Thursday, February 15, 2007

Intercultural learning

On Sunday I'm flying to Innsbruck (Austria) to have a meeting with an international group of people from the Fe-ConE project. The participants (from Spain, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands) are coming together for two days.

Fe-ConE is a 2-year project funded by the European Commission about intercultural e-Learning. Actually, within the project we want to develop a model and decision making tool for the development of e-Learning courses. We are convinced that although e-Learning suppose to fit easily into a world wide audience, there are some significant differences between learners from different cultures. And what kind of didactical form is working for what population?

Within the project we are using the models of Hofstede. He defines culture as:

"The collective programming of the human mind, which distinguishes the members of one society or group from those of another."

Hofstede distinguishes cultures by the following aspects:

  1. Power Distance [this dimension indicates the extent to which less powerful people in a society accept that power is distributed unequally].
  2. Individualism [this dimension indicates the degree to which individuals are required to look after themselves and their direct family only].
  3. Masculinity [this dimension indicates the degree to which achievement and success, in contrast to nurturing and family orientation, are important societal values].
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance [this dimension indicates the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertain situations].
  5. Long-term Pragmatic Perspective [this dimension indicates the extent to which society displays a pragmatic, future orientated perspective rather than a normative historic or short-term point of view].
Later on I will explain more about the implications on learning because all these aspects are influencing the way learners are working together, the way they react on a teacher, the way the are used to reflect on the learning process and so on. E.g. an American teacher will introduce himself with his first name (just call me Ed) while Japanese learners will find this very inappropriate and are used to a more formal way of communicating. This kind of differences can disturb the learning process or can even keep learners from learning.

Within the next months we will deliver a course on e-Learning content development and this course will be available for free (under creative common license) for everybody. Will be continued.

More info about the project see the website, for more info on Hofstede model see wikipedia or the Hofstede website.



erik said...

Interesting project, looking forward for your next blog on the implications. Don't forget to write about the apres-ski either!

Marcel de Leeuwe said...

Yes, it is an interesting project. We will start with some international testing of our model (derived from the Hofstede model and adjusted to match the needs and characteristics of e-Learning).

I will publish some outcomes on this blog. The course (on e-Learning Fundamentals) will be free and open to everybody. So you are invited!