TCC08: Cultural Diversity in Online Education

I am again liveblogging during the Technology, Colleges, and Community (TCC) 2008 conference. Read the other liveblogged posts from this conference.

Cultural Diversity and Its Impact in an Online Education Environment


Penny Lorenzo, Kaplan University, Cave Creek, AZ, USA
Gurmit Kaur, Kaplan University, Phoenix, AZ, USA

World is becoming more interconnected, so we should prepare students to function in an interconnected, multicultural world

Cultural diversity enriches organizations & encourages different approaches to teaching and learning

Need awareness of cultures to understand impact on learning process

Instructors can relate content to international current events, even with a set syllabus

Clearly assuming their audience is all instructors in how they are approaching this

Example with researching the Hague Convention countries

Students who are more sensitive to cultural diversity will be more valuable to employers

In an online environment, you may not know immediately what culture someone is from or what their primary language is. When you see a different spelling, do you think it’s a typo or do you consider the cultural perspective?

Especially in online education, language is a big aspect. Using a common language helps to build a learning community. Speaking another language doesn’t mean giving up your identity; it means adding to it. If you’re preparing students for jobs in the US, they should be able to speak and write well in English.

How we label things & what words we choose matters–words reflect power structures and cultural perspectives. Sometimes you need to discuss terms together and come to common understanding of meanings. We did this for the Cultural Competence course, discussing how “racism” would be defined for the class.

For Sikhs, all males have the last name “Singh” and females have the last name “Kaur.” Historically, this was a way to get away from the caste system. I had no idea–this was totally new to me.

Diversity enhances our lives, helps us understand ourselves better

Provide support for students who need it so all students can be successful

Understanding diversity & cultural heritage can help retention rates

Important to create a learning environment where everyone can feel comfortable with the diversity they bring to the community. Students must know it’s OK to be different and to have individual perspectives.

Learn about the culture to make them feel special, like learning about the holidays

  • Use e-cards to let students know you are learning about their holidays
  • Had a student who learned a few words of Malay to speak with her, made her feel special
  • Take a step towards the students and learn about them

IM can be useful for building relationships b/c the expectations for spelling and language aren’t so formal

Reach out to the students, celebrate them. Be open to learning from them.

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