by Smith, Coldwell, Smith, and Murphy (2005) to review the differences and similarities of online discussions between Chinese and Australian college students.  The survey showed that Chinese students were less engaged, showing little involvement in discussion, which could be from the language barriers. The survey also showed that Chinese students had higher levels of anxiety over the Australian students.  Being a Virtual Classroom co-teacher and an Instructional Supervisor for The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School I see many students with self-confidence issues causing high levels of anxiety to stay engaged and participate in certain activities.  Through all grade levels, all genders, all ethnicities, and all races some students show a lack of engagement over others.  It is the educators responsibility to make these students feel comfortable and confident that they are able to participate and provide insight.  Many students do not submit assignments for some courses because they feel that they did not grasp the content.  Some students, refuse to participate in class discussions, but they would rather type what they chose to say so they are not heard by all.  Lack of participation through online discussions and communication is an ongoing issue that affects many.  Providing students with feedback will help them gain more confidence in engagement.
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved from:
http://franciscan.blackboard.com .

Julianne Helfrich

October 29, 2012

One of the mixed method studies in “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” focused on Mexican and American students and their views of online group process and development.  The surveys and focus group interviews that were used in this study revealed that American students did not show as much affection, compassion, and emotion in online group processes as their Mexican peers.  This finding can be considered to be directly related to the importance of care and affection in Mexican culture (Hosftede, 1980).  I found this interesting since it shows that culture no longer refers to only nationality and ethnicity.  “Culture encompasses the patterns shaped by ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, geography, profession, ideology, gender, and lifestyle” (Branch, 1993).  The Mexican students’ tendency to be more compassionate in their group interaction is a reflection of their lifestyle, not just ethnicity.

Working at an online school, I can definitely see cultural differences that reach beyond ethnicity—especially lifestyle and religion.  I do not know the ethnicity of many of my students, but I have students who are uncomfortable communicating in certain ways, students who miss school for various holidays celebrated by different religions, students who have no problem helping their peers and coming to me for assistance, and others who are hesitant to do so.  This article gave me a lot of new insight; I admit that I have had a limited idea of multiculturalism.  From the research reviewed in the article, it is truly evident that “every person and human group is both cultural and multicultural” (Uzuner, 2009).

References:

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research

Review. Retrieved from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com .

Jessica Campbell

October 30, 2012

In Uzuner’s review of literature, he discusses Tu’s 2001 study and Zhao and McDougall’s 2000 study of Chinese graduate, online learners in both the United States and Canada.  Tu discovered that these learners’ cultural heavily used social media and interactive online learning. He found that these learners thrived because of this in the United States.  Interestingly, Zhao and McDougall found an almost opposite outcome for the Chinese learners in Canada.  They found that their culture hindered their ability to thrive with the use of technology in the Canadian education system.
When using online learning technologies, we must make sure that we not only understand the culture that our students are from, but make sure the students understand what is expected of them when coming into the online learning world.  When sharing this information up front, confusion will not be a problem that can alter a student’s ability to thrive in another culture.

Nicole O'Connor

October 30, 2012

I found the following study particularly interesting. This study is important in recognizing what motivates students and how their culture affects their participation in discussion. This study alerts teachers to the fact that a student may provide less input in an online conversation because of the authoritarian structure of their native culture’s educational structure.

Study Citation:

Lim (2004) used surveys to compare 236 undergraduate and graduate students online learning motivation by country. Students enrolled in online courses at four Korean universities (N = 95) and an American university (N = 141) were the participants. The findings were that regardless of the country affiliation, all students considered course relevancy (belief that a particular course matches a student’s needs) as the most important motivational factor in their online learning. The differences between the two groups were that while American students indicated they “prefer Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review Uzuner voicing personal opinions during class, enjoy learning and enroll in classes to obtain a sense of belonging,” Korean students expressed their tendency to “avoid voicing their opinions and keep passive and quiet during class as they are influenced by the authoritarian classroom context of Asian culture” (169-170). These findings supported Lim’s contention that cultural orientation influences national groups learning motivation in ALNs. (pp. 7).

Online K-12 Implications Today:

This study is relevant to today’s online learning environment because as programs become international and as learning shifts to collaborative in nature, the online educators must be aware of differences in culture such as these. It is important to note where a student is coming from before assuming a lack of participation means a lack in interest or motivation. It is the educator’s job to ensure all members of the class feel comfortable contributing to the discussion. In countries where elders are respected and in a sense feared, the “teacher as facilitator” role in the U.S. may take some getting used to. Proper training of educators, and research such as the one mentioned above will help in making this happen.

Megan Conneen

October 30, 2012

Wang (2007) performed a study to conclude the differences between Chinese, Korean, and American students “in terms of their motivation to participate in online discussions, perceptions of online team work, and comfort level in approaching their online instructors” (Uzuner, pg 9).  The results of this were interesting and yet showed that culture had a large impact on learning online.  Korean and Chinese reported participation in online discussion boards strictly as a course requirement, whereas American students reported participation was in discussion boards was enjoyable.  All three cultural groups found individual online work boring, unsatisfying, unable to be related to, and challenging, however, Korean students were found to be the least comfortable working in groups online.  Americans were found frequently discussing assignments with their professors and had a high level of comfort doing so whereas Korean and Chinese students felt uncomfortable approaching their teachers.

Since I do no teach virtually, it makes it difficult to relate fully to Wang’s study.  However, I do work with people who teach virtually and agree and see what Wang was talking about in their virtual classrooms.  I spoke with one individual that I work with and they stated that they often see a difference in students however she does not know the ethnicity of her students because she cannot see them, she can only hear their voice.  She notices when she teaches that there are some students who enjoy talking, solving problems, and conversing and working with peers.  On the other hand, she also notices a few who seem shy and do not participate in group discussions or group work.  She cannot assume, however, that these potentially shy students are of Korean or Chinese decent.  All she knows is that some student enjoy participating and some do not.  I could determine, in a way, that Wang’s study is shown here in regards to students participating and students not participating.  However, the ethnicities of these students are unknown because they are taught virtually.

When teaching a diverse class, whether it be virtually or in an actual classroom, it is important for teachers to remember the everyone learns differently.  Teachers must be prepared for an extreme diverse population and must know different ways to teach students.  How one student learns will not necessarily be how another student learns.  It is crucial for teachers to do whole class work, small group work, and one on one work to ensure all students are gaining proper knowledge of a skill being taught.  Despite the ethnicity, race, age, color, every student deserves a fair education from a skilled and knowledgeable teacher.  Culturally responsive online teachers identify and use culture in everyday curriculum.


Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review
Sedef Uzuner
State University of New York at Albany, USA

Wang, M. (2007) Designing online courses that effectively engage learners from diverse cultural
backgrounds. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(2), 294-311.

Michelle Miller

October 30, 2012

One of the studies in Sedef Uzuner was on six Arabic students doing online learning in the United States. Arabics are very reserved people. They do not let their emotions show and they are more reserved. They feel that putting yourself out there is showing off. In online learning, students are expected to be involved in discussions and opening up because they are not in the classroom to be seen. “These students were more standoffish because of their culture. Other cultural factors that interfered with the students’ successful ALN learning were found to be feelings of shame originating from Arab culture’s social restrictions on the interactions between genders and communication difficulties with instructors arising from students’ fear of confrontation with authority figures” (Uzuner). Women are looked at in the Arabic culture to be see and not hear in public. They are viewed to be under men. They are not to speak out what they think or believe in public. This would be hard for the men to be able to grasp with the women in this graduate program.
This is a good example of culture in distance learning. As teachers we need to be aware of our students’ culture, and how they will interact in class. At the Clicks and Bricks program I work at for PA Cyber, we have many Islamic students that come. The one girl student we have is extremely smart. She has a hard time interacting with other students outside of the classroom, such as lunch or gym. It took her a while to interact with them, but she still doesn’t always want to participate. She hardly communicates in her classes. She is quiet and polite. We need to understand her culture to be able to understand why she does not communicate in her classes as much as other students. Teachers will deduct points for this, but if they had an understanding of her culture than they need to be willing to look at her participation in other ways. We need to be aware of our students and how they learn because of their culture.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research revie . The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/690/1273

K. Brentzel

October 30, 2012

In the article “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” by Sedef Uzuner , Lim (2004) conducted a survey of Korean and American graduate and under graduate students participating in online courses. During this survey Lim (2004) noted that regardless of the country the student was from, all 236 students agreed that course relevancy was the most important factor in online learning (Uzuner, p.8). Lim (2004) does note that there were differences among the two stating that Americans enjoyed participating in class while the Korean students preferred to keep to themselves (Uzuner, p.8).

