Accommodating culture and cultural diversity in online teaching

Annegret Goold, Annemieke Craig, Jo Coldwell


The term 'culture' has been in common use for a long time. However there is no universally accepted definition and hence it is important to define clearly what culture means in a particular research context. The research reported here is part of a project undertaken at a large Australian university in late 2005. The overall aim of the project was to identify the characteristics of culture and cultural diversity, and to consider how these manifested themselves when teaching and learning in an online environment. This paper reports on particular outcomes from the second stage of the project. This involved conducting focus groups with experienced academics and educational developers of online units. The aim was to gain an understanding of culture and cultural difference in the online environment and to consider what strategies were effective in teaching a culturally diverse cohort of online students. The findings from the focus group sessions were benchmarked with other external faculty. The cultural factors of ethnicity and language, attitudes to educational learning, education and prior learning, learning styles and socio-economic background were well supported by the external faculty. However the factors of religion and gender were not supported. Practices for accommodating such cultural differences amongst students within the online class are presented.

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