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I was intrigued by the following studies which to me, highlight how fraught yet how important it is to address diversity in design for learning. (Rebecca)

Learner Analysis Framework for GlobalizE-Learning (pub June 2011)
"The purpose of this study was to explore strategies for expanding learner analysis within the instructional design process to better address cultural influences on learning...."
"The shift to technology-mediated modes of instructional delivery and increased global connectivity has led to a rise in globalized e-learning programs. Educational institutions face multiple challenges as they seek to design effective, engaging, and culturally competent instruction for an increasingly diverse learner population....The global distance learning community must work together to create a process that addresses cross-cultural analysis and design for global learners."
The writer poses these questions:

  1. To what extent do instructional designers conduct cultural inquiry during their analysis of learner characteristics?
  2. In what ways are instructional designers currently considering and addressing cultural influences in their design process?
  3. How do instructional designers characterize the role of learner analysis in creating culturally appropriate distance learning content?
  4. How do designers define the elements of cultural analysis critical for culturally competent design?

From an educational perspective, culture plays a crucial role in pedagogical values, learning styles, and cognitive processing. When teaching and learning take place within a single cultural context, the unity of experience and cultural background is generally unobtrusive.

When instruction begins to reach individuals of multiple cultural backgrounds, however, there is a risk of creating barriers based on the inability to address or mediate differences in educational values and cultural beliefs embedded in the content and multimedia. These differences can include perceptions about the roles and responsibilities of instructors and learners, prevailing styles of teaching and learning, and nuances of language and semantics.
While such challenges would be present in any classroom that combines individuals from varying cultural backgrounds, the additional challenges presented by distance learning present an extra layer. Chen, Mashadi, Ang, and Harkrider (1999) claimed that even if one overcomes the instructional design-related issues of distance learning, the value of learning mainly depends on the learner’s experiences of cultures and technology. Instructional designers must factor in these differences when designing instruction for a diverse learner population to reduce the impact of cultural barriers on effective learning. In addition, instructional designers have to be cognizant of their own predispositions based on worldviews.

Design for E-Learning in diverse learning
This 2011 study looks at groups of CALD students studying at a university in Oslo and has some critical points to make vis-a-vis students' learning and well-being.
I was surprised how moving I found the case-studies - this really brought the research to life for me.

This is worth reading in its entirety (not as long as the research paper above!). In particular, I noted the comments around successful design for eLearning takes into consideration aspects such as belonging, security, acceptance, and respect but equally important is that students feel OK about taking risks.

"Success requires that the participants, independent of Norwegian linguistic skills, dare to take the risk to express themselves, to fail and to try again. It is therefore important to make allowance for the thought and experiences of the students in an informal, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It must be legitimate to make mistakes, and plenty of time to make new efforts until the participants get it right."
" is critical to encourage the students to endure the challenges of intercultural communication and really try to seek the meaning behind the spoken words."

"We have been working systematically with linguistic minorities at OUC over the past 10 years. A significant discovery is the great number of students who are outsiders in the learning environment, feeling apart from the student community. We have also found that students who differ from the so-called normal students – or traditional students, for example linguistic minorities, to a great extent are given the role of non-participants in the environment. The students tell us that they feel excluded and marginalized and they believe that the majority students consider them as stupid and as a burden to them. They feel afraid and insecure and they lack self-confidence."



Talking With Texts: How Cellphones Empower Deaf Children in Uganda.
SMS Social Inclusion Project: In this edition of Digital Diversity, Cambridge to Africa’s Sacha DeVelle, explains how her organisation has been using mobile phones in specially designed education programmes to help deaf children in Uganda communicate. By getting everyone in their schools to help out, the projects also happen to be making them the coolest kids in school. Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives. Great article worth reading just to see how easily this works for teachers and students in very difficult circumstances.