Cross-cultural Online Learning in Technical Communication Courses: Aiming for Intercultural Competence

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Therese Indira Pennell (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
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Abstract: Teaching online in cross-cultural contexts is still a fairly new phenomenon. My research explores the impact of culture on the learners and instructors in four technical communication online courses. My study uses a comparative analysis to study how four instructors and their learners navigate their respective online courses. The instructors in this study come from two different countries , and all four of them are teaching graduate level technical communication online courses that are open to international learners. The learners in the courses come from several countries in Europe , Asia , and North America , representing an even wider range of cultural backgrounds than those of their instructors. Using a framework based on the theories of Clifford Geertz and Edward T. Hall , I analyze participants' culturally grounded communication patterns to understand how culture impacts instructors' practices and learners' expectations and experiences in their online courses. Hall theorizes that when individuals from different cultures communicate , they must have intercultural competence; they must be able to transition between low and high context communication to understand each other. The findings reveal the complex nature of culture: although national culture affects the online learning experience , other levels including institutional culture , disciplinary culture , and digital culture are also influential and may shape the cultural context of the online course even more powerfully than national culture alone. The study ends with considerations regarding tools and strategies online instructors can implement to help participants of diverse cultural backgrounds reach intercultural competence as they interact with the course and with each other.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Technical communication, Online pedagogy, Cross-cultural, high and low context communication

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