In addition to Lim’s study, Liang and McQueen’s (2000) study displayed that Asian students hold their thoughts back incase their teacher or their peers do not favor what they have to say (Uzuner, p.11). Thus as teachers, we need to ensure that there are opportunities for students to participate in an environment that does not critique or judge one’s thoughts but rather respects and accepts them. This would help to ensure that students both from Lim’s and Liang and McQueen’s studies were able to contribute to the class in a comfortable manner.

Working in my online environment, I often do not know the ethnicity of many of my students, unless I enter a program to look the specific information up or the student has explicitly informed me. However, I can see both of the claims I stated above relevant in my online classrooms. Much like the 236 students from Lim’s 2004 study my students would all agree that the content being delivered to them needs to be relevant, which is often my job in the delivery method. I have the students who are shy and do not want to participate by talking and those that volunteer for everything I ask for. Although one could speculate on the ethnicity of the volunteers and those who would rather type their notes, neither is unanimous in ethnicity. I believe allowing students in the online classroom to write their answers down in the chat box so only I can see helps to create that safe environment as well as pull the students who would much rather keep to themselves into the ‘discussion’. I was able, when reading this article and throughout the learning session, to make more sense of certain aspects in my classroom that I did not fully understand before and now the light bulb has gone off.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved from:

http://franciscan.blackboard.com .

Charles Ayre

October 31, 2012

I agree one hundred percent with Uzuner’s statement “Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences.”  I can concur with Uzuner because working at PA Cyber, evidence shows problems with cultural differences do arise in this type of distant setting.  PA Cyber is a school spread over the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This means that a teacher from Pittsburgh, PA may have a group of students from Philadelphia, PA or Lancaster, PA.  Students who reside in these exemplar settings may come from a culture completely foreign to the teacher who has never been exposed to these particular areas.

One particular study I found interesting from the research was the three recommendations provided by Thompson and Ku (2005).  I found these points crucial because they are suggested based on prior knowledge and research.  First, educators must get to know their students.  Sending pictures, posting background knowledge, and citing interests help with the introduction process.  Next, student to student communication is essential whether it be via email, collaboration sessions, or blogs.  Finally, face to face discussions should take place when possible.

I see these findings very important, especially in lower grade levels because students love to do these types of things.  These all promote self-esteem, socialization, ice breakers, and an exposure to cultural diversity amongst students as well as the teacher.  Younger students want to be able to put a face to names online while older students become intrigued to learn about their peers’ backgrounds and history.


Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research revie . The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Thompson, L., & Ku, H.  (2005).  Chinese graduate students’ experiences and attitudes toward online learning.  Educational Media International, 42(1), 33-47.

Brandy Napoli

October 31, 2012

I must agree 100% with Uzuner that distance learning faces cultural conflicts.  As an employee of PA Cyber, I am familiar with a large population of different backgrounds.  While different nationalities and races enroll at PA Cyber at a higher rate than brick and mortar schools in Pennsylvania, we also face challenges in differing lifestyles.  For instance, as student from inner-city Philadelphia may not be familiar with the requirements of a student that has to wake up early to handle farm duties in New Wilmington on the western side of the state.  As a teacher, these same issues impact me and my teaching style.  I must find ways to engage students from many different backgrounds and be sure that the learning is meaningful to all of them.
One particular study in the article by Uzuner that grabbed my attention was the one performed by Liang and McQueen (2000).  This examined the impact of email communication on learning outcomes.  This study showed that Asian students valued teacher input more than peer input and only valued peer-to-peer interaction when it assisted and impacted their learning.  However, the study showed that Western students were open to the ideas of learning online from peers, and they also felt that their personal, emotional, and intellectual skills benefited from this communication (2004, p. 9).
I found this study to be interesting because the main form of communication between teacher and student outside of face to face during class is email.  Since students do not see each other on a daily basis, any cooperative work that is done outside of class is often completed through email.  Understanding that some students may not value feedback and interaction through that platform causes me to question and brainstorm other methods of communication when asking students to work cooperatively, provide feedback to one another, and communicate.  It’s important that I, as an online instructor, provide opportunities that will create meaningful learning situations for all students.
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com.

Amy Nyeholt

October 31, 2012

Sedef Uzuner (2009), in his article, “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review,” portrays a solid view on the study of cultural implications of collectivism and individualism as they affect the role of education and e-learning.

One such study that Uzuner (2009) references pertains to Anakwe and Christensen’s (1999) investigation of the “differences arising from individualistic and collectivistic cultural orientations” and their impact on compatibility and interaction in the classroom.  Out of the students that were surveyed, the research showed that the students that were part of a collectivist culture engaged less in ALN models than those students who grew up in an individualistic society (Anakwe and Christensen, 1999). Connecting this evidence with Uzuner’s study of mixed methodologies, Selinger (2004) studied the nature of United States created ALN programs. The study showed that curriculums and ALN programs created by individualistic societies like the United States are, as Edmundson (2009) described, “cultural artifacts, embedded with cultural values, preferences, characteristics, and nuances of culture that designed them, and inherently creating challenges for learners from other cultures” (p.  42).These two studies promote Uzuner’s (2009) idea that cultures that are formed differently learn differently.

The juxtaposition of these two ideas that Uzuner (2009) provides through research manifests itself daily in the virtual learning environment, as well as other learning environments. As teachers who come from a particular culture, race, or community, we believe that learning works in our particular structure. That is how we were taught, so in many ways we believe that those strategies work. However, understanding the beauty of diversity, specifically relating to individualistic and collectivistic societies, should promote a variety of teaching strategies teachers should be implementing. ALN’s are specifically modified for the individual, which is why we have structures called “self-paced” learning. It directly affects the motivations of students used to a focus of the “self.” Students in the United States who come from collectivist cultures may not experience the same benefits as those students who grew up more individualistically. By understanding these differences, teachers can affect change in the strategies utilized in the classroom to promote learning and motivation of both the collectivist and the individualist, based upon the research of Uzuner (2009).

Anakwe, U. P., & Christensen, E. W. (1999). Distance learning and cultural diversity: Potential users‟ perspective. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 7(3), 224-243.

Selinger, M. (2004). Cultural and pedagogical implications of a global e-learning programme.Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(2), 223-239.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. Retrieved from: http://franciscan.blackboard.com.

Sarah Loeliger

October 31, 2012

Many times there are outside issues or situations that take away from the learning processes in cyber education, whether in higher education or in the k-12 setting. In Sedef Uzuner’s article Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review a study that was researched that looked at woman and the circumstances that took away from their education. In Gouthro’s research, problems that would arise in their home life would result in lack of participation and engagement in learning situations and participation in ALNs. I believe that this does relate to the point the Uzner is trying to get through to readers, which is that in cyber or online education educators and learners are already put at a disadvantage. In the quote provided, the culture to which these students are in could relate back to the culture of their home life and surroundings. Is their home life working towards positive reinforcement or is their home life susceptible to negative situations that lead to a lack of learning? 

I believe this is true of cyber education in the k-12 setting offered in the United States. Often time’s students are either learning or participating in settings that are less than ideal for learning to occur. Excuses can also range from having to attend sporting or family events to which education was put second. Being that their education happens solely at home students also can have problems when attending class if their electricity or internet begins act up. Parents also do not help when it comes to these situations of making and providing excuses for their student’s lack of work in their natural cultural setting. Overall, the studies researched by Uzner and particularly Gouthro’s research on women and how their home life can affect online learning can easily be related back to the current online learning structure today.

Gouthro, P. A. (2004). Assessing power issues in Canadian and Jamaican women‟s experiences
in learning via distance in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 9(4), 449-461.

Phil Mackin

November 1, 2012

Uzuner’s statement about online learning replicating but also further polarizing the cultural disconnects seems accurate when considering the following studies.

Uzuner (2009) discusses the difficulty of considering the multiple cultures within an online course, however, according to the Shattuck (2005) and Walker-Fernandez (1999) studies, the difficulty increases when the the student is taking a foreign online course while stilll “situated in their local cultures” (p. 5) either linguistically or physically.  There is a disconnect due to the dominating culture’s impact on the pedagogy and structure of the online course.  Students have a hard time feeling welcomed or part of that learning community.

I can not relate well to this situation because I have yet to have a foreign online student, but I can see that it places a limit on distance learning, especially synchronous courses.  Location on the globe can be a major obstacle in creating community, and if communication is challenging then it will delay the success of that learning community.  Teachers must work with students to create an online classroom culture that incorporates the numeous facets of each students’ culture.  What the teacher’s responsibility is is to oberve and respond by shaping the classroom to the students’ strengths and needs. 

