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This module focuses on understanding the impact of multiculturalism in online teaching. This module is part of the Best Practices in Online Teaching Course created by Penn State University World Campus as a guide for faculty who are new to teaching in an online

What to do?

Figure 1 Graphic, Diversity 5 by B S K, Photo #840316, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/840316

Cultural inhibitions that we may experience when personally interacting with people are mostly absent in the text-based communication of online education. However, effective online instructors should manage the cultural-based differences in online classrooms, and cultivate cultural sensitivity and awareness in a globalized e-learning system through the appropriate uses of various learning technologies.

How to do it?

  • Use non-discriminatory language and avoid words that may cause adverse reactions.
  • Be aware that multiculturalism/cultural diversity does not only exist in nationality or ethnicity, but in other aspects as well, such as generation, religion or political belief, or regions within one country. (See Tapcott's discussion of Characteristics of the Net Generation)
  • When teaching topics in social studies, global education, or any learning about the world and its peoples, Merryfield (2003) finds these online teaching strategies useful:
    • Reflect on one’s cultural background and experience
    • For difficult, emotional, or controversial topics, use chats or threaded discussions and make the discussion activities optional
    • Provide updated knowledge about the world and its people
    • For topics that you want the whole class to think about, use listserv discussions and do not require length or depth
    • Use threaded discussions to invite extended feedback, suggestions, new resources that help students to improve their posted work
  • If possible, mix students from different countries/areas or those with different backgrounds when forming student teams to encourage better cross-cultural exchanges and diverse perspectives (Ko&Rossen, 2004).
  • Provide selected high-quality resources for conflicting perspectives.
  • Attend to the learning differences (such as motivation or perceptions of interaction and/or team collaboration) demonstrated by students from different cultural backgrounds; provide appropriate supports when you suspect any culture-related factor may have negatively affected your students’ online learning experience. (see McGee's discussion of differences between Collective and Individualistic Cultures - (External Link) .)
  • When necessary, use your teaching assistants as cultural consultants if they share the same cultural backgrounds with some of the students.
  • Join professional communities or conferences to experience diverse experiences, backgrounds, and connections to a global society directly.

Why do it?

The promise of a global e-learning system depends on a better understanding of the impact of cultural differences on students’ learning experiences (Moore, Shattuck,&Ai-Harthi, 2006).

“The online discussions are like a veil that protects me and Yang; I feel safe enough to ask the hard questions I could never say to her face – by a social studies teacher in a global education course” (Merryfield, 2003, p.146).

“Closed online environments provide a secure place for people to take risks, share personal experiences, admit to the realities of prejudice and discrimination (a family member’s racist acts, a colleague’s bias against gays, one’s own prejudices) or ask politically incorrect questions (‘Why do Asians stick to themselves?’ was asked in one online class). When people feel safe and comfortable, they tackle topics that often lead to information that counters stereotypes, ignorance, or misunderstandings. Important learning takes place that often is inhibited in a face-to-face classroom”. (Merryfield, 2003).

Hills (2003) suggests that cultural diversity is another source of difference to consider in online learning environment; however, “it is a mistake to assume that cultural diversity is only based on ethnic or national differences. Within any one country, there will be regional differences, differences of upbringing and differences of age” (p.64). And naturally we have stereotypes for each of these different groups.


Hills, H. (2003). Individual preferences in e-learning . VT: Gower Publishing Company.

Ko, S.&Rossen, S. (2004). Teaching online: A practical guide . 2nd Ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

McGee, P. (2002). Web-based learning design: Planning for diversity. USDLA Journal, 16(3) . Available Online: (External Link)

Merryfield, M. (2003). Like a veil: Cross-cultural experiential learning online. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 3(2), 146-171.

Moore, M., Shattuck, K.,&Ai-Harthi, A. (2006). Cultures meeting cultures in online distance education. Journal of E-learning and Knowledge Society, 2(1).

Taspcott, D. (1999). The rise of the Net generation: Growing up digital . New York: McGraw Hill.

Questions & Answers

anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Best practices in online teaching. OpenStax CNX. Aug 28, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10453/1.2
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