You are here:

Culture and Online Learning: Global Perspectives

, University of New Mexico, United States


With the global expansion and acceptance of eLearning, issues relevant to interculturality are coming to the forefront of learning design. Imagine an online class comprised of students from diverse cultural backgrounds across the globe. Understanding these learners from a cultural perspective enables us to maximize the strength of this diversity and build online environments that are conductive for learning. This session will examine how culture influences the learning process online. Subscribing to a view of culture as negotiated online, we can come to terms with the complexity of culture in online learning environments, by defining it from the perspective of the Internet as a culture in its own right where networked learning communities develop their own conventions for interaction, and what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior online. The session begins with a definition of culture for online environments and examines the diverse ways in which culture is manifested online, adopting various frameworks for cultural understanding, based on our recent publication: “Culture and online learning: Global perspectives and research” by Stylus. Blending conceptual discussions and empirical evidence, three key challenges of online learning design where culture influences the learning process are addressed: (1) developing a learning community;(2) knowledge construction; and (3) learner support including mentoring. Critiquing most online learning designs that are based on Western-centric ways of teaching, often at the expense of global students, the session explores emerging cultures in online learning environments such as the new visual and participatory cultures, and discusses how they can be accounted for in learning design. The session concludes by reviewing one particular design model, WisCom, (Wisdom Communities) that can help instructors -- and learners -- explore their culturally-derived beliefs and values as they design for online learning.


Gunawardena, C. (2015). Culture and Online Learning: Global Perspectives. Presented at E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning 2015. Retrieved September 22, 2019 from .