Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Cultural Dimensions on Online Learning

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Cultural Dimensions on Online Learning

Article excerpt


Despite the relatively recent emergence of Internet-based training, online learning has evolved rapidly. Thus, blended learning (Bonk & Graham, 2012) and mobile learning (Baran, 2014) are some examples of the advances within this learning discipline. Different types of problems related to online learning have been analyzed in the literature, such as the study of the discipline's effectiveness and efficiency (Cooper & Higgins, 2015) or the analysis of its advantages and disadvantages compared with other learning alternatives (Lim, Morris & Kupritz, 2014). In this research, we will focus our efforts on analyzing students' perceptions with respect to online learning. In line with students' perceptions in online education, several research papers have been published in recent years. For example, Paechter and Maier (2010) investigated students' perceptions of online learning compared with traditional education, and Irwin, Ball, Desbrow and Leveritt (2012) analyzed learners' perceptions about the use of Facebook as a tool to promote active learning.

Multicultural contexts are currently widespread in society. Although cultural diversity leads to individual and collective enrichment, several confrontations and misunderstandings between people can result from cultural differences, which also affect the education discipline. Culture greatly influences social behavior, communication, cognitive processes, and pedagogical technologies (Vatrapi, 2008). All of these elements are key components in the online learning discipline. Hence, the design of online programs requires cautious study of how people learn, what people learn and what people perceive as important to learn, depending on their culture. Understanding the set of cultural and learning/teaching features will help the educational community to provide better quality yet also culturally sensitive instruction.

Different authors have researched how culture affects societies through years. For example, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1998) identified seven cultural dimensions in order to determine how people solve problems and reconcile dilemmas. Schwartz (1999) presented a theory of basic human values based on seven cultural dimensions. Inglehart (2008) categorized countries according to two values: (i) survival values versus self-expression values and (ii) traditional values versus secular-rational values. Finally, Hofstede (2011) tried to clarify the values that prevail in different national cultures, first, through a four-dimensional (4D) model, second, through a five-dimensional (5D) model and, third, through a six-dimensional (6D) model.

The specific objectives of this research are as follows: (1) To identify the most important variables in the online learning process, as perceived by students with significantly different cultural backgrounds and (2) to link our findings to the Hofstede 6D model. Thus, the main differences of this inquiry with respect to the online learning literature that analyzes these problems are as follows:

* We analyzed the main educational variables that define a complete educational process (including the stage where the students are not yet enrolled in the course, the variables involved while the student is taking the course, and finally the variables implicated after the course), unlike state-of-the-art research works that focus on specific parts of the online course. For example, Liu, Liu, Lee and Magjuka (2010) focused their attention on how culture affects course design variables (e.g., language, communication tools, and time zone differences); Marambe, Vermunt and Boshuizen (2012) analyzed the differences in learning strategies and orientations and conceptions of learning among Dutch and Asian students; and Brito Neto, Smith and Pedersen (2014) analyzed a multicultural group of flight attendants' perception of e-learning courses, with a particular focus on course relevance and learner motivation, cultural sensitivity, course organization, and course interactivity. …

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