Annotated Bibliography Complete an Annotated Bibliography entry of a resource from this module that had the greatest impact on your learning and understand

Annotated Bibliography Complete an Annotated Bibliography entry of a resource from this module that had the greatest impact on your learning and understand

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Annotated Bibliography Complete an Annotated Bibliography entry of a resource from this module that had the greatest impact on your learning and understanding of what it means to be an effective online instructor.

Article attached and Annotated Bibliography attached • Sultan Alalshaikh, Doctoral Student, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology. E-mail: Sul-
tan.Alalshaikh@Pepperdine.edu

The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, Volume 16(3), 2015, pp. 67–75 ISSN 1528-3518
Copyright © 2015 Information Age Publishing, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

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CULTURAL IMPACTS ON DISTANCE
LEARNING, ONLINE LEARNING STYLES,
AND DESIGN

Sultan Alalshaikh
Pepperdine University

This article focuses on the multicultural nature of distance learners. To note, the heightened demand for higher
education on a global scale, as well as rapid advancements in telecommunication technologies, have rendered
online distance education as having potential for worldwide reach online schools in many countries. Because
of this, online educators should design instruction in such a way that people from different cultural back-
grounds effectively learn from it. Indeed, instructors and instructional designers, particularly those working in
online learning environments, should develop the necessary skills so they are able to deliver “culturally sen-
sitive and culturally appropriate and robust instruction.” The article explores the relevant concepts such as the
cultural dimension of distance learning, instructional design that is culturally appropriate, learning as
impacted by culture, as well as the need for multicultural competency training for distance school instructors.
The article also explores the barriers to effectiveness in delivery of culturally appropriate instruction in the
context of distance learning. The theoretical foundation for the article is Freire’s critical pedagogy.

INTRODUCTION

Heightening demand for higher education on a
global scale, as well as rapid advancements in
telecommunication technologies, have ren-
dered online distance education as having
potential for worldwide reach (Garrison &
Anderson, 2003; Sadykova & Dautermann,
2009). Indeed, one of the most remarkable
social developments of the past 20 years has
been the increasing ubiquity of technology as

well as of Internet connectivity. Hence, a pri-
mary part of life is the integration of the Inter-
net and computer technology into almost every
facet of life—from transportation, communi-
cation, and finance, to education (Gaudelli,
2006, p. 97). Needless to say, many people rely
on computers and Internet connectivity in
order to function effectively and efficiently. It
is noteworthy that academic institutions have
also increasingly been dependent upon tech-
nology in order to facilitate instruction and

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operations. Such schools have varying motiva-
tions to do so, but a commonality among them
is that they seek to prepare their graduates to
“function in a technology-rich, information-
based society” (Gaudelli, 2006, p. 97).

Most students today are digital natives who
comfortably function within a technological,
plugged-in society. They are familiar with
electronic tools such as e-mail, instant messag-
ing, and the Internet (Gaudelli, 2006). These
electronic tools are increasingly used for the
entertainment, communication, and learning. It
is important to note that teacher education has
also seemingly embraced the aforementioned
social developments (Lee & McLoughlin,
2007), and in so doing has become more
attuned to the learning needs of students. As
Gaudelli (2006) explains, schools for teacher
education have integrated technological learn-
ing tools “such as computers, email, the Inter-
net, learning software, databases, and
multimedia formats to prepare candidates to
work in the technologically enabled environ-
ment of the classroom” (p. 98). This represents
one of the most important developments in
education of new teachers over the past 20
years.

Due to the combined benefits of such tech-
nological advancements and the nature of
learners as digital natives, there has been a pro-
liferation of academic institutions offering dis-
tance learning (Kumar & Bhattacharya, 2007;
Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010; Sad-
ykova & Dautermann, 2009). It must be
emphasized that although distance education
has been around for many years, its format of
delivery has dramatically changed as a result
of digitization and globalization. The online
course delivery format is appreciated for its
“interactivity, multimedia/multilingual inte-
gration, and multiplatform capacity in syn-
chronous and/or asynchronous formats all
within a ubiquitous learning space, the web”
(Gaudelli, 2006, p. 98).

