Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

Cultural Communication Characteristics and Student Connectedness in an Online Environment: Perceptions and Preferences of Online Graduate Students

Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

Cultural Communication Characteristics and Student Connectedness in an Online Environment: Perceptions and Preferences of Online Graduate Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

There has been a steady increase over the past decade in individuals with diverse backgrounds entering higher education. In the Digest of Education Statistics: 2015, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) predicted that by the year 2025 the percentage of 18-24 years olds attending a degree-granting, post-secondary institution in the United States would increase for all race/ethnicities except for Whites and American Indian/Alaska Natives (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016a, p. 537). This suggested trend was further evidenced in the report, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2016, in which the NCES concluded that, "The total college enrollment rate for Asian 18- to 24-year olds has been higher than the rates for their White, Black, and Hispanic peers in every year since 2003" (2016b, p. 88). Additionally, in the same report, NCES states, "Total post baccalaureate enrollment also increased for each racial/ethnic group surveyed between 1990 and 2013...Hispanic student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased from 3 to 9 percent, and Asian/Pacific Islander student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased from 4 to 8 percent" (2016b, p. 98).

In addition to the increasing representation of minorities in higher education, the number of students engaged in post-secondary online distance education has steadily grown over the past decade. Allen, Seaman, Poulin, and Straut (2016) examined online distance education in the United States and found that the number of students taking at least one course at a distance grew at a rate of 3.9% between 2013 and 2014. This was an increase from the previous year's growth rate of 3.7% (p. 4). Of the number of students engaged in higher education, Allen et al. (2016) reported that fourteen percent (2.85 million, or one-in-seven) of all higher education students in the United States in fall of 2014 were engaged in coursework completely at a distance (p. 9).

Unsurprisingly, as the amount of online distance education courses and programs has increased, so has the amount of research associated with it. This is not dissimilar to what was proposed by Roblyer (1985) in reference to literature on early technology integration in the 1980s. As more classroom technology was used, a shift occurred from literature exploring teacher and student perceptions along with pragmatic 'how to' literature, to a deeper examination of research-based practices associated with helping improve student learning and student satisfaction. A similar trend is occurring with online distance education. According to Gunawardena, Wilson, and Nolla (2003), however, a neglected element in the research literature is a focus on cultural elements associated with students enrolled in online distance education courses and programs. Our study fits into this research space.

Our experiences as online distance educators facilitating an online graduate program-that includes an increasing number of students from cultures typically considered high-context in their communication preference-has led us to deliberately and systematically consider their experiences in our program. Over the past three years we have regularly reflected on how to improve community within our program and courses, with the primary goal being to increase student connectedness- with a specific focus on students from high-context (HC) cultures. Research (e.g., Ivankova & Stick, 2005; Laux, Luse, & Mennecke, 2016) indicates that social connectedness in online distance education has been found to help improve student success and persistence. Findings like these led us to conduct this study.

The primary purpose of this study was to explore how graduate students enrolled in an online, cohort-based, Educational Technology Master's degree program perceived their connectedness with the program. We explored their perceptions about their level of connectedness with their peers in the program, program professors, and the program in general. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.