Leah Velto

November 1, 2012

Edmundson, A. (2009). Culturally accessible e-learning: An overdue global business imperative. ‘Would you distribute the documentation for a new software product a year after the product had been released? Your first response would be “No, of course not” but in the world of workplace learning and performance, companies do it all the time: Global support for employees and their training is usually an afterthought.”
There is a great risk in globalization efforts in companies if they do not train the workforce to recognize the impact of cultural differences on the success of their business. Our trends today in the US are negative to some points of globalization due to outsourcing. But globalization “eLearning” emphasized by Edmundson is an important tool for training the work for the first time. Four areas of importance are(1) Translation so the meaning can be understood despite language barriers;(2) Localization encourages similar user interfaces created for modularization;(3) Modularization is the information explained in different formats, teaching techniques or media with a clear platform of objectives;(4) Origination efforts to start from scratch analyzing the cultural users and targeted learners.
Across cultural and language barriers are social and cultural differences with the ability to work and collaborate across borders to achieve investments in the success of business in this global economy.

Whitney Conjeski

November 1, 2012

Sedef Uzuner (2009), in his article, “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review,” examines many studies that looked at the influence of culture on students’ learning and engagement in asynchronous learning networks.
One such study that Uzuner (2009) references pertains to Lim (2004) who surveyed two hundred and thirty six undergraduate and graduate students , some in a Korean University and others from a University in the United States.  Lim (2004) was looking at online course and the personal course relevancy.  His findings were that all students considered course relevancy as the most important motivational factor in their online learning.  A difference he found was that “while American students indicated they ‘prefer voice personal opinions during class, enjoy learning and enroll in classes to obtain a sense of belonging’, Korean students expressed their ‘tendency to avoid voicing their opinions and keep passive and quiet during class as they are influenced by the authoritarian classroom context of Asian culture.’”
Lim’s (2004) idea, as mentioned in Uzuner’s (2009), directly relates to the online learning community.  Many students that choose the online learning environment can relate to either the American students or the Korean students, in regards to their beliefs of online learning.  However, many people look to online learning as strictly antisocial learning; online learning takes on many different formats, with asynchronous and synchronous available.  As Lim (2004) presented, by understanding the differences of asynchronous and synchronous online learning one would see that distance learning still has the same overall positive effect, course relevancy.
Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).
Lim, D. H. (2004). Cross cultural differences in online learning motivation.  Educational Media International, 41(2), 163-175.

A. Crook

November 1, 2012

In the article “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review,” Sedef Uzuner reviews studies that were conducted that focused on distance learning in regards to various aspects of culture.  One study focusing on culture was conducted by Fang.  This study examined different levels of cultures on distance learning environments and experiences with Singaporean Chinese students.  Some of these levels of cultures were national culture, ethnic culture, and cyber culture.  The results showed that students who were influenced by their national culture valued achievement in learning.  “The students cared less for fun and exciting activities” (p. 6). Their ethnic culture showed that the students would rather have feedback from teachers than their peers.  Their cyber culture showed that the students “appreciated the convenience, flexibility, and social benefits” (p. 6).

In relation to K-12 online learning, I feel that this study had some similarities and differences.  The students had similarities, in my opinion, in comparison with K-12 students today in regards to their cyber culture.  I think that students who work in online environments definitely value those same qualities.  It is convenient because they can be at home to participate, it is flexible because many students can have access to schoolwork 24/7, and they have social benefits of working with peers in various technological formats.  In relation to their ethnic culture, our culture is heavily influenced by social status.  The teacher may be older and wiser, but to many students, they are mainly concerned with what their friends think.  I do feel that students want feedback from their teacher, but are more concerned with what their peers might say or think.  Lastly, in comparison to the national culture, I feel that students in our culture differ from the Chinese in that students here value fun and exciting activities.  I know that we as teachers are always looking for ways to incorporate games or fun activities into lessons in an effort to motivate and engage students.  We try to incorporate “fun” as much as possible so that we can interest the students.

Fang, L. (2007). Perceiving the useful, enjoyable, and effective: A case study of the e-learning experience of tertiary students in Singapore. Educational Media International, 44(3), 237-253.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10 (3), 1-19.

Jen Blum

November 1, 2012

In Questions or Culture in Distance Learning:  A Research Review, Sedef Uzuner reviews past research that focused on questions of culture in distance learning.  Eight of the 27 studies reviewed employed mixed-methods, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to collect and analyze data. 

Kim and Bonk’s (2002) cross-cultural study examined the differences in Finnish, Korean, and American undergraduate pre-service teachers’ online collaborative behaviors.  It was noted in this study that each group behaved differently in Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs).  For example the Finnish and American students were task-oriented, but differed in the way they participated in discussions.  Finnish students were concerned with theory and demonstrated a higher level of reflection, while American students were concerned less with theory and more with practice.  Korean students were contextually-driven and demonstrated the highest level of social interaction behaviors among the groups studied.  This study also showed that social presence is the key for the success of students from context dependent cultures. 

In my present job as Instructional Supervisor, I work with families of different cultures, but do not have the opportunity to teach them in learning environments.  In my past experience in the regular classroom, however, I have taught students from many different countries and cultures in my 2nd grade classroom.  I taught students from Korea, Germany, Pakistan, and Canada.  I found that the best way to include the students’ cultures was to create a community of learners that felt safe to share and appreciate differences.  When the boy from Germany entered my class, I had him teach our class how to count in German.  When we studied about animals in science, I would have him teach the students names of animals in German.  Also in social studies class, when we learned about different cultures, I had families participate in projects including such things as coming into class to share about their culture, making foods from their culture, and sharing other information.  This was very valuable in the traditional classroom setting.  Somehow, in distance learning, we must ‘tap in’ to such ideas and learn from one another. 

The most important rule for teachers that I was taught at Grove City College is to KNOW your students.  I think this definitely applies here.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research revie . The International Review     of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Kim, K. J., & Bonk, C.J. (2002).  Cross-cultural comparisons of online collaboration among pre-service teachers in Finland, Korea, and the United States.  Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(1).
 

Carie Booher

November 1, 2012

Sedef Uzuner (2009), in his article, “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review,” Uzner provides a comprehensive collective study relating how cultural factors influence students’ learning in asynchronous learning networks.

Chen Hsu, and Caropreso (2006) conducted a study of 15 graduate students (10 American and 5 Taiwanese) detailing how culture influenced their learning behaviors during online collaboration through both qualitative and quantitative analysis.  They collected data on online messages in discussion forums using surveys.  The findings uncovered cultural-based differences in both groups collaborative processes and communication.  American students preferred individualized tasks in collaborative assignments and communication emphasized content and was concise.  Taiwanese students exhibited preferences for toward overall group behavior and longer more expressive emotional communication patterns that related to personal experiences.  Most noteworthy in this investigation was that the cultural differences were found to create tension at times between the groups while working together online.  They found that the Taiwanese students construed the American students’ responses as being aggressive and the American’s viewed the Taiwanese students’ responses as reluctant and passive.

In PK12 online learning today, the implications of misinterpreting communication in ALN’s due to culturally diverse factors is inevitable .  Without attempting to fully understand differing cultures we cannot help but loose something in the translation when collaborating in this format.  It happens frequently within same cultures through communicating in text and email so it is easy to see how adding a cultural divide such as in this particular study can be a detriment in ALN’s.  Educators and students must be prepared to learn not just the content instructed but also learn the people that we are collaborating in an attempt to alleviate these types of issues.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Chen, S., Hsu, C., & Caropreso, E.J. (2006). Cross-cultural collaborative online learning: When the West meets the East, International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning 2(1), 17-35.

Ryan Miller

November 2, 2012

One of the most interesting pieces of research I saw in this article was the study on the differences between Jamaican and Canadian women’s learning differences in connection with online education (Uzuner, pg 5, 2009). In Patricia Gouthro’s research, she found that student’s cultural expectations and differences in their home environment impacted their learning (Gouthro, 2004).

Although this research was focused on female learners, I think it applies to all learners. I think it can also be taken from the limitations of viewing this issue in light of nationality and moved to the context of class. Students who experience different roles and expectations in their homes based on their social status will also likely carry these expectations into their learning environment.

As educators, it is hard to know all of the backgrounds that our students start from. Online learning only compounds this problem because we cannot see students and therefore cannot beghin to make good guesses at situations or feelings from seeing our students.

