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Culturally diverse classes are now a reality that we face in classrooms and online. Research into the understanding and designing for these diverse classes is needed to ensure that all students receive an equal basis for their education. There are two contributing factors for the creation of this research. The first being the increase in the number of international students enrolling to complete courses, and the second being the push to provide online courses. With the current trend to provide courses online and the increase in international students, the way in which we present unit content; and the delivery of that content required further investigation.
With the international student enrolment numbers on the rise nationally so to are the number of international students studying in Deakin University. It has been identified by some researchers that students from different cultures learn differently and have different approaches to learning. It has been recognised that the different learning styles become more apparent in the online learning environment. With the current move to go 'online', universities are now faced with designing and providing content for an expanded student audience. When we combine international and local students in one learning environment, consideration is needed to ensure that all students are provided with an equal learning environment.
Andrewartha and Wilmot (2001) have indicated that educational researchers have long derided the university lecture as an effective mode of delivery of educational materials, but currently there are many reports on the advantages offered by computer technology. Hence the creation and inclusion of audio lectures is needed to be explored and developed from a cultural perspective.
Several studies (Conlan, 1996; Munro-Smith, 2002; Chin, Chang & Bauer, 2000) have identified that Australian students are seen to be more accepting, comfortable, and confident working in the student centred environment as opposed to students from Asian cultures who generally prefer the traditional instructor centred approach. As these two cultural groups make up the largest portions of the student audiences at Deakin University and therefore, it is important to provide these learners with an environment that they feel comfortable learning in.
Conlan (1996) identifies that the approach of many Asian students to learning is that of rote learning. According to Conlan (1996), to "know" something for Asian students, often refers to being able to remember, repeat, reproduce, or recite the information in question. From these statements we can see that the reproduction and memorisation of material is considered to be a correct way of learning in the Asian culture.
Munro-Smith (2003) recognises that when a computer stands between a teacher and student, the cultural differences in the student population need to be taken into account, otherwise disengagement and stress can become a serious problem.
Munro-Smith (2003) indicated that many Asian peoples, especially Chinese and Thai, exhibit strong uncertainty avoidance in an educational context and prefer structured learning activities and assessment. In other words they want to be told what they need to know and precisely how to prove that they have learnt it. In contrast Australians prefer to interpret the task their own way.
It is important to remember that not all members of cultural groups; be they Australians, or Chinese, etc., are the same and that culturally stereotyping is a potential risk. Hofstede acknowledges the variability of behaviour within the cultural groups and that differences occur within the cultural groups as well.
McLoughlin and Oliver (2000) have assembled several design principles for use in culturally inclusive curriculum for online learners. These principles include, adopting a knowledge philosophy that is accepting of multiple perspectives; incorporating "real' learning activities that will build on existing knowledge, values, and skills; knowledge sharing to facilitate online learning communities; providing both internal and external support; encouraging students to be proactive in their learning; providing flexible learning goals to ensure that all students are able to achieve them.
General items that should be taken into consideration in order to reduce the effects on students from other cultures when designing online materials, include the following: providing an environment free of colloquial language and cultural slang; identifying items or language that may be offensive to other cultures; identifying areas in which cultures learn differently, and make allowances for this in the learning outcomes; and providing an environment, which ensures that all students are able to understand the material. These items are just a sample of techniques that can be used to reduce the barriers between cultures in the classroom and in online environments.
Roberts (1994) stated that with increasing numbers of students who have English as their second language, the existence of the audio tapes was seen as a means of these students being readily able to revise material without the need to approach staff members.
It is a concern that students may elect not to attend the lectures as they are being recorded. It is not the intension of this study to replace the face to face lecture but to enhance the unit content. It is assumed that students will use the audio lectures to catch up on content missed when they were unable to attend a lecture. This is extended one step further with the expectation that international students will use the audio lecture to revisit the lecture in order to better understand the unit content so that they are able to retain the information presented.
The provision of the lecture in its entirety though audio streaming is seen as one way in which students could be provided with the facility to review lecture material they did not understand the first time through, to add to or amend notes they had taken in the lecture or to take lecture notes from any lectures they had missed. Students can continuously access the lecture to listen to the content presented until they feel they understand the content. This is an important feature of the technology.
