Friday, May 27, 2016

E-Teaching and Interculturality - Report on Tatjana Jancic’s Session

At the beginning of her presentation, Tatjana Jancic clearly pointed out that the lack of cultural awareness seemed to be a bigger problem in online teaching than poor Internet connection. Therefore, an e-teacher has to be very careful when selecting online teaching materials for potential students.

The educational opportunities that global learning offers have stimulated a great deal of interest in online learning. However, the institutions and individual educators have to deal with the challenges regarding curriculum design, different learning styles and diverse cultural backgrounds.

Later on, Tatjana shared her own personal experiences regarding her work as an online material writer and recruiter, asking the audience whether they had had any online teaching or learning experience. She also made references to some really useful, ready-to-use learning platforms like Coursera and Future Learn, and learning websites like Polyglot Club and She went on to list the most common cultural faux-pas in online teaching and material writing, underlining the four basic factors regarding e-teaching and effective ways to avoid them.

 What is great about E-Teaching? The common answer would be meeting people from different countries and cultures. However, we should take into consideration different types of cultures. Matching a student with a responsible, culturally sensitive teacher is a must!
Selecting the appropriate course material based on different criteria is another basic factor indeed. It is of utmost importance to choose materials considering the students’ needs and learning styles, diverse cultural backgrounds and previous knowledge. 

Cultural sensitivity in online building and delivery is a rather sensitive area which e-teachers should consider seriously. She explained that the term cultural sensitivity is defined by "a set of skills that allows you to understand and learn about people whose cultural background is not the same as yours". Tatjana emphasized that when dealing with this term, we should think about the following: awareness, understanding, compassion, empathy, respect, age, class, gender, race, nationality and religion.
According to Tatjana, e –teachers should be able to identify, without any doubt and with accuracy, the questions that follow:

  •  Does the course design embrace the cultural learning differences of all learners?
  •  Is there any course material likely to have been written with a cultural and/or linguistic bias towards certain groups?
  •  Does the course design cater for a diverse range of teaching and learning styles (for example, visual, verbal, inductive and/or deductive)?
  •  Does the course encourage genuine and meaningful communication between educator and learner?

Additionally, the fourth factor related to cultural sensitivity in online teaching is concerned with its Dos and Don'ts. In order NOT to commit cultural offence, e-teachers should not focus on the topics they care about. Secondly, they should not have their teaching style in mind, and last but not least, they must not lose sight of the cultural aspect and rely on generalizations, stereotypes and/or even bias.

Finally, she presented some helpful guidelines for teachers to make their teaching more culturally sensitive. E-teachers should make their instruction personally relevant to the learner. They should help learners develop skills, attitudes and beliefs supporting self-regulation in the learning process and balancing the tendency to control the learning situation with a desire to promote autonomy.

All in all, a thought provoking, highly informative talk with a lot of valuable answers to tough questions. Tatjana Jancic managed to capture the attendees’ attention from the first to the last minute giving plenty of feedback about e-teaching and maximizing their opportunities in building a culturally-sensitive online course.

Report by Dimitra Christopoulou

Interview with Tatjana Jancic by Dimitra Christopoulou

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