Gouthro, P. A. (2004). Assessing power issues in Canadian and Jamaican women‟s experiences in learning via distance in higher education.

        in Higher Education, 9(4), 449-461.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. International review of research in open and distance learning, 10(3), Retrieved from https://franciscan.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU541OL_4I/Questions of Culture in Distance Learning.pdf

Lauren Esola

November 2, 2012

Biesenbach-Lucas (2003) conducted a study on the attitudes and behaviors of Americans and non-American students, who were mainly from Asian cultures, in asynchronous discussions.  The study found that American and non-American students avoided expressing disagreement with others which may be attributed to cultural factors.  The non-American students may have considered challenging or criticizing others’ ideas culturally inappropriate, or they may not know how to express their disagreements appropriately in English (Biesenbach-Lucas, 2003). 

The study conducted by Biesenbach-Lucas emphasized how cultural differences may affect student learning and engagement.  In K-12 online learning today students from different cultures may experience similar issues when asked to participate in blog posts asynchronously, or peer reviews/ discussions synchronously.  In my 6th grade English class I have noticed many students struggle with criticizing work or expressing disagreements.  Upon further review I hope to discover if some of these issues arise from cultural differences.  Teachers who rely heavily on discussion and critiques should take special note of cultural differences and work to structure feedback and model appropriate responses.  Instructors should make sure that all students feel comfortable and safe to share opinions.  In my classroom I plan to work towards having more structure to peer feedback, setting clear expectations, and offering models for appropriate responses. 

Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2003).  Asynchronous discussion groups in teacher training classes: Perceptions of native and non-native students.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3), 24-46.

Hilary O'Toole

November 2, 2012

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” –  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” - Sedef Uzuner

More specifically, Uzuner goes on to talk about a study conducted between Australian and non-Australian learners in asyncronys learning networks (ALNs). In the study, “The findings revealed that international students differed from Australian students in terms of their perceptions of and satisfaction with their ALN experiences. Specifically, international students experienced more challenges with technological aspects of online learning and more isolation in ALNs than their Australian peers”
This does not necessarily mean that the non-Australian students were unfamiliar with the technology, but rather it may mean that they were not brought up in an online environment or using technology as a learning tool. It could be that Australia places more emphasis on online laerning tools. This could be for any number of reasons, or perhaps because they are a country on their own continent, cut off from the rest of the world. In order to learn new experiences, their teachers may have made early decisions to utilize the tools available to help students understand the world better. It could also mean that the teachers themselves may be more worldly and experienced, thus passing these traits on to their students in different, creative ways.

In realation to PK-12, this study provides a lot of insight. Teachers should be more open to the tools and technology available. Students will not feel comfortable using a computer a year from now if it is not introduced and learning on it is encouraged. My own son is in Kindergarten and he is already using computers in ways that I didn’t think were possible. He is on them at school and he is learning on them at home. These traits can be taught to children at a young age and then they children will continue to grow and learn and master the tool. Teachers are understanding the importance of introduction at a young age to encourage learning and adaptablity later in life.

Unzer, S. (2009) Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 10(3).

Zac Housley

November 2, 2012

    My current school is not really diverse, but I do have some experience working in a very diverse school district in Deltona, Florida.  One thing I learned very quickly in my teaching career is that the more you understand about the students heritage and family, the more you will be able to connect with them and explore various ways to help them learn to the best of their abilities. 
    Gouthro (2004) investigated Jamaican and Canadian women‟s distance learning experiences in a graduate level adult education program. Although findings of this study were interpreted mainly from a gender perspective, a significant cultural issue emerged: both groups‟ cultural expectations regarding women’s roles in the home did limit their learning, participation, and engagement in ALNs. In light of this finding, Gouthro wrote, “distance educators teaching in higher education need to be aware of the complex circumstances in which women learners come to participate, and be attentive to power issues around gender and culture in the classroom and in the homeplace.”
    I find this study and several others mentioned in Questions of Culture in Distance Learing: A Research Revew by Sedef Uzner to be very enlightening because until you are truly able to learn about the environment and culture your student’s are being raised in, I don’t think you can understand what is holding some of your students back.  A teacher must have a good understanding of the support and importance that family members of a student place on education.
    I don’t have experience teaching in an online school, but I can understand how knowing your students and what their family expectaions are can be very difficult if you never spend much time with the students.  Typically, in a brick and mortar school, the teacher lives in or around the same neighborhood so they have some kind of an understanding of what culture their students are coming from.  This could be a major disadvantage for online educators.

Unzer, S. (2009) Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 10(3).

Valerie Joy Kreilick

November 2, 2012

Uzner explores studies that focus on questions of culture in distance learning as well as provides insights for researchers who desire to investigate cultural dimensions in future studies (Uzner, 2009).Having been a student of the online classroom environment, I know that it is difficult to relate to others culturally unless you can see them face to face, hear their voice, or meet them eye to eye. While reading my peer’s posts and discussions, I catch a glimpse of who they are as a person, but to become culturally responsive in the online world poses a huge barrier. I have worked with many in collaborative projects and did not even know one thing about my fellow cohorts on the other end of the computer screen until we were able to see one another via video conferencing or a multi- line telephone call. This article that questions the culture in distance learning by Uzner is very timely and informative.
Zhao, Lei, Yan, Lai, and Tan (2005) was a study that Uzner highlighted.  These researchers studied the impacting factors of distance education compared without face to face contact and compared it with face to face contact distance education. They found that the either method is still distant education and discovered that cultural diversity problems play a role in distant education as well as face to face education (Zhao, Lei, Yan, Lai & Tan (2005). Groen, Twarek, & Soos-Gonczol provide an excellent recommendation in their article “The Effective Use of Synchronous Classes within an Online Graduate Program”.  They recommend that real-time audio and visual synchronous learning be employed by the utilization of the e-conferencing systems for students in remote geographical locations.  They state that this mode of communication will open the door to those who feel isolated and remote from the community and social presence of the classroom (Groen, Twarek, & Soos-Gonczol, (2008). In conclusion, I believe there would need to be a distinct study on the impact of real –time synchronous learning environments such as the e-conferencing system and how it really impacts the distant learning classroom.  From personal experience as a student, I believe it could help rather than hinder the cultural difference issues that arise and eliminate assumptions that are made about people by their online presence of what they write and discuss in the discussion boards.

References:

Groen, J., Tworek, J., & Soos-Gonczol, M. (2008). The effective use of synchronous classes within an online graduate program: Building upon an interdependent system. International Journal of E-learning, 7(2), 245-263.

Uzuner, S. (2009). International review of research in open and distance learning. Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review, 10(3), Retrieved from https://franciscan.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU541OL_4J/Questions of Culture in Distance Learning.pdf


Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., Lai, C., & Tan, H. S. (2005) What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1836-1884.

Kim

November 3, 2012

Students enrolled in distance learning have removed themselves from “traditional” culture but also interact with people , physically and socially, are a part of different culture. Uzuner writes: 
Other cultural factors that interfered with the students’ successful ALN learning were found to be feelings of shame originating from Arab culture’s social restrictions on the interactions between genders and communication difficulties with instructors arising from students’ fear of confrontation with authority figures.
I teach ESL to arabic learners and some of the setbacks that we face are clearer from reading this research.  Some of my students are worried about using internet and social media, even for educational purpose because it is considered taboo, in particular with the Muslim women that I teach.  I tutor husband and wife pairs that are currently working in our country and an independent company provides assistance for language acquisition skills (which is where I come in).  The husbands send the emails, take care of the class details and scheduling, use the blogs, and participate in the online collaboration.  Many of the muslim women that I tutor are not permitted to do these things and attempt to learn second-hand from their husbands or joining in on their husbands collaboration, which is different from independent learning.  This is a great example of the cultural differences of distance learning education.  I deal with this in the best way that seems polite and professional for me, however, I would love advice from anyone with successful experience. 

Courtney Orio

November 3, 2012

    The study that I looked at was by Roger, Graham and Mayes’ 2007. This study looked at the issue of culture in ALNs from the perspective of instructional design. Through interviews with 12 professionals involved in the design of online courses delivered cross-culturally. Rogers (2007) found that instructional designers’ or instructors’ awareness of the potential differences between cultures does not necessarily mean this knowledge is integrated into the design of online courses.
    The first response that I had was confusion. If these design instructors are creating these online courses and are aware of the differences between cultures, why are they not making sure that they are integrated more effectively into the design of the online courses? If these people are aware then why is there not a bigger emphasis on this in their making of the online courses? As a teacher of five and six year olds, my class is very diverse. I have multiple ethnicities and races that make up my students. I make it a point to create my lessons around these differences. I make sure to not just talk about one cultural, rather address them all so that my students’ understand to the fullest. If we are a society that is so diverse and made up of so many, then this should be applied into the lessons for our students’ to see these differences. I know that with our curriculum that we teach, the online teachers are all a different race. The topics are about countries, languages and ways of life of everyone acorss the world. By doing this, our curriculum benefits each family that attends our school.

