Fostering Multicultural Understandings within Global Online Higher Education Learning Environments

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With the ever-growing use of the internet, many higher education institutions are now offering online education to students from anywhere in the world. While online learning provides learners flexibility in pursuing their educational goals, the importance of addressing cultural factors is also integral to learner engagement. This research explored the influence of culture in online learning environments through the examination of Geert Hofstede’s (2017) cultural framework. The study was undertaken to examine how socio-cultural factors (i.e., beliefs, languages, and value systems) influence learner engagement in online learning environments in higher education. The study was conducted using a virtual ethnographic approach that not only underscored the assumptions in which traditional ethnography is rooted, but also placed emphasis on features of communications technology and its implications for conducting online research. A virtual ethnographic approach using individual interviews with study participants (n = 11) allowed for developing rich descriptions regarding the online cultural learning context. Findings from the study have helped me identify implications for practice. Two key findings identified from the data included learner-to-instructor communication and the need for cultural understandings. These findings indicated that culture influences online learner experiences. However, this impact should not be undervalued or excessively overrated so as not to stereotype students’ cultures. A key implication for practice involves cultural responsiveness designed to enhance learner engagement. Fostering culturally responsive online learning environments should be supported institutionally and integrated in all areas of online learning strategy, including course design and course facilitation.
online learning, culture, learner engagement, virtual ethnography
Naidoo, U. (2022). Fostering multicultural understandings within global online higher education learning environments (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from