Considerable developments in web-based
distance learning in terms of pedagogical
frameworks, tools and methodologies have
been taking place over the past decade and

educators themselves have played important
roles in these processes (Maor, 2003). Never-
theless, it cannot be emphasized enough that
institutions planning to offer international dis-
tance education have to prepare for a number
of changes, including the multicultural nature
of student bodies, designing for distance learn-
ing, and evolving student learning needs.
Hence, educators should design instruction in
such a way that people from different cultural
backgrounds effectively learn from it (Maor,
2003). Indeed, instructors and instructional
designers, particularly those working in online
learning environments, should develop the
necessary skills so that they are able to deliver
“culturally sensitive and culturally adaptive
instruction” (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot,
2010, p. 1). This article focuses on the multi-
cultural nature of distance learning student
bodies, and how instruction could be effec-
tively designed in light of this multicultural-
ism.

DISTANCE LEARNING

Several elements are converging such that
teaching and learning in cross-cultural and
multicultural contexts have become more com-
mon. Two factors that have to be considered
here are globalization and types of distance
learning.

Globalization and its Impacts

A phenomenon that has greatly impacted
teaching and learning is globalization (Fried-
man, 2007). In fact, globalization is described
as a phenomenon in which rapid advancements
in information and communication technolo-
gies have led to dynamic, real-time communi-
cation across different time zones, the
breaking down of barriers so that global trade
may prosper as well as increasing diversity as
waves of people cross borders in order to seek
opportunities in different lands (Sethy, 2008).
Globalization has been characterized as a pro-
gressive transformation of social structures

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that has led to the creation of new ideas, val-
ues, identities and practices” (Sethy, 2008, p.
29).

Moreover, growing world trade and global-
ization of industries, financial systems, and
numerous professions have created a world
where cross-cultural interactions take place
more often in comparison to the past (Fried-
man, 2007; Quinn, 2011). Because of increas-
ing specialization in a number of professions,
there has been a proportional increase in dif-
ferent types of learners seeking targeted educa-
tion. Alternatively, professionals seek to
remain academically relevant, and students
desire to develop specialized skills so that they
perform well amidst a “rapidly changing world
demand access to proper educational opportu-
nities, even if this requires international travel
or distance learning approaches” (Parrish &
Linder-VanBerschot, 2010, p. 2).

Today, advanced Internet technologies as
well as different types of applications associ-
ated with these technologies render distance
learning an excellent alternative to traditional
education, thereby leading to the creation of
virtual learning approaches. These virtual
environments are designed in such a way that
students are able to take advantage of the flex-
ibility of different schedules. This way, they
are able to juggle various concerns while still
learning and earning credits in school
(Koszalka, & Ganesan, 2004).

Cultural diversity has become a defining
characteristic of student bodies (Sadykova &
Dautermann, 2009). This has become more
pronounced in online learning because people
from various regions and cultures can enroll in
the desired curriculum. Those who may find
traditional classrooms intimidating can opt for
this kind of environment because communica-
tion is based on the virtual environment. How-
ever, scholars have been emphasizing that
deeply ingrained cultural values are hard to
separate from learning processes (Parrish &
Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). In other words,
the prevailing culture of the society can
become the culture in the classroom. This
should not be the case because of the high level

of diversity in online education (Sadykova &
Dautermann, 2009).

Increasingly, there is more appreciation of
cultural diversity because it is perceived as an
advantage when it comes to addressing multi-
ple challenges that have emerged in global
environments (Sadykova & Dautermann,
2009). As Parrish and Linder-VanBerschot
(2010) state, it is necessary to “preserve diver-
sity in response to the threat of loss of cultural
identity in the face of globalization and
because of the benefits of community cohe-
siveness through unique cultural expression”
(p. 2). As a consequence of the increasing need
for educational access, learners are now
demanding “culturally adaptive learning expe-
riences that allow full development of the indi-
vidual” (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010,
p. 2).