Rogers, P.C., Graham, C.R., & Mayes, C.T. (2007). Cultural competence and instructional design: Exploration research into the delivery of online instruction corss-culturally, Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(2), 197-217.

Cheri Furr

November 4, 2012

“Distance Learning Environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences.” Uzuner brings up many interesting points concerning online education and how it effects culture. There are many different students that attend an online environment and the question arises, if cultural differences still exist? Of course, in an online setting there isn’t the face-to-face interaction among students; therefore, creating distance learning.

I believe that Pa Cyber and many traditional brick-and mortar schools cultivate cultural diverstiy and give students the opportunity to express themselves and their beliefs. I think that being a part of an online environment, students can use many tools to interact with one another and learn about each others culture.

Teachers definitely need to be trained with the tools and skills it takes to interact with students of diverse populations in an online setting. The combination of proper training and the use of technology for students and teachers can help strengthen the culture of online learners and keep students engaged at the same time.

Eskridge, K.

September 20, 2013

Sedef Uzuner (2009) states that distance learning may be more prone to cultural conflicts.  I believe this is the case at any grade level.  Research states that it is becoming increasingly important to implement culturally responsive teaching.  While some teachers may agree with this, they still do not do it. 

Selinger (2004) investigated the implementation of a global e-learning program, which is based on Western learning theories, in countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the UK.  Selinger’s study highlighted the importance of training local instructors so they can make a course that is developed in another country (predominantly in the US) culturally and pedagogically relevant to students in their local contexts.

However, teachers may go through courses and training and find them relevant, but not actually take the time or effort to implement the instruction.  Rogers, Graham, and Mayes’ (2007) study, looked at the issue of culture in ALNs from the perspective of instructional designers. Through interviews with 12 professionals involved in the design of online courses delivered cross-culturally, Rogers et al. (2007) found that instructional designers’ or instructors’ awareness of the potential differences between cultures does not necessarily mean this knowledge is integrated into the design of online courses.

In regard to PK-12 online learning today, it is unfortunate that schools do put forth the time, effort, and money to train teachers culturally and pedagogically relevant strategies; however, you will have instructors who may think the training is relevant and important and still not implement it.  It is important for teachers to put theory into practice.

Unzer, S. (2009) Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 10(3).

Jenny Borgman

September 22, 2013

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms…” Uzuner (2009) points out in his review of past research the many cultural challenges facing the online classroom. These challenges vary from culture to culture and could present as difficulty approaching authority or a fear of expressing an opinion differing from the general consensus, for example.

Uzuner (2009) poses a number of suggested practices based on the results and implications of the various research studied. One of the most important practices suggested was that of Morse (2003). This study called attention to how a student’s cultural background strongly determines their skills and experience. Therefore, at the beginning of an online course instructors should be aware of their students’ varying cultural backgrounds, skills, experiences, and learning styles, and should ensure that students are aware that the learning activities of their course may not be what they are accustomed to.

Shattuck (2005) reported that an online learning environment based on the dominant educational practices of the world can be difficult for an international online learner. Uzuner (2009) suggests, then, that online educators should not implement “best practices” from dominant cultures without first becoming aware of the various backgrounds of their students. They will then be able to implement the “best practices” for their unique classroom.


Morse, K. (2003). Does one size fit all? Exploring asynchronous learning in a multicultural environment. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 37-55.

Shattuck, K. (2005). Cultures meeting cultures in online distance education: Perceptions of international adult learners of the impact of culture when taking online distance education courses designed and delivered by an American University. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Lori

September 23, 2013

as teachers, we all face the same problems.  I think it would be harder for the online school teacher to overcome the problems since they don’t meet with their students face to face.

Alyssa

September 23, 2013

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences [and] may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture…” In research into the efficacy of online learning environments, Sedef Uzuner (2009) examines the importance of cultural competency and responsiveness as related to pedagogical practices.

The implications of Unuzer’s research into the cultural implications of online learning environments (2009) poses a unique dilemma for educators. Unlike in a traditional classroom, where an educator is able to visually assess the nuances of verbal and nonverbal communication, an online learning environment poses challenges that may be difficult to overcome. Early in any teaching experience, a teacher typically engages in a number of different assessments in order to gain knowledge of his or her students so instruction is informed and relevant. An online environment may not provide a suitable mode for extracting this information.

Often in my past experiences with online instruction, the instructor has provided a “one size fits all” approach to the coursework. There has been no effort to understand the cultural background, competency levels, prior knowledge, and motivation of the learners. The experience was, essentially, here it is. What you do with it is up to you.

Hannon and D’Netto’s study (2007) substantiates this claim. To be an effective online instructor, it is imperative to be aware of the students’ cultural background, prior experiences and learning styles. Without this knowledge, the learning environment is static.

Hannon, J., & D’Neto, B. (2007). Cultural diversity online: Student engagement with learning technologies. International Journal of Educational Management, 21.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Cole Viscichini

September 24, 2013

I think it is important to keep in mind that the term “culture” can be highly ambiguous. “The concept of culture, as a human construct that is understood in multifarious ways, is elusive and highly contested. Definitions of culture and cultural identity are context dependent and historically or socially located. As Plummer (2008: 486) states human beings are ‘always stuffed full of their culture and history…they must ‘nest’ in a universe of contexts’” (Plummer 2008: 486)(Carter 2011). In a sense, the word “culture” can be applied to any context at all. “For example corporate culture, computer culture, research
culture, popular culture, classroom culture, culture of peace, culture of resistance, democratic culture, theatre culture, university culture, culture of learning and teaching, internet dating culture and so on” (Carter 2011). Although Uzuner 2009 defines “culture” as acquired values and behaviors, the question still remains as to which values and which behaviors can be or should be categorized and taught to/from. It seems online education holds more potential to remove many cultural contexts, more so than it might intensify others. Rather than analyzing the word “culture,” - soon we will have a thousand different cultural methodologies that every teacher must learn - why not simply focus on teaching to individuals. In the process of allowing students to “reconnect to their greatness,” as Fluke Fluker says it, cultural distinctions will likely defer to human choice. The power to define one’s self by one’s choices is much more important concept for children to learn, and is in some ways opposed to a culturally focused teaching method. In other words, do we risk increasing division between human persons if we overemphasize the strengths and weaknesses of their cultures? In a very practical and even political sense, what is more needed in today’s world: additional diversity or greater unanimity? Should not education be geared toward moral action, and if so, should not transcending cultural limitations be a part of education itself? I think these are essential questions.

Carter, C. (2011). Towards a Richer Understanding of Cultural Complexity: Examining Diversity and Cultural Identity within Tertiary Teacher Education. International Journal Of Diversity In Organisations, Communities & Nations, 11(3), 1-14.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Rory

September 24, 2013

This article definitely brings up some good points about the need to understand where students are coming from, not only academically but culturally as well. As stated, many will have a lot of strengths that can be offered to a class which may not have been unearthed had the teacher not been culturally responsive.

Bryan M.

September 24, 2013

Miller spends more time in his PowerPoint explaining the benefits of online learning.  I’m glad he’s now addressing potential difficulties because online learning makes us see the physical classroom in a new light as well.  I am particularly agree with Urzuner’s complaint that “more studies looking at…German, French, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Greek, Iranian, Indian, etc.” are needed, especially for someone like myself who wants to teach foreign language.  I am in the unique position of teaching Spanish, a single language spoken by more than twenty different ethnicities.  How does one present the Spanish language in a unified way without stereotyping a culture, in the same way Uzurner wishes to avoid “lumping students into one category without paying attention to their individual differences” (Uzurner 2009)

This constant tension between emphasizing different yet identifying shared qualities and values among students is the same tension I experience in presenting “Spanish” as a subject.  It is an exciting but sometimes overwhelming task to present multiculturalism, when perhaps it should be a lot more seamless.  Gunawardena et al (2001) warn that “individual differences in cultural groups need to be accounted for so that we do not subscribe to the fallacy of homogeneity or ... monolithic identity” (13).  Ultimately, then, are we not affirming cultural identity but individuality itself, which is only composed of “acquired values, behaviors” handed down by a culture?  At least in the subject I teach, multiculturalism is not a forced concept.  But presenting the twenty cultures packed within a single language in an authentic, respectful and innovative way is a daunting, if exciting, task indeed.

