Online education has vastly improved the efficiency of trainings. Before, corporations, hospitals, universities, and other institutions were forced to hire trainers to teach staff or students about new, necessary procedures. These trainings were time-consuming, expensive, and forced everyone to be present for the training at the same time. With the implementation of online training platforms, institutions are now able to deliver the same content on a much larger scale—nationally or even internationally—and trainees can complete trainings at times that are convenient to them. The introduction of these online training platforms was also less expensive than in-person alternatives. Despite all of the advantages of far-reaching training software, it is important to acknowledge that uniform training content may not be uniformly received by multicultural audiences. When utilizing an online training course platform meant for a diverse population, it is important to design the course to be culturally sensitive to a wide range of students or staff.
5 Quick Tips to Make Your Online Education Platform Culturally Inclusive
- Refrain from using difficult language: puns, metaphors, slang, or culturally specific analogies.
- Refrain from using historic or geographical references which do not apply to all students.
- Refrain from using humor; what may be funny to one culture may be offensive to another.
- Utilize a variety of delivery methods for information so that everyone feels included and has the opportunity to show their individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Create a flexible program that can be adapted following feedback from your audience.
The Implications of the Hofstede Model on Diverse Online Education Platform Learning
When Gómez-Rey, Barbera, and Fernández-Navarro (2016) looked at the impact of cultural dimensions on online learning in the United States, Spain, China, and Mexico, they utilized the Hofstede model. This model provides several indices that categorize national cultures. For the purposes of this study, the Hofstede model was applied to categorize each nation’s educational communities. Some of the pertinent indices of the Hofstede model regarding education are as follows: power–distance index, individualism–collectivism index, uncertainty–avoidance index, and indulgence–restraint index (Gómez-Rey et al., 2016). The power–distance index refers to the extent to which an organization adopts either a hierarchal approach with an unequal power distribution, or a more democratic, decentralized leadership structure. The uncertainty–avoidance index refers to the extent to which students place importance on getting the right answer from their teachers versus feeling comfortable in a more open-minded learning environment where student contributions are encouraged. Finally, the indulgence–restraint index refers to the extent to which a learning environment is more relaxed and values freedom of speech versus an environment that is more structured with learners clearly in a subordinate position (Gómez-Rey et al., 2016).
In China and Mexico, power–distance index scores were higher than those in America and Spain (Gómez-Rey et al., 2016). This shows that the lack of structure of the online training program was less effective for Chinese and Mexican cultures. The online platform also increased motivation more effectively for countries with high individualism scores (United States and Spain) rather than high collectivism scores (China and Mexico). In Mexico and Spain, uncertainty avoidance scores were higher than those in China and the United States. This suggests that students from Mexico and Spain were less satisfied because their expected learning outcomes were not met, as opposed to in China and the United States where their expected learning outcomes were met. Finally, Mexico fell closer to indulgence on the indulgence–restraint index, while China, Spain, and the United States were classified as more restrained societies. This suggests that Mexican students were less motivated and engaged with the online platform, perhaps finding the structured online environment to be overly rigid, undervaluing their desire to be spontaneous and fun with their learning (Gómez-Rey et al., 2016).
Potential Strategies to Increase Cultural Competence
These cultural differences should inform online course design and implementation. For example, implementing an instructor avatar may boost Chinese and Mexican student engagement and motivation because they favor a stronger authority presence. Additionally, balancing group project work and individual assignments may equally increase the motivation of students from collectivist cultures and students from individualist cultures. Further, outlining expected learning outcomes at the beginning of the course may improve Mexican and Spanish student satisfaction with their newfound knowledge from the online course platform. Finally, because Mexican students’ engagement with the online training program was low, as shown by their high scores for indulgence, it may be necessary to increase the gamification of these online programs to make them more desirable and less like a chore. Also, it may be necessary to implement assignments with more academic freedom, such as research projects on individually chosen topics or free write essays that may engage Mexican students who enjoy a learning environment that encourages freedom of speech rather than a learning environment that grades a student solely on their performance on closed-question tests.
Gómez-Rey, P., Barbera, E., & Fernández-Navarro, F. (2016). The impact of cultural dimensions on online learning. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19, 225–238. Retrieved from http://www.ifets.info/
McMahon, N. (2014, August 4). Developing learning programs for multicultural audiences. Training. Retrieved from https://trainingmag.com