Meeting students' needs and expectations in a culturally diverse e-learning environment : a case study



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The increased growth of online instruction has been well documented by various studies. As the result of the proliferation of online instruction, students from outside of the United States are now able to obtain an American education without having to leave their home country. While online course designs have been well researched and documented to identify best methods and practices to enable optimum learning achievement, providing online instruction to non-US educated students generates the question of how a culturally diverse student body adapts and/or adjusts to an American-style instruction. The purpose of this study is to conduct an exploratory qualitative research to investigate how students from an Asian learning culture adapt to an American online learning environment and to determine whether the various instructional design theories and practices that are widely accepted as best practices in the United States and incorporated into the instruction designs for this Marketing Management hybrid course are also as well-received by students from a different learning culture. From the five categories emerged from the research data: (1) students’ background, (2) perceived benefits, (3) essential skills, (4) supports expected and/or received, and (5) sense of community, the researcher proposed a framework that encompasses the students’ process of adapting to online learning. Within the process of adapting to online learning, conditions such as students’ backgrounds and expectations influenced the various learning strategies that students adopted in order to realize the benefits from the online learning experience.
Information gathered from this study may provide those involved in online education - decision makers in academic, business, and professional organizations considering an overseas online instruction strategy - an added awareness of how different learning cultures may influence the quality of an online learning experience. Additionally, for a specific target audience, this research study may further validate the learner-centered approach for instruction designs. For students who may be contemplating online learning as an option, this study may provide a deeper understanding of what is entailed in an online learning environment - the contributing actors and factors that affect the quality of an online learning experience.