Open and Distance Education/Cultural influences in online learning/Cultural Consideration for Online Learner Support

Jung (2015[1]) acknowledges the challenge that online educators face in recognizing the complexities of multiple cultural and sub-cultural influences on learners' learning behaviors and on their own teaching and utilizing the knowledge of these cultural facets to consciously structure learner support strategies to fortify different cultural contexts of learning towards achieving objectives. The purpose of this page is to distinguish between the reality and the ideal practices for online learning support. These recommendations in online learner support are compiled by utilizing the knowledge review of theoretical perspectives and regional differentiation in cultural nuances. Support in online learning requires substantial forethought as it planning that varies from that of conventional face-to-face education. A consideration of the cultural factors that influence learner engagement with the online learning environment provides valued insight into methods of learner support.

Yoo, Kim and Kwon (2014[2]) convey an understanding of online learning support as an interaction that assists the learner to disseminate the information. The interaction is not isolated to learner-to-teacher interaction but included learner-to-learner and learner-content interaction. Yoo, Kim and Kwon (2014[2]) distinguish in their comparison on how Korean instructors focus on teacher-to-learner interaction in relation to American instructors focus on learner-to-learner interaction. Collaborative support is more sustainable as instructors seldom have an opportunity to consult with every individual student participating in a specific course. Korean instructors acknowledge the gap between ideal and reality of online learning interaction. Consider how cultural variations may impact online learner engagement, what Al-Harthi (2010[3]) acknowledges as seeking help varies immensely according to contact. Learner support in online learning should thereby cater to learning of a multitude of cultures as online learning becomes more borderless as Open Education Resources expand and become readily available to masses mostly situated in lesser developed countries.

Resulting from the interactions of learners in the online learning environment at two universities in Asia, Bing and Ai-Ping (2008[4]) recommended several solutions for learner supports. Typically, for societies of high power distance, low individualism, and high uncertainty avoidance, being constantly motivated and assured of learning progress is important for learners, so tutors will play different and important roles. Enhancing confidence for learners will increase their engagement in online learning. Learners from societies with those dimensions prefer/are familiar with teacher-centered approach; therefore, tutors are not only people who deliver knowledge, but also technical experts, and facilitators for the whole learning process. "Providing trust and continuous commitment is essential" (p.335[4]). In societies with a higher degree of individualism, indulgence should be maintained. Learners should be encouraged to freely share their opinions, and the online learning environment should be flexibly designed. In a more collectivist society, learning from learner's and tutor's experience will be helpful for knowledge sharing.

Lessons learned from cultural differences will be helpful for online educators to improve their online education. In a multicultural and collaborative online learning environment which becomes more prevalent and widespread nowadays, solutions for learner supports cannot be applied the same to all situations. Jung (2015[1]) recommended that online educators should be well aware of multiple and complex cultural features of their potential learners for devising learner support strategies.

  1. a b Jung, I. (2015). Cultural influence on Online learning. In Jung, I., & Gunawardena, C. N. (Eds.). (2015). Culture and online learning: Global perspectives and research. Chapter 2. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
  2. a b Yoo, S., Kim, H.J., & Kwon, S. Y. (2014) Between ideal and reality: A different view on online-learning interaction in cross-national context. Journal for Multicultural Education, 8(1). 13 - 30. DOI 10.1108/JME-04-2013-0018.
  3. Al-Harthi, A.S. (2010) Cultural differences in transactional distance preference by Arab and American distance learners. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(4), 257 - 267. Information Age Publishing Inc.
  4. a b Bing, W. & Ai-Ping, T. (2008) The influence of national culture towards learners' interaction in the online learning environment: A comparative analysis of Shanghai TV University (China) and Wawasan Open University (Malaysia).The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 9(3), 327 - 339. Information Age Publishing Inc.