Showing posts with label culture and education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture and education. Show all posts

Friday, April 10, 2015

Online Education Encourages Stronger Scholarship Cultures

One of the greatest advantages of traditional education is its ability to create knowledge based cultures through face-to-face communication.  It is believed that on-campus social interaction creates norms, values, and expectations that lead people to higher forms of scholarship.  This is not always the case when negative cultural influences restrict the ability of students to be successful.  New research shows that online courses help to enhance the scholastic nature of colleges by countering some of the destructive norms in society that limit intellectual growth.

When people interact and socialize with each other they create social expectations that can either lead to more scholastic behavior or lessen that behavior. For example, cultural norms can encourage greater research and knowledge sharing or it can socially restrict the transference of knowledge. When negative cultures are developed in face-to-face environments they can be extremely difficult to reverse. Online education offers the opportunity to create egalitarian learning networks not based in preconceived notions.

A paper in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning discusses how online education with Saudi Arabia female college students not only enhanced their learning but also encouraged positive pro-learning environments (Hamdan, 2014). Online education offers an opportunity for socially restricted individuals to own their education and contribute to their respective bodies of knowledge in a meaningful way.

This issue is not restricted to Saudi Arabia alone and can impact American students as well. Consider how cultural norms may subtly restrict minority students from speaking up in class, become highly educated, or contribute to scientific discovery in a meaningful way. The process of exclusion can occur between genders, in/out groups, people who are different, those who have higher intelligence, minorities and social class.

Online education creates an environment where people can speak freely without all of the subtle cues that leave some with the impression their opinion isn’t worth as much as others. Because of the nature of posting to other students, a natural activity among the younger generation, negative social norms don’t hold as much sway. Professors and students may be completely unaware of the race, religion, gender, or status of the other people in the class unless they self-reveal.

Where people may be naturally dissuaded from engaging in class activities in one setting may actually find themselves thriving in an online environment where they start on equal footing with others. Classmates know students by what they think and post versus their social status. The process of bringing forward various opinions into collaborative learning environments raises the transference of knowledge and the potential for scholarship.

Hamdan, A. (2014). The reciprocal and correlative relationship between learning culture and online education: a case from Saudi Arabia. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15 (1).

Friday, January 2, 2015

How Does Chinese Culture Influence Online Education?

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).