With this in mind, I happily take Miller’s advice that teachers identify and take advantage of “cultural strengths,” which are an empirical reality that gives the elusive definition of “culture” a more tactile feeling.  If we can present an online learning experience designed with cultural resiliencies in mind, while also filling the online curriculum with culturally authentic multimedia, there should be fewer instances of “cultural conflicts” in distance learning.

CL Sproull

September 24, 2013

Online learning provides educators with a limitless pool of materials from which to teach students, so one would assume that online learning does not face the same challenges as traditional school settings.  However, this is a gross misconception, especially in the area of culture. 

Students in an online learning environment may face many challenges when the cultural beliefs they grew up with come in direct contrast to the requirements of an online program.  Selinger (2004) made an excellent point when he concluded that online educational programs will be culrurally biased toward the culture in which they are created.  It would be perfectly natural for the program designer to infuse his culture preferences, values, and characteristics into the learning program.  Culture differences need to be addresses when online (and traditional) schools develop their curriculum.  When these differences are not addressed, students of various cultures may have a negative experience toward learning, be it online or in a traditional school setting.

Anakwe and Christensen (1999) looked at 424 undergraduate and graduate students’ perceptions of distance learning in two different American universities.  The conclusion they reached was that online learning seemed to be most compatible with those who possessed individualists’ motives and ways of learning.  Therefore, it makes sense that students who come from cultures that value the whole unit would struggle to learn online.  This was further validated by Al-Harthi’s (2005) research of 6 Arabic students’ online learning experiences.  He found that they did not participate as much in online discussions because their culture would view such actions as showing off.

Whether the learning is taking place online or in a traditional classroom, instructors need to be culturally sensitive to the needs of their learners and adapt their instruction accordingly.

Al-Harthi, A. S. (2005). Distance higher education experiences of Arab Gulf students in the United States: A cultural perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6(3), 1-14.

Anakwe, U. P., & Christensen, E. W. (1999). Distance learning and cultural diversity: Potential users‟ perspective. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 7(3), 224-243.

Selinger, M. (2004). Cultural and pedagogical implications of a global e-learning programme. Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(2), 223-239.


Tessa

September 24, 2013

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” –  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” - Sedef Uzuner

Culturally responsive teaching is a necessary component for any online educator to consider, especically given the diverse population that is served within distance education programs.  Of particular interest are MOOCs, which provide access to an international student arena.  Understanding the particular traits that each ethnic and cultural group bring to the table allows educators to fully understand both the strengths and the weaknesses when it comes to learning.

Chen, J. C. C. (2013). Opportunities and challenges of MOOCs: perspectives from Asia.

Wlodkowski, R. J., & Ginsberg, M. B. (1995). A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.

Rory

September 24, 2013

Uzner quotes Zhao, Lei, Yan, Lai, and Tan (2005) when they assert that “distance education in essence is still education”, and that the factors that have an impact on education overall will still have an impact on the effectiveness of online education. For this reason, as the author of the blog indicates, there is a need for the teacher to understand where students are coming from, not only academically but culturally as well. As stated, many will have a lot of strengths that can be offered to a class which may not have been unearthed had the teacher not been culturally responsive. Addressing strengths will have a great impact on the effectiveness of the educational experience because it will empower the students; any time a teacher believes in a student and recognizes their strengths the student’s performance is almost certain to skyrocket.

Michelle P

October 14, 2013

After reading “In Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review,” I thought it was very interesting and it really focused on the cultural differences and its impact on online classes. I thought in particular Wang’s study on the differences between three different ethnicities in regards to their own motivations to participate in discussions, teamwork and how comfortable they were with interacting with their teachers. I can see this occurring because cultural differences in how they were raised treated does affect their own approaches within their approaches in classes. Teachers themselves would not be prone to knowing such since online courses are not face-to-face and therefore cannot rely on names only. It might be helpful for teachers to get introductions from each student prior to classes. I also would hope that teachers would be familiar with all the cultural differences and or will take some class or workshop in order to be better familiar with differences and how students might approach certain situations. I would also want to provide a variety of assignments so that each student can participate in their own way. I would also encourage and work with students to be more comfortable with emailing and communicating for help if needed and let them know that everyone should be treated equally and fairly.

Mary V

October 15, 2013

After reading the entire research review in which was quoted in this blog, I now see the necessity to take into consideration the culture our students come from even in an online class.  Not only are there differences in how students approach learning in different cultures, there are distinct differences within a culture.  Sedef Uzuner uses numerous examples and studies to make a point; however, I believe many of the studies extend beyond the population studied.  Liang and McQueen’s (2000) study not only applies to Asians, but to any culture that values education, promotes respect for people in authority, and tends to keep to themselves and prefer to avoid conflict.  Although Liang and McQueen showed that Asian students “tend to hold back their thoughts when they perceive the teacher or majority of the learning peers will not favorably receive messages that are contrary to what they want to hear” (p.28), I think this comment is true for many cultures.  When teaching online classes in a K-12 setting, not only do teachers need to be cognizant of the ethnicity of the student, but also and maybe more importantly, the cultural background of the parents.  Many of the online K-12 students are home-schooled; thus they live in one setting and study in another.  Knowing more about the parents that are directing the in-home learning that is being facilitated by an online program should enhance the learning experience for both the student in question and the rest of the class.  The more our students are exposed now to diverse ways of learning, thinking, and cultures, the better able they will be to adapt in the global work force after school.  As Uzuner (2009) so adeptly stated, teachers need to make very clear from the beginning of class that “learning activities in ALNs (asynchronous learning networks) may be different from what learners are accustomed to” (p. 11).  Teachers also need to promote and encourage parental questions and insights into how their child learns and what the parental expectations are of the child and teacher so that the parents and teachers work as a team and misconceptions on both sides can be addressed.

Jennifer F.

October 16, 2013

Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” – “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” - Sedef Uzuner
Many students decided to choose online education as their primary educational source.  This can be for many reasons. Some of these include schedule flexibility, the ability to study anytime and anywhere you can work a computer, completion of program at one’s own pace, not the pace of the institution.  Even students in grade schools are now being offered online courses. Teaching any individuals through distance learning promises to be a challenge.  The basic teaching hurdles are present, but with added difficulties that may not be quite as easy to notice as those teaching in a traditional classroom. A teacher cannot always tell who the students are via online education.  Teachers are trained to be culturally sensitive to each student and teach according to the needs of the individual. Teachers are expected and required to do their best to create a program that will benefit all students in a culturally sensitive manner.  However, with online studies, this isn’t always happening. In the research from Rogers, Graham, and Mays’ this is discussed. The 2007 study states that “instructional designers’ or instructors’ awareness of the potential differences between cultures does not necessarily mean that this knowledge is integrated into the design of the course.”(pg.6) Again, these teachers know that they need to demonstrate cultural awareness and sensitivity in their design of the curriculum, but it is not happening. Perhaps it is a lack of knowing just who is in their online courses. More often than not, the teacher does not see the person in their class.  They only see a name. They do not think there is a particular culture that they need to be sensitive to because one cannot tell if a person is, in fact, steeped in their culture. Or perhaps the teacher realizes what needs to be done, but does not know how to implement it. Our teachers need to be not only trained to recognized the importance of culture, but also trained in how to implement culturally sensitive classrooms.

