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Learner: Barbara Andrine Koenig


Dr. Glen Gatin

The Online Learner


I used a different approach to enter the paper than normal. If you hate it, disregard the first two paragraphs. Faculty Use Only You have met the requirements of the activity. Im not sure that the sports analogy works that well but it is good to see you trying to work at a conceptual level. You may be better served by using a theoretical perspective of elearning for your analytical framework. Work toward simplifying your expressions and word choices. See my comments for some recommendations respecting academic writing style. Gatin July 5, 2012


The Role of Culture in Online Learning

When a high-level tennis player steps on to the tennis court, there are assumption made that the playing field is equal and the match will be fair. The player hopes that the chair judge, the person who is going to enforce the rules, is not only fair, but ensures the game is managed appropriately, has kept up on the rules, made sure the court is well maintained and prepared for play; that they too are as passionate about the game as those who are playing. Finally, the player needs their coach to be selfless and wants the best success for their player. The coach must keep up on current practices as well as be willing to work endlessly to encourage their player, develop an understanding of their needs, work with them to challenge to improve and show the highest level of mastery of their sport. If all of these are in place, the player can begin play and show the skills they have. If there is anything missing through the process, if the court is unfit to play, the judges and coaches show disconnections, the game will be disappointing and possibly frustrating enough to stop the sport entirely. The same concepts apply to the online learner as with the tennis player. The student must rely on the educational administration to have rules and have the online environment in top shape for interaction from and between the learners. The students must have their instructors prepared to instruct them as passionately as the coach cares for their player. However, between the analogy of the tennis player and the student, the assumption of equality amongst athletes is that they all have similar background and knowledge of their craft, structured by the language and culture of their sport, to interact at a high level to complete the match. Different than a sport


which strives to have a common culture of sport, the language and culture of e-Learning and online education is not as simple. Within the learning environment, there are variables such as language, geographical locations, religion, socio-economic status, gender, race, and non-verbal human interactions that can combine in different orders to create issues. These issues influence student learning, create different and possibly unfair situations for learners due to language issues or barriers caused by cultural views and attitudes. The online experience, like the tennis player, relies on the administration to have a solid set of rules and communicates these effectively. The instructors must recognize the special needs of their students and work hard to deliver the knowledge necessary for the student to accomplish their goals and deliver this knowledge in a way that student understands, just as the coach does for their player. Finally, the student themselves need to recognize differences between other students and themselves, and develop an appreciation for the concept of global learning. Students need to experiment with methods of interaction to reach high level of communication and processing between and amongst other learners and their instructors. If there are significant breakdowns at the institution, instructor, or at the student level, discontent from the learner may form enough to have them stop their pursuit of online education. Online learning is growing at a rapid rate in higher education worldwide. Geographically, there are disproportionate users of the internet. In North America, 70% of the population uses the internet, but worldwide the numbers decline rapidly only having 3.6% of Africans, 10.7% of Asians, Europeans consist of 38.9%, and only 10% of people from Middle East descent utilize the internet (Sadykova & Dautermann, 2009, p. 95). Even with the percentage of people worldwide fluctuating with internet use, the thirst for knowledge still abounds. Higher learning institutions see this as an opportunity for revenue as well as expansion
Comment [WU1]: This is a bit confusing and unclear. Internet usage patterns vary with geography.


outside of their physical buildings. The ease of such expansive ideas is not small. Institutions must consider many requirements, issues and obstacles before a successful program is declared. Knowing that the end users may be in large cities, remote villages, in restrictive countries, the need is evident to address cultural barriers or concerns while constructing the learning environment. Certain countries political beliefs and control may pose barriers for students from their areas to successfully interact with the course (Sadykova & Dautermann, 2009). Kurubacak (2011) suggests that culture then, can be more of a source of conflict than synergy and educational institutions should have more of a focus of the idea of pluralism. Pluralism in eLearning can be defined as a class with participants from diverse ethnic, racial, religious and social groups maintain participation in and development of their traditions and special interests while working together with other students toward the completion and understanding of course materials. Institutions then should construct courses which the background and circumstances of learners can be determined and the class norms can reflect the need of divers students and instructors. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University (2009) states that pluralism is the: Energetic engagement with diversity Active seeking of understanding across lines of difference Encounter of commitments Based on dialogue
Comment [G3]: This is anthropomorphic. A project cannot state, only human actors can perform human actions. The developers of the Pluralism project.state Comment [G2]: evident.

