Online education is growing and spanning the earth as Internet access becomes more entrenched in people’s lives. The study of culture and its impact on online education hasn’t been studied with any real vigor. According to a study by Zhang (2014) Confucius cultures maintain many of the same attributes when engaging in school online. School administrators should consider the impact of culture on the online education modality and how that impacts learning.
It is first beneficial to understand what culture is. It can be seen as, “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, 2010). Culture is that which we carry with us from our shared social upbringing uniquely tied to our place of origin.
When students move online the way in which they perceive the information and how they interact with authority figures isn’t likely to change. Those who were raised in cultures that have a high respect for professors are likely to have wider power-distance relationships. This is certainly different than lower power-distance relationships where students challenge the professor.
In this case, the professor takes a more profound role with higher levels of societal respect. Students are less likely to challenge the professor or question the professor’s knowledge. This will naturally have an impact on the level of interactivity within the classroom as well as the need for quality instruction.
It is beneficial for online instructors in those countries to focus on trying to engage such students with their classmates more and allow for specific interventions to help students keep their moving forward. Having a higher perception of status is not necessarily a bad thing if that power is used to step in and move the class forward.
Likewise, it is also beneficial for professors to provide quality feedback that tries to explain in greater detail ways in which the student can improve their learning, writing, or test taking. Because such students are less likely to ask questions it is beneficial to give them as much upfront information as possible. Asking questions and receiving information on improvement are two different things.
Moving overseas into Asian countries is an important step for American universities that seek to broaden their reach, encourage sustainable higher education budgets, and use the power of the Internet to enhance learning. The process is not impossible but does require additional research into culture and online learning. Culture will have a natural impact on how information is received ad the level of interaction among students.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:SAGE Publications.
Zhang, Y. (2013). Power distance in online learning: experience of Chinese learners in U.S. higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14 (4).