Elizabeth W

October 16, 2013

      Towards the end of your blog, you make (in my opinion) the most profound, yet strikingly obvious comment of all:  “We are in danger of replicating a system for the online world that has not served all students in the brick-and-mortar world.”  Isn’t that the truth?  In education, I often feel we are so committed to getting ahead and keeping our eyes on the future that we fail to learn from past or current practices that have not worked.  If we stopped putting the cart before the proverbial horse and took time to analyze best and worst practices, we could potentially come up with something truly effective. 
I teach in traditional elementary schools serving as the district’s K-5 Tech Coach.  I have the unique experience of seeing students in an online environment, that isn’t fully online.  Further adding to what I witness is the fact that our district is vastly diverse.  Here is the population of Hispanic students in each of the five elementary buildings: three of the buildings = 0%, one building = 14.5%, the final building = 21.1%.  Nearing the end of the first nine weeks and the implications of this diversity is finally starting to sink in.  I won’t go into all of the details, but suffice it to say that the economic disparity is perhaps even more staggering than the ethnic diversity.
By looking deeper into Sedef Uzuner’s Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review, I came across Gunawardena, Nolla, Wilson, Lopez-Islas, Ramirez- Angel, and Rosa’s findings from 2001.  Uzuner states that “Fifty American and 50 Mexican students who were enrolled in distance education programs in their respective local contexts participated in this study. Framed within theories of group development, diversity, and culture, this cross-cultural study found strong evidence showing the influence of students national culture on their online learning behaviors. For example, compared to their American peers, Mexican students showed higher tendencies for affection, compassion, and emotion in online group processes, a finding that reflects the importance of care and affection in Mexican culture” (pg 8).  I just wish Uzuner would have added more about the findings of this particular study.  I know better than to generalize (this study utilized Mexican students; I teach Hispanic speaking students; these are not 100% the same).  I am trying to take what was found here and apply it to the classes in which I teach, but what were the specific findings?  Mexican students basically were much nicer to interact with online opposed to their American counterparts who I can only assume (from what is NOT being said) were callous or at the very least lacking in emotion. 
      One of my classes is a fully ELL group of kindergarten students.  When I compound this information with the teachings of Geneva Gay, I recognize how fundamentally wrong my instructional practices are.  Granted, I’m not in a fully online environment, and I do see my students face-to-face every week.  I may be deviating from the topic at hand, but I cannot help but think of the implications to my own teaching practices. 
On a side note, as a person currently enrolled in a fully online course of study, I have no idea what racial, ethnic, cultural backgrounds and experiences comprise the student body I interact with weekly.  I don’t think knowing would change how I go about completing my assignments or conversing in blogs.  This course, because of the focus, is flush with culturally diverse material, but what about other classes I’ve taken?  In looking back, do I feel the material broadened my cultural horizons, or was I oblivious to a curriculum lacking in cultural richness?  Fellow Franciscan classmates: please feel free to comment based on your experiences!

Patrick O'Hearn

October 16, 2013

Sedef Uzuner’s (2009) comments that online learning promotes more cultural tension than the traditional classroom suggests that online learning presents inherent obstacles based on the students’ cultural differences.  For example, Al-Harthi’s (2005) study of six Arabs studying in the U.S. found that students intentionally participated less in online discussions than their American peers because they viewed eagerness to participate as “showing off or trying to appear smart” (p.9).  When teaching in a traditional classroom, an educator might assume that the reluctant student is shy. In an online classroom environment, an educator might be dealing with a hidden culture that clearly impacts the student’s participation in the class achievement that is sometimes impossible for the teacher to discern. 

        These findings present at the graduate level suggest that cultural obstacles are in fact present at all grade levels. The reality that some cultures need immediate feedback to other cultures needing more structure and authority imply that the online environment presents a diverse classroom that many teachers will grapple to reach every student. This article is both a wakeup call and challenge for online educators to strive to their best ability to foster a learning environment that respects every culture while striving to present pedagogy that incorporates the strengths of each culture.  At the same time, educators must foster relationship building especially for those collectivist cultures. Anakwe and Christensen (1999) found that “relationship building is foremost” for students from collectivist cultures (p. 240). Collaboration among diverse cultures via sharing prior to class beginning and small class work can only benefit learning.

Kristin Williams

October 17, 2013

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” –  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” - Sedef Uzuner

In responding to the quote above, I believe that Uzuner (2009) presents a working hypothesis on why distance learning environments are not immune to problems that arise from cultural differences because there is a likelihood that they may face even more conflicts than the traditional brick and mortar classrooms (p. 3).

I thought that the Rogers, Graham, and Mayas (2007) study which stated that “instructional designers’ or instructors’ awareness of the potential differences between cultures does not necessarily mean this knowledge is integrated into the design of online courses” (p. 6) was of particular note because how often do teachers/course developers really take into consideration their students’ cultural differences? As a special education cyber school teacher myself, I gather intel on my students in order to help them select appropriate courses and learning activities but this information (while helpful) is not always used appropriately, as Uzuner suggested towards the end of his 2009 article. When I am teaching my students or interacting with them in another teacher’s synchronous classroom, I have used the information I gathered on my students’ backgrounds in order to help make the lessons more interactive but I’m often not thinking of their cultural backgrounds in the day-to-day course of teaching the content. Is this a fair approach? Perhaps not. I think that I need to reexamine my approach to daily interactions with my students and remember that they all come from various cultural backgrounds and that their cultural differences have a huge impact on how education is valued in that home.

Currently, I have a student who is an Orthodox Jew and for most of September every year with the high holy days in his faith occuring during this month he cannot attend school or complete work online; this is because using electricity is like using fire in the Old Testament and fire is considered holy—therefore, no electricity is used during certain time periods for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succos. I have to take his cultural and personal background into consideration when I am requesting that he complete tests with a certain deadline or even when he has to interact synchronously with his peers. He has certainly taught me a lot about being more accepting of cultural and religious differences.

I have another student who comes from a multi-racial/ethnic background and he told me that education is not valued in his home. He recently lost interest in school in the last year and had dropped out of his local school—his family thought he was attending cyber school but he wasn’t. Therefore, he went nearly 8 months without an education last year based on the premise of a lie and his family believed him that because he was on a computer he was going to school. When they found out the truth, they were quite angry to say the least. He is now properly enrolled at PA Cyber but since he went so long without formal education he is struggling daily with class attendance, participation, and assignment completion. His mother admitted to dropping out of school as well as his grandmother so he feels that he can just get a job like them and not have to value his education. I am currently working with him (when he will return my phone calls and emails) to hopefully get him to change his mind!

I want to do better as an educator and try to follow the recommedations of Anakwe and Christensen (1999), who stated that “relationship building is foremost” (p. 240). Instead of me using my students’ backgrounds as I had been doing, I would like to now use that information to shape discussions, interactions, and feedback in a way that helps promote multicultural awareness.

Anakwe, U. P., & Christensen, E. W. (1999). Distance learning and cultural diversity: Potential users‟ perspective. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 7(3), 224-243.

Rogers, P. C., Graham, C. R., & Mayes, C. T. (2007). Cultural competence and instructional design: Exploration research into the delivery of online instruction cross-culturally. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(2), 197-217.

Uzuner, S. (2009). Questions of culture in distance learning: A research review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19.

Virginia

October 28, 2014

Post a comment on this blog demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of Culturally Responsive Online Teaching. Respond specifically to the following quote:
“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” –  “Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review” - Sedef Uzuner

I do believe that Mr. Andrew Miller hit the nail on the head when he stated, “All students have cultural strengths and resiliencies; we need to ensure that we are using all these strengths, including the culture of online learners, to engage the students in learning while using the technology as the tool.” As within the walls of a “brick and mortar” school teacher need to make sure that we are culturally competent with our students.
According to Ms. Laurie Olsen it is important for the teacher to know what exactly is acceptable and unacceptable in their students’ culture and to only ask what is acceptable. The examples she gave made sense as to why it is important to familiarize yourself with their background. I liked the example of the gym teacher who told the student she needs to eat, she kept denying and finally, her friend stepped up and said that she could not it was fasting time in her culture. How many times when a student complains about their stomach and being hungry I give them a packet of crackers. Studies have shown that the rate of online enrollment is up. In fact “The number of students taking at least one online course increased by over 570,000 to a new total of 6.7 million” Allen & Seaman (2013).Let us face it, many different cultures have access to the internet and thus have access to pretty much any online educational program they wish to take. I always within my classroom do a getting to know you. If I taught online courses I would apply the same techniques in that classroom and have the students complete a getting to know you. She also stated to encourage the students to get to know each other online and offline, whether it be through text or call, and also through face to face if it is possible. As previously stated, I would then have to do research on that particular cultures of my students to make sure that I am differentiating my instruction to better meet their needs and to not offend them. The one thing Ms. Olsen stated was that when you have these group settings it is important to use the constructivism point of view and have the students construct and work together in order to get to know and solve the problem at hand. Basically as an online instructor it is up to you take away all the boundaries and walls and help the students become one and have them realize that they are a team and they are all there for the same purpose to learn and better themselves.
    References:
Allen, Elaine and Seaman, Jeff (2013). Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the
United States. Retrieved from:
http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf

Melanie K. Brothers

October 31, 2014

What a great Bunch/Collection of information in this blog! Thanks for providing such a nice information and mostly Teachers are not well known about the information which they have to provide to he students and culture also matter related to there work.

Christine G.

October 31, 2014

Uzuner has a great insight to acknowledge the challenges for an on-line student to integrate into an educational setting, especially if there are cultural differences from the instructor and/or fellow classmates. Without a multiculturalistic understanding, these students could be at a disadvantage if teachers are unaware of these difficulties and how a student can be affected by them. Choosing to learn through distance learning can be a challenging move and would be daunting for any student who is thrust into hearing unfamiliar terms, jargon or dominant traditions from a teacher.  Although each student is confined within his or her own cultural setting—which serves to strengthen his own cultural beliefs—requiring a student to completely submerge into another cultural educational setting will only cause more anxiety at the risk of any educational value.