Nevertheless, learners seeking education in
a multicultural context that does not consider
cultural influences and variations may encoun-
ter considerable conflict. Such conflicts occur
when learning styles and preferences are
incompatible with instructional approaches
used by a teacher (Gaudelli, 2006). Students
can be unintentionally discriminated against
simply because the teacher is unaware of cul-
tural differences. In light of these, instructional
designers and teachers, particularly those
working in online environments, have to effec-
tively engage with students as well as develop
the necessary competencies in such a way that
they are able to deliver culturally sensitive and
culturally appropriate instruction (Gaudelli,
2006).

However, there have been scholarly obser-
vations that even if culture is taken into consid-
eration within the realm of instructional
system design, it is nevertheless overlooked or
underappreciated (Parrish & Linder-VanBer-
schot, 2010). Instructional design is considered
as “an inherently social process,” making it
crucial that teachers “no longer take a neutral
position in developing their courses and mate-
rials” (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010,
p. 3). In order for students to truly benefit from
instruction, teachers and instructional design-

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ers should be “cognizant of the cultures of their
learners and how those cultures manifest them-
selves in learning preferences” (Parrish &
Linder-VanBerschot, 2010, p. 3). This can
involve much research on the part of those who
are involved in designing curriculum.

Teachers and instructional designers con-
tinue to be sensitive to their own culture, too.
This is because their own culture and world-
views simply “cannot be separated from the
training that they develop” (Parrish & Linder-
VanBerschot, 2010, p. 3). However, by being
aware, this does not mean that one should
impose one’s own values to others. In addition,
teachers and instructional designers should
also be aware of how their own cultural stand-
points impact the design decisions they make
and approaches that they use. Just as impor-
tantly, instructional providers should analyze
the assumptions they maintain pertaining to
how “learners will and should respond, keep-
ing an open mind for potentially unexpected
responses” (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot,
2010, p. 3). Instructional providers should also
strive to maintain the balance between needing
to help learners “adapt to specific professional,
academic, and mainstream cultures” and need-
ing to “embrace the culture in which the stu-
dent is embedded” (Parrish & Linder-
VanBerschot, 2010, p. 3). This is challenging.

Types of Distance Learning

Full discussion of the different types of dis-
tance learning and their benefits and draw-
backs are beyond the scope of this article.
Nevertheless, there is a need to make distinc-
tions between them in order to clarify the con-
text of multiculturalism in distance learning
and because terminology impacts the way
instructional designers create the fittest envi-
ronments.

Distance Education

Distance education is the most commonly
used descriptor in reference to distance learn-
ing (Moore, Dickson-Deane, & Galyen, 2011).

It usually refers to the endeavors to provide
“access to learning for those who are geo-
graphically distant” (Moore et al., 2011, p.
129). On the other hand, distance learning
refers more to ability (Moore et al., 2011).
Therefore, “distance education is an activity
within the ability [of learning at a distance]”
and these terms are constrained by disparities
in time and place (Moore et al., 2011, p. 129).
As emerging technologies have became
increasingly ubiquitous in the realm of educa-
tion, the actual learning process is at the focal
point to every form of instruction, and the
“term distance learning once again was used to
focus on its limitations associated with ‘dis-
tance,’ that is, time and place” (Moore et al.,
2011, p. 130).

Over time, distance learning transformed in
order to refer to other types or forms of learn-
ing, including online learning, e-learning,
mediated learning, online collaborative learn-
ing, virtual learning, and web-based learning,
among others (Moore et al., 2011). As new
technologies evolved, distance learning has
become more associated with learning through
the use of computers although many continue
to use the term in reference to another type of
delivering instruction over distance, which is
the home study courses offered by a school.

E-learning

E-learning pertains to instructional methods
and course contents that are delivered through
the Internet, Intranet, CD-ROM, audio and
videotape, satellite broadcast, and interactive
television (Benson, 2002). There are also some
who define e-learning as featuring a certain
degree of interactivity (Garrison & Anderson,
2003).

