Saturday, October 08, 2005

Andrea Edmundson

“Using the Cultural Adaptation Process (CAP) Model”
Adapting e-Learning for Use by Non-Western Cultures

Andrea Edmundson,
Friday, September 30, 2005, 11:00-11:45 am

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The term globalization gained currency in the 1970s as Western corporations rapidly expanded into other parts of the world (Jarvis, 2002), accelerating cross-cultural exchanges (Walker & Dimmock, 2002). Industrial anthropologists, such as Hall (2003; 1981) Hofstede (1984;1997; 2001) and Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner (1998), have identified cross-cultural dimensions—categories of characteristics across which cultures can be compared and contrasted—to begin to explain how members different cultures communicate, perceive time, or view themselves in relation to others and to the environment. Thus, as e-learning options proliferate and globalization continues members of this expanding audience of learners are more likely to encounter courses created by another culture. Most e-learning courses are designed in Western cultures; however, the largest and fastest growing consumer groups live in Eastern cultures such as China, Japan, and India (Van Dam & Rogers, 2002). Educators will thus be challenged to provide e-learning opportunities that result in equitable learning outcomes for targeted cultures by addressing differences in educational systems and cultural values. In particular, corporations that have outsourced sections of their workforce will be challenged with providing training for employees in non-Western or non-American cultures. Today, much of this training is provided via e-learning. However, to be successful, e-learning courses, typically designed in western cultures, will more likely be successful if they meet the needs of learners in non-western cultures.

This presentation is based on current literature and an exploratory, quasi-experimental study (posttest-only control group design), The Cross-Cultural Dimensions of Globalized e-Learning: Pre-testing was neither desirable nor useful in this study, as the researcher was interested in the differences between learning outcomes caused by the culture, rather than the knowledge or skills generated by the e-learning course. The study examined the effects of cross-cultural dimensions on learning outcomes for employees in functionally equivalent jobs in Western and Eastern cultures. Participants from the United States and India completed a Level 1 e-learning course (one with minimized cultural influences) that was designed in the United States. Results (scores, time to complete the course and number of attempts needed to complete the course) were compared for 757 participants, using students’ t tests. Subsequently, 204 randomly selected completers of the e-learning course then reported their perceptions of the e-learning experience in an online survey.

The problem addressed in this study was: “Are e-learning courses designed in a Western culture equally effective when used in an Eastern culture?” The research questions used to address this problem were as follows:

When taking an e-learning course designed in a Western culture, do participants from Eastern and Western cultures experience equitable learning outcomes?

Do they have different preferences for or perceptions of elearning?

If there are strong similarities or significant differences in learning outcomes between the two cultures, in participants’ use of features, or in their preferences or perceptions, are these similarities or differences related to the cross-cultural dimensions described in the literature?

Learners from both cultures achieved equitable learning outcomes, suggesting that characteristics of a Level 1 e-learning course can mediate the effects of culture that may inhibit the achievement of equitable learning outcomes. In addition, while cross-cultural dimensions did seem to affect learners’ preferences for and perceptions of e-learning, both Eastern and Western participants were willing to try new approaches to learning that did not align with their cultural profiles, as identified in the literature.

Based on the results of this study, the cultural adaptation process (CAP) model was presented as a preliminary guideline for adapting e-learning courses for other cultures. The use of this model could assist corporations who are training their outsourced employees in another culture to ensure that all employees understand the training and acquire the desired skills.

Domestically, providers of e-learning will be challenged to accommodate increasingly culturally heterogeneous audiences of learners. In 1997, 36% of students in the United States were fromnondominant ethnic groups, yet 86% of new teachers were white, and only 3% of teachers spoke a second language (from the National Center for Educational Statistics in Carter, 2000). From an instructional point of view, incompatibilities between the cross-cultural characteristics of e-learning courses and learners could cause inequitable learning outcomes (Henderson, 1996). For example, members of cultures may prefer to learn in a particular manner (Gardner, 1989; Horton, 1999), or they may have specific approaches to problem solving (Lave, 1988; Soh, 1999) and creativity (Gardner, 1989). Or, a pedagogical paradigm espoused by one culture could alienate or confuse targeted learners (Hall, 1981), as could unintentional cultural biases in instructional design (McLoughlin, 1999). Thus, both producers and consumers of e-learning in cultures other than the designing culture may benefit from understanding and applying principles addressed by this study.

Carter, R. T. (2000). Reimagining race in education: A new paradigm for psychology. Teachers College Record, 102(5), 864-898.
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Hofstede, G. H. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in Work-Related Values (Abridged ed. Vol. 5). Newbury Park: SAGE Publications.
Hofstede, G. H. (1997). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (Second ed.). London; New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hofstede, G. H. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


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