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University of Kansas, USA
Cultural Differences in Responses of Online Learners to Design and Pedagogy Course Features and Visual Display Design Principles
Online instruction has emerged as a significant trend in how instruction is delivered in institutions of higher education. Internationally, distance education courses are increasingly being offered online and the model is employed by many universities in offering online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Blended courses that integrate online instructional features with face to face instruction are also offered in most disciplines as part of campus based curriculum offerings. A critical difference between online instruction and face-to-face instruction is the reliance on visual display designs (design patterns) for the representation and presentation of instructional information. Some of the traditional elements of face-to-face instruction do not generalize to online instruction. An example of such elements includes some aspects of cultural differences. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) in the United States invest heavily in professional development to ensure that faculty accommodate the needs of students from different cultures in face-to-face instruction. However, in online instruction there is little evidence that similar efforts are being made to determine if there are cultural differences that impact the design of online instruction and in turn the performance of online students. Yet, most IHEs in the US are actively recruiting students of diversity and many are targeting online programs globally. The study to be presented represents a beginning effort in investigating whether postsecondary online learners at vary in their responses to course design and pedagogical features due to the students’ cultural background. The cultural groups studied include Asians, Hispanic/Latinos, and Middle Easterners, African Americans, Caucasians, and Native Americans. The methodology employs three sets of survey items derived from reviews of the research literature. The surveys include 1) online pedagogical features, 2) course design features, and 3) visual design principles. Responses of individual online learners, enrolled in collaborating institutions, to each item within the three surveys along with demographic information are collected online. The specific research goals of this study are as follows: To begin with an examination of the basic design and pedagogical features of fully online asynchronous courses and the underlying design principles; To explore the need for programmatic research to validate cultural differences relative to pedagogical and design features employed in online instruction features at the post-secondary level; To develop research based guidelines for accommodating cultural differences among online learners; To stimulate interest among researchers in joining this collaborative research effort. The purpose this study is to inform future research and to attract additional collaborators to participate in a programmatic research effort related to cultural differences in online instruction. The preliminary analysis indicates that there are cultural differences that occur among different cultural groups as measured by responses to selected items in each survey. To date the sample size in this study of responses from African American and Native American students is currently too small for a comparative analysis.
Throughout his career in higher education Ed Meyen has combined a focus on research and development as a professor while serving in major administrative roles. The latter has included serving as a department chair, associate vice chancellor for research, dean of the School of Education, and Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of Kansas. For the past 15 years he has co-directed an interdisciplinary research and development lab co-sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning (CRL) and the Information Technology and Telecommunications Center (ITTC) at the University of Kansas. Over 50 online products and/or tools focusing on post-secondary and K-12 education have been produced by the eDL during its history. The eDL has transitioned into the eLearning Research Collaborative (eRC). This model takes the form of interdisciplinary teams comprised of researchers, designers, developers and graduate students who share a common interest in research related to e-Learning. The objective is to conduct research studies that inform solutions to problems, new discoveries, innovative practices, or increased understanding of the learning process inherent in the emerging field of e-learning. Meyen has published over 100 articles and authored or co-edited 24 books in areas such as the education of students with exceptional learning needs, online instruction, instructional design and the process of developing online development. His current research interests are in two areas related to online instruction. They include 1) Cultural differences among online learners as reflected in their response to visual display designs employed in the development of online instruction and 2) Technology based techniques for measuring online learner engagement in online learning environments as applied to majoring motivation. He is currently a member the eRC team studying these areas of research.
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