Online Learning

The term online learning is somewhat trick-
ier to define. It typically refers to learning
experiences gained through the use of a tech-
nological format (Benson, 2002). Online learn-
ing has also been described as learning through

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information and communication technologies
supported formats (Córdova & Goodnow,
2009). It is considered as the more contempo-
rary version of distance learning that enhances
access to educational opportunities for nontra-
ditional and even unprivileged learners (Ben-
son, 2002). However, there are also authors
who emphasize not only accessibility in the
context of online learning, but also its “con-
nectivity, flexibility and ability to promote
varied interactions” (Moore et al., 2011, p.
133).

ONLINE LEARNING STYLES

In contrast with face-to-face learning in tradi-
tional classrooms, online learning is not con-
strained by time or location. An important
aspect of online learning is the emphasis on
students’ “self-management of their own
learning” (Yu-Chih, Yu-Ching, & Sanchez,
2013, p. 144). As mentioned earlier, online
learning contents may be delivered through
different media features, including, audio-
visual components, graphics, textual informa-
tion, as well as hyperlink functions. It must be
noted that the preference of students when it
comes to learning online may contrast with
preferences among students in traditional face-
to-face environments. For instance, the way
online students access materials in online
learning management systems, interact with
them, and study them is vastly different from
the way classroom students do it (Yu-Chih et
al., 2013).

When considering the nature of the online
classroom, online learning, and learning style
categories discussed in extant literature, there
are four categories of learning styles in online
learning environments.

Perceptual Learning Styles

With this learning style, reference is made
to the predominant use of a specific perceptual
sense in learning. There are types of learners
who prefer textual information in learning. On

the other hand, there are also those who like
visual presentations, such as charts and figures
(Yu-Chih et al., 2013). Some of them appreci-
ate a strong auditory component wherein the
learner seeks sound and voice information.
Lastly, there are those who enjoy active learn-
ing where there is a preference for adding their
own touch through learning from experiments.

Cognitive Processing Learning Styles

This refers to the “cognitive tendency for
processing information” (Yu-Chih et al., 2013,
p. 144). Learners have preference for abstract
or conceptual methods for information pro-
cessing. On the other hand, there are also those
who prefer learning through daily experiences
or through concrete examples (Yu-Chih et al.,
2013). Included in this learning style is the
serial learner who prefers serial and linear
learning (Yu-Chih et al., 2013). Another type
of learning style that falls under this category
is the random style, where the preference is for
“learning in a nonlinear sequence or order”
(Yu-Chih et al., 2013, p. 145). Another learn-
ing style here is the holistic or global style,
where there is “preference for overall under-
standing of the information” (Yu-Chih et al.,
2013, p. 145). An analytic style is one where
the learner prefers critical analysis of all ele-
ments of a reading material or information.

Social Learning Styles

Social learning styles take into consider-
ation personality types that pertain to prefer-
ences when it comes to social engagement and
personality traits in learning (Yu-Chih et al.,
2013). Under this learning style, there are
some who prefer studying alone while there
are those who prefer studying with peers
because they like the interaction (Yu-Chih et
al., 2013). On the other hand, there are also
learners who seek guided learning, because
they feel they will benefit from the guidance of
their teacher. Another learning type here is the
persistent one, who has the propensity to focus
on learning for extended periods of time.

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Lastly, the observer prefers “observation
rather than active involvement in discussion or
interaction with others” (Yu-Chih et al., 2013,
p. 145).

Problem-Based Learning Styles

Interestingly, the problem-based learning
(PBL) style seems to combine some of the
characteristics of learners falling under the
three aforementioned categories. PBL was first
developed in order to address challenges found
in traditional teaching and learning (Wheeler,
Kelly, & Gale, 2005). PBL seeks to facilitate
higher levels of cognitive engagement as
described in the cognitive processing learning
style (Wheeler et al., 2005). PBL promotes
development of skills by means of “complex,
real-life problems and motivates students to
adopt deeper approaches to study” (Wheeler et
al., 2005, p. 126).

