Cultural diversity and online learning

South Africa is home to a diversity of cultures and languages. It is this heritage that creates both the richness and complexity within our country. With 11 official languages, the Education sector is greatly influenced by our diversity. Our cultures influence the patterns of education. But with such a massive range of cultures, the question is how do we overcome barriers that come with cultural diversity when it comes to teaching. Certainly, language is only one aspect of these barriers.

With the gradual shift to blended and online education, the technology could potentially play a role to proactively overcome some of these challenges.

Collaborative learning

While learning online does not always allow for physical interaction, there is an opportunity for social interaction that should not be ignored. In fact, when implemented proactively, online collaboration can bring students together and help them overcome barriers.

To promote collaboration, plan classes so that learners must contribute to the eClassroom environment. Also, make use of collaborative tools and have learners work in groups to study together.

Familiarisation

The nature of eLearning means learners from different backgrounds and different learning environments may end up on the same course. This means the way learners learn will vary, exposure to course material will differ and assessment style could also be different. A good way to overcome these different approaches is to offer practice exams or mock assessments. Create a set of mock exams so that learners can familiarise themselves with different styles. This offers exposure to different styles of learning and creates a common ground for learners to interact with each other.

Language barriers

With 11 official languages, South Africa’s learning institutions often deal with language barriers. While online classes or group discussions may be difficult to follow while live, online platforms have recordings. These recordings mean students can access lectures or talks after the live event and listen to parts that they struggled with. With study groups set up, learners also can discuss the points they missed or struggled to interpret. So, while online courses are usually delivered in one preferred or official language, there are opportunities for learners to overcome language barriers through repetition or support.

eCulture

Different backgrounds and cultures determine one’s values and experiences. Stepping out from cultural comfort zones opens one up to learn about other cultures and in doing so cross boundaries. But learning online calls for a new cultural adjustment. A virtual learning environment with different rules, values, and terms – adjusting to an eCulture. While this cultural adjustment could be seen as a barrier, adjusting offers an opportunity for learners to apply their analytical intelligence and creates a space for a common interest.

While diverse cultures could create barriers to eLearning, there are also opportunities for learners to overcome these barriers, adjust and learn new experiences. The best way to achieve this is to fully utilise collaboration opportunities by using the online learning tools available efficiently.

Let us help you find and implement the correct tools for your online and blended learning courses.