Using several studies surrounding the Asian culture, Biesenbach-Lucas determined that non-Americans preferred asynchronous learning networks at their own pace, and they examined topics from various angles until they felt comfortable with the material. Without the pressure of immediate response, these students can understand and retain their information more thoroughly.

According to Fang’s (2007) study, the Asian culture also values achievement and success heavily, and students cared less for fun and exciting on-line activities and valued tasks that led to achievement in learning. They also leaned more toward teacher-feedback as opposed to peer-feedback.

With this cultural knowledge for instructing Asian students, teachers should include several ALN sites to convey information to this population.  Immediate teacher feedback will be beneficial for all students, but understanding that non-American students prefer communications solely from the instructor rather than fellow-classmates can enhance the learning process for this society of students. Teachers should make an effort to communicate more often so students can sense the teacher’s sensitivity to their cultural needs.

I’m beginning to understand that not all students (American and non-American) learn the same way because of cultural differences. It would be prudent to acknowledge these potential conflicts and strive to understand the obstacles students may encounter while in an education environment. The same conflicts exist for on-line instruction as the traditional classroom, but even more prominent. We teachers need the training to understand our students and be able to reach them at their level for the maximum educational value.

References:
Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2003). Asynchronous discussion groups in teacher training classes:
Perceptions of native and non-native students. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3), 24-46.

Fang, L. (2007). Perceiving the useful, enjoyable, and effective: A case study of the e-learning
experience of tertiary students in Singapore. Educational Media International, 44(3), 237-253.

Karley

November 1, 2014

I completely agree and understand what Andrew Miller is saying in his blog about culturally responsive online teaching. He started out by saying that online education can help solve issues of equity and access across the US however, the rest of his blog uses several sources stating that online learning still needs to be aware of cultural differences among students. He hit the nail on the head when he said the powerful technology that is being used in online learning is useless if it isn’t as diverse as the students. Teachers cannot expect their students to learn in the same way, therefore online assignments cannot be designed for one type of learning style.

Sedef Uzuner said “Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” It could possibly be easier to incorporate culturally responsive teaching in a classroom rather than through a computer screen. Distance educators need to understand that students who are participating in distance education are more than likely culturally diverse. Like Andrew Miller said, all students have different strengths and resiliencies. Some are more comfortable speaking opinions out loud, others are not. It could very well be conflicting because the students culture may be complete foreign to the instructor or vice versa.

For example, Lim (2004) used surveys that compared many undergraduate and graduate students’ online learning by their country. I found the results of this to be very interesting because it is something I as a teacher and a student haven’t really thought or considered. The way that most online learning is designed may not be respectful or “appropriate” for some students. The reason I am saying this is because the results of this survey found that American students prefer voicing their personal opinions during class while Korean students do not because of their Asian Culture. They are influenced by the authoritarian classroom that requires them to be more passive rather than stating what they personally think or believe.

A cross-cultural study was administered by Gunawardena, Nolla, Wilson, Lopez-Islas, Ramirez-Angel, and Rosa (2001) who examined 50 American students and 50 Mexican students enrolled in distance education programs. In result, Mexican students were found to be more compassionate, affectionate, and emotional in their online learning compared to the American students.
I see these findings in PK-12 online learning today being very true. All students who are culturally diverse learn and interpret new information in different ways. We cannot expect them to see things the way Americans do or the way white people do. Setting up an online environment with physical characteristics and symbols of role models are just a few examples of ways students can feel connected to what they are learning. Setting up the stage of a culturally diverse climate is the first important step in establishing an effective and beneficial learning experience for all students.


References:
Gunawardena, C. N., Nolla, A. C., Wilson, P. L., Lopez-Islas, J. R., Ramirez-Angel, N., & Megchun-Alpizar, R. M. (2001).A cross-cultural study of group process and development in online conferences. Distance Education, 22(1), 85-121.

Lim, D. H. (2004). Cross cultural differences in online learning motivation. Educational Media International, 41(2), 163-175.

Ann Gonyaw

November 1, 2014

“Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain ‘physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.” Sedef Uzuner, Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review

In the above article, Sedef Uzuner refers to an educational phenomenon called ‘cultural hegemony’ where the assumptions of a group/person achieve dominance and are viewed as commonsense understandings or interests that serve for all (Gramsci, 1971). This was originally seen in traditional classrooms, however I agree with Uzuner that this also happens in online instruction.  With the students’ cultures being largely unknown to the instructor, a course could easily be designed by the instructor, with very little thought to the mindset of the culture of the student. Especially if designed course content is used repeatedly with little regard for the different students enrolled in the course.  This is particularly the case if the course is designed with the characteristics of Americans in mind.  The independent, “our way is best” nature of Americans makes it less likely that we would cooperatively work together with classmates with differing cultures and learning styles.  Due to the nature of increased globalization of our society, it is imperative that we adjust online learning to include a variety of learning styles.  This variety needs to address some of the particular learning styles presented in Uzuner’s article.  As instructors this means most importantly, learning as much about students as possible, giving immediate feedback, clarifying any cultural nuances that may arise in class discussions,  being sensitive to issues related to fear of authority and gender, giving ample time to reflect before expecting a response, avoiding overuse of peer review versus teacher feedback, and providing clear expectations with transparency in course structure. Uzuner’s article has helped me to be more aware of the different traits that various cultures often have in approaching learning.

As we design and instruct online courses especially in America, we must keep in mind that students, though unknown to the teacher, do in fact bring varying perspectives and learning styles to the ‘blackboard’. 

“Members of all cultures assume that everyone else understands theirs. Unfortunately, many characteristics of Americans impede successful globalization - being very independent (with a dislike for seeking assistance), time bound, fact-oriented, and confident that “our way” is best. The business imperatives for training our globally dispersed workforce lie in recognizing the influence of cultural differences and providing a long overdue, supportive investment in cultural analysis. Ignoring cultural differences or maintaining an ethnocentric view is a direct threat to our globalization success” (Edmundson 2009).

Edmundson, A. (2009). Culturally accessible e-learning: An overdue global business imperative. Retrieved from http://astd.org/LC/2009/0509_edmundson.htm

Gramsci, A. (1971).  Selections from the prison notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Andrea Felekey

November 2, 2014

According to Uzener (2009), “Distance learning environments are by no means immune to the problems arising from cultural differences. In fact, these environments may even be more prone to cultural conflicts than traditional classrooms as instructors in these settings not only interact with students who have removed themselves from their native culture, but they also interact with students who remain “physically and socially within the different culture, a culture that is foreign to, and mostly unknown, to the teacher.”
I agree with this statement, because I believe that online learning will have cultural conflicts. This statement I believe to be true, because the teacher in a distance learning setting would have a more challenging time building a rapport. I also feel that the cultural differences could cause misunderstandings between the teacher and the student, especially if they are from different cultures.
A study conducted by Goodfellow, Lea, Gonzalez, and Mason (2001), found that adult students taking graduate courses that did not speak the same language as their online teachers, nor were there cultures the same, had challenges with academic success in the virtual classroom. Another study conducted by Walker-Fernandez (1999) investigated non-American graduate students’ experiences in an American distance education program while they were situated within their local cultures.
These two studies found that cultural differences hinder students’ communication and success in ALNs, causing them to experience feelings of isolation, alienation, and “dissonance out of conflict with the dominant educational culture” (Shattuck, 2005, p. 186). So, how do these studies affect online learning today?
After reading the studies, I believe that teachers in the classroom, and virtual need to build a rapport with students, and learn about their cultural differences. These cultural differences still impact distance learning in our society, and it is our job as educators to bridge the gaps of diversity. By understanding our students’ culture and language, we can better teach them!

                                References
Goodfellow, R., Lea, M., Gonzales, F., & Mason, R. (2001). Opportunity and e-quality:  Intercultural and linguistic issues in global online learning. Distance Education, 22(1) 65-84.
Shattuck, K. (2005). Cultures meeting cultures in online distance education: Perceptions of international adult learners of the impact of culture when taking online distance education courses designed and delivered by an American University. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Walker-Fernandez, S. E. (1999). Toward understanding the study experiences of culturally sensitive graduate students in American distance education programs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Florida International University, Miami.
Uzener, S. (2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), 1-19. 

Share |

Blog Archive

Blog Tags