PBL also encourages “critical thinking, col-
laborative learning, verbal and written com-
munication skills and lifelong learning skills”
(Wheeler et al., 2005, p. 126). Wheeler et al.,
(2005) explained that “the power of PBL lies
in its facility to present learners with authentic
problems they might encounter in the ‘real
world’ ” (p. 127). Students who prefer this
learning style like practicing their problem-
solving skills as well as researching more
deeply into the varying contexts of a given
problem. In this learning style, the student
looks to their teachers as guides and facilita-
tors in the process of learning, reminiscent of
some preferences in the social learning styles.

THE IMPACTS OF CULTURE ON
LEARNING STYLE PREFERENCES

Yu-Chih et al. (2013) conducted a review of
literature in order to compile results of earlier
research, such as Hofstedes’s cultural dimen-
sion, which pertains to the impacts of culture
on learning style preferences. In previous
decades, school instruction tended to focus
only on course designs as well as instructional

strategies that teachers will apply. It was gen-
erally believed that such insights were suffi-
cient for the promotion of effective learning
(Yu-Chih et al., 2013). However, as more stud-
ies were conducted in the field of learning, it
became evident that teaching quality is posi-
tively associated with the characteristics of
students, teaching styles, as well as the teach-
ing environment (Yu-Chih et al., 2013).

Here, students’ characteristics in the con-
text of learning styles pertain to a person’s
combination of stable cognitive, affective, and
physiological states (Yu-Chih, et al., 2013).
Therefore, learners’ behavior refers to how
they perceive, respond, and interact with the
environment (Yu-Chih et al., 2013, p. 41).
Notably, studies show that students who learn
within an environment that is suitable for their
learning styles tend to garner higher test grades
as well as learning attitude scores than students
who learn in an unsuitable environment (Yu-
Chih et al., 2013). Moreover, when a student is
transferred form an unsuitable learning envi-
ronment into a suitable one, there is a resulting
improvement in academic performance (Yu-
Chih et al., 2013).

Yu-Chih et al. (2013) reported the results of
a study conducted among Armenian, African,
Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, Mexican, and
Anglo cultures as well as Mexican-American
high school and university students; all ethnic
groups preferred learning that is kinesthetic,
auditory, and tactile (Yu-Chih et al., 2013).
Except for Anglo students, the students pre-
ferred visual learning styles. These findings
are supported by other studies showing that
Asian learners are more of visual learners than
verbal learners. Moreover, Armenian, Korean,
and Anglo students tend to not like cooperative
learning, and university-level students are
more conscious of their own learning prefer-
ences in comparison with secondary school
students (Yu-Chih et al., 2013).

For an online instructor or for instructional
designers, it could be challenging to determine
the specific learning styles and preferences of
online students. However, the importance of
discerning these specific learning preferences

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must be emphasized because failure to do so
could lead to too many dispersed learning
styles, or assessment tools adopted inappropri-
ately for e-learning environments (Yu-Chih et
al., 2013, p. 242). In light of these, online
teachers and instructional designers need to
harness learning style assessment tools that are
suitable for online learners considering that
this could facilitate effective learning. Needs
assessment is crucial at this point, and teachers
need to keep in mind that this could be an out-
standing primary activity before actual instruc-
tions begin (Koszalka & Ganesan, 2004).

DESIGNING CULTURALLY
APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTIONS

Studies show that teaching methods and styles
do not have to threaten the sociocultural back-
grounds of the learners (Kumar & Bhattacha-
rya, 2007, p. 114). Indeed, teaching methods
can vary significantly. There are teachers who
want to be the focus of instruction, while there
are also those who make learners significantly
engage with their peers. Other teachers also
encourage learners to look for their own
resources. However, studies also attest that
certain cultural barriers prevent effective inter-
action between teachers and learners. For
instance, in certain societies, students who ask
questions in class are showing disrespect to
teachers (Kumar & Bhattacharya, 2007). In
other communities, it is frowned upon for
female students to speak up in class (Kumar &
Bhattacharya, 2007).