Research has indicated that in the weeks leading up to the examination period the number of students accessing the information increased. This may be seen as an indication that students see this as a useful aid to revision.
If we look at the major cultural groups for Deakin University, being Australian and Asian then we can plan who we are creating the audio lectures for. It has been identified that students from Asian cultures have a tendency towards rote learning. However, how can rote learning occur when a lecture is presented only once. Students do have access to the text based lecture notes, which they can access at any time, but the physical content conveyed by the lecturer within the lecture is only delivered once. Therefore creating an environment where students are able to revisit and re-access information at their convenience.
If we look at the inclusion of audio lecture from a cultural perspective then we can say that the independent Australian learners can simply use the audio lecture when they have missed a lecture and wish to catch up on the missed material. And the Asian culture students can use the recorded lecture to revise, revisit and reuse to remember the information, as per their style of learning.
It may be seen that audio lectures have a niche market for distance education and International students, as these students are seen to have the most to gain. The ability of the students to be able to revisit the information holds a major benefit for Asian cultured students, as it reflects on their rote learning style.
If we recall that students from different cultures have a different approach and compatibility with students centred learning, and with the expanding towards the online environment, action must be taken to increase student compatibility with this learning environment. The creation of dynamic learning environments will empower students to be proactive in their education and enable them to cater the unit content to fit their individual learning styles.
In all learning environments it is important not to make generalisations in relation to student groups and cultural backgrounds as each student is individual and has different needs, this is even more important when we are dealing with online learning environments.
Further research to be conducted is to expand the audio lectures to include video as well. At present test are being conducted to determine the benefit of the addition of audio to lecture materials, after these test are completed further experiments will be conducted with the introduction of video into the lecture material.
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Conlan, F. (1996). Can the different learning expectations of Australian and Asian students be reconciled in one teaching strategy? In Abbott, J. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Teaching and Learning Within and Across Disciplines, p41-45. Proceedings of the 5th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1996. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1996/conlan.html
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McLoughlin, C. and Oliver, R. (2000). Designing learning environments for cultural inclusivity: A case study of indigenous online learning at tertiary level. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 16(1), 58-72. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/mcloughlin.html
Munro-Smith, N. (2002). A Tale of Two Cities: Computer mediated teaching and learning in Melbourne and Singapore. Winds of change in the sea of learning: Proceedings 19th ASCILITE Conference. Auckland, New Zealand. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland02/proceedings/papers/105.pdf
Munro-Smith, N. (2003). A culturally aware course design. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Barker and J. Baron (Eds), Interact, Integrate, Impact: Proceedings 20th ASCILITE Conference. Adelaide, 7-10 December. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/ascilite2003/docs/pdf/662.pdf
Nelson, B. (2003). Australian Government Minister for Education, Science and Training, Media release.
Reushle, S., McDonald, J. & Lowe, W. (2003). Bridging international boundaries: Integrating and mentoring teaching roles in an online environment. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Barker and J. Baron (Eds), Interact, Integrate, Impact: Proceedings 20th ASCILITE Conference. Adelaide, 7-10 December. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/ascilite2003/docs/pdf/442.pdf
Roberts, G. (1994). An evaluation of the use made by students of the audio recording of lectures. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 10(2), 96-102. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet10/roberts.html
Signor, L. (2003). Virtual lectures versus face-to-face lectures: A four-year study exploring the impact on students' results. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Barker and J. Baron (Eds), Interact, Integrate, Impact: Proceedings 20th ASCILITE Conference. Adelaide, 7-10 December. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/ascilite2003/docs/pdf/700.pdf
Schertler, M. & Bodendorf, F. (2003). Production Environment for Web-Based Video Lectures. World Conference on E-Learning in Corp., Govt., Health., & Higher Ed. 2003(1), 2401-2408. [abstract only]. http://dl.aace.org/14161
|Authors: Elicia Lanham and Wanlei Zhou, School of Information Technology, Deakin University, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Please cite as: Lanham, E. & Zhou, W. (2004). Giving lectures a voice for a cross-cultural audience. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 539). Perth, 5-8 December. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/lanham-poster.html
© 2004 Elicia Lanham and Wanlei Zhou
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