The influence of cultural background on teaching and learning in synchronous online sessions

Wunder, Iris (2017) The influence of cultural background on teaching and learning in synchronous online sessions. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Distance-education technology has moved towards multimedia-oriented systems which allow an effective synergy of synchronous and asynchronous interaction. Virtual classrooms have become more and more popular, providing a multi-media context for synchronous teaching and learning at universities world-wide. This dissertation investigates the impact of cultural background on teaching and learning in synchronous virtual classrooms from the perspective of teachers at universities. Nineteen interviews were carried out via Skype with 17 teachers from five different countries. A phenomenological approach was used for the data analysis to find the “essence” of the experience of using a virtual classroom for synchronous online conferencing. Three themes emerged from the data analysis: Culture and its effects, Technology, and Pedagogy. Within these themes, the participants explained their views of the various aspects that define culture, explained their own cultural backgrounds and reported their experiences of stereotyping, gender-related issues, using a webcam and recording in their virtual classroom teaching. Furthermore, the effects of technology in relation to teaching in multi-cultural virtual classes were addressed. Finally, the pedagogical impact of teaching in a virtual classroom with students from diverse cultural backgrounds was analysed. The results show that there were two layers of cultural impact arising from the teachers´ and the students´ cultural background. The first one was the obvious existence of different cultures and what the teachers experienced consciously. This included awareness of adjusted didactics when teaching in a virtual classroom with diverse students. However, there was a second level, which revealed that the teachers were showing behaviours related to the theories of white ignorance (Mills, 2007), double-consciousness (Du Bois, 1994) and even panopticism (Foucault, 1977) without being aware of it. Thus, the desired concept of multiculturalism (Richeson & Nussbaum, 2004) in virtual classroom teaching was not exercised. However, it was concluded that a virtual classroom can be used as a safe environment for students and teachers from diverse cultural backgrounds if the teachers are aware of their own presence (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000), their cultural background and which effects their belonging to a “dominant” culture will have on their own behaviour and that of their students. If managed carefully, the virtual classroom offers a mixture of tools that can be used appropriately for creating interactivity and constructing knowledge with diverse participants; e.g., text chat can be used as a discussion tool for students who are too shy to speak into a microphone. Future studies are recommended to investigate the perception of students from various cultural backgrounds, as the research presented in this thesis focused solely on teachers´ experiences.

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Thesis (PhD)
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14 Aug 2017 13:38
Last Modified:
27 Sep 2023 00:32