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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

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
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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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