With these four components in mind, institutions can form learning communities that share their commonalities and differences and work together for a global understanding of materials and cultures. Institutions should address the online program from a needs standpoint when looking at fee structures and out of state tuition to ensure fairness between traditional and online learners who are at a distance (Paloff & Pratt, 2003). Institutions should reflect on their online program


effectiveness through complete evaluations of the program which includes educational measurement, assessment, and evaluation (Levine, 2005). Only when the three-part process is complete can the effectiveness of the program be judged. With the proper focus on the structure and objectives of course design from the learning institution, the needs of the institution must be successfully passed on and embraced by the instructor. Professional development courses and mandates for instructors can help prepare the faculty to navigate the complexities of the culture issues that abound in the online learning theatre. There may be a calling for experienced online instructors to be made available for newer peers to discuss pedagogical practices and advancements that may assist the diverse online student (Sadykova & Dautermann, 2009). Specific attention should be given to cultural needs of the online student and encouragement of the instructors to share their own cultural values and misnomers. This type of behavior from the instructor may open the door for approach for students who may have resistance of interacting with the instructor due to their own cultural values (Uzuner, 2009). Complexities involving the online learner are many in the global learning community. In most of the studies reviewed by Uzuner (2009), it was found that a trend to group students into a single category ignoring any and all differences. This poses a serious problem for the learner with institutions and instructors assuming that cultural homogeneity is the norm and creates a false identity of the learners involved in the online program (Uzuner, 2009). The online learners culture can determine the amount of interaction. Chinese culture tends to value group effort, harmony, affection, compassion and emotionality (Thompson & Ku, 2005) where the American online learner may be commanding in their presence. Uzuner (2009) cautions that there are cultures within cultures so by generalizing the individual country or region, there may be more
Comment [G9]: Avoid there are construction in academic writing. Comment [G7]: The issues for learners in the online global learning community are complex. Comment [G8]: Avoid the use of it in this arrangement. Uzuner (2009) found Comment [G4]: Rephrase for clarity. Avoid the There is/there are/ there may be construction in academic writing. Review the APA Manual 6th Edition Chapter 3 regarding avoiding bias. Always put the person first. So in this caseassist the students from diverse backgrounds. Comment [G5]: ? Comment [G6]: reluctance to..


discrepancies created with cultural understanding. When evaluating challenges that second language students have within English language-based classes there are major differences with the use of social cues from traditional to online classes. In a traditional classroom, when international students have poor English pronunciation they are given the opportunity to repeat what they said. In addition, their facial expressions and body language can assist them to better express themselves while speaking. The immediate response they receive from their instructors and classmates is one way to tell if their ideas have come across properly (Thompson & Ku, 2005). Online classes do not offer the benefit of non-verbal assistance within their format. Students must also have the opportunity to access assistance for writing and should be given clear directions and be encouraged to interact and engage their peers. There is no quick fix for the complexities of culture and online learning, but there should be an effort to even the playing field for all of the participants. Through the thoughtful development of the course by the institution and the continual evaluation of the effectiveness of the program, higher learning institutions can create an equal playing field for students of different cultures to share and successfully interact and meet the objectives set forth. Instructors should strive to understand that their actions and interactions can have a positive impact on their learners and their respective societies they come from. This impact on the student can have intentional or unintentional implications on the resulting culture but may increase the democratic views of freedom to learn and express. Within the context of distance education, a concern for Societal Impact allows us to go beyond the mere concern for elaboration of technology of self-indulging learning, and, instead, develop a sense of the value of learning at a distance with the greater context of society. (Levine, 2005, p. 53). The learner then does not have to assimilate their culture to the dominant culture of the class and can learn from others and with others from equally diverse backgrounds and circumstances and open the gates of knowledge for others to enter in the near future.
Comment [G15]: Does this assume that all cultures are democratic and value freedom of expression? Comment [G14]: See G9 Comment [G13]: New sentence. Comment [G10]: ..experience.. Comment [G11]: ..exist.. Comment [G12]: ..between traditional and online classes.



Kurubacak, G. (2011). eLearning for Pluralism: The Culture of eLearning in Building a Knowledge Society. International Journal on E-Learning, 10(2), 145-167. Levine, S. J. (2005). Making distance education work: understanding learning and learners at a distance. Okemos, Mich.: Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2003). The virtual student: a profile and guide to working with online learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Sadykova, G., & Dautermann, J. (2009). Crossing Cultures and Borders in International Online Distance Higher Education. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(2), 89-114. The Puluralism Project at Harvard University (2009). Retrieved June 18, 2012 from: 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. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(30). Retrieved June 18, 2012, from