At the other end of the spectrum, there are
societies in which a cultural barrier is in the
form of an all-of-us-being-equal mentality that
impacts communication and mutual respect
(Kumar & Bhattacharya, 2007). Many teachers
in Western societies do not like treating stu-
dents as subordinates and speaking down at
them (Kumar & Bhattacharya, 2007). In other
cultures, deep consultations are first conducted
before any instruction can take place (Kumar
& Bhattacharya, 2007). In certain African
states, “the Kgotla system of long and sus-

tained meetings is held to thrash out any point
and any new development taking place”
(Kumar & Bhattacharya, 2007, p. 114).

In India, the Panchayat system takes a sim-
ilar approach. Another consideration here is,
for instance, teachers who strictly require
meeting of assignment deadlines from stu-
dents. In certain societies, Saturdays are
intended for family occasions and other func-
tions. In other cultures, weekends are reserved
for prayer activities and these tend to have
greater importance than assignments (Kumar
& Bhattacharya, 2007). Hence, teachers, espe-
cially those delivering online instruction, can-
not always expect students to turn in long
assignments on Mondays. In consideration of
these cultural impacts on learning and teach-
ing, it is of utmost importance that teachers
and instructional designers clearly identify
their purpose and objectives in teaching
(Tyler, 1949). One of these is the delivery of
culturally appropriate and culturally sensitive
instructions. The following are some theoreti-
cal foundations that can guide in designing
culturally appropriate online instructions.

Pedagogy

In Freire’s (2000) seminal work, The Peda-
gogy of the Oppressed, he maintains that edu-
cation orients students to either accept a
problematic status quo or embody the practice
of freedom such that they are able to deal with
realities of life that, ultimately, will transform
their world for the better. Therefore, it may be
said that Freire (2000) seeks to empower learn-
ers based on their social realities. Freire (2000)
promotes a praxis-oriented and socially con-
structed approach to instruction so that stu-
dents will gain the appropriate skills to deal
with the challenges of life. Students can
achieve these through the acquisition of proper
skills, expansions of their academic knowl-
edge, improvement of critical thinking skills as
well as embracing of curiosity regarding soci-
ety, power inequality and change (Pishghadam
& Naji Meidani, 2012, p. 465).

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Andragogy

The term “andragogy” pertains to
approaches and methods in delivering instruc-
tion to adult learners (Knowles, Holton, &
Swanson, 2011). Knowles et al. (2011) point
out numerous aspects about adult learners that
distinguish them from other learners, which
instructional designers have to keep in mind.
First and foremost, adult learners are those
whose “intellectual aspirations are least likely
aroused by the rigid, uncompromising require-
ments of authoritative, conventionalized
instructions of teaching” (Knowles et al.,
2011, p. 38). In an adult class, the students’
experiences are of equal importance as the
teacher’s knowledge. Indeed, as Knowles et al.
(2011) emphasize, in an adult class, it is diffi-
cult to discern whether learning is greater for
the teacher or the student. Therefore, in adult
learning classes, the students and the teacher
share authority. It is also important to note that
motivation to learn among adult learners is
driven by needs and interests that only educa-
tion can meet. Hence, these needs and interests
are the proper starting points for online teach-
ers (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008).

Online teachers also need to keep in mind
that the orientation of adult learners is life-cen-
teredness. Therefore, in order to effectively
organize adult learning, the teacher needs to
focus on life situations rather than subjects
(Knowles et al., 2011). Just as importantly,
adult learners have a strong desire for self-
direction (Knowles et al., 2011). Taking this
into consideration, the online teacher should
“engage in a process of mutual inquiry with
them rather than to transmit his or her knowl-
edge to them” and then assess students’ “con-
formity with them” (Knowles et al., 2011, p. …

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