How Online Education May Disadvantage Students from Some Cultures and What to Do About It in the Theology Classroom

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Glenn Fluegge


Distance or online learning is not a culturally neutral form of learning, but, like any educational approach, has been and continues to be shaped by significant historical and cultural forces. Not just what is taught, but also the means by which it is taught – the technological medium of online education – is influenced by culture and should be adjusted accordingly. With illustrations and examples pulled from the author’s experience of teaching theology in both Africa and the United States, this essay explores four “dimensions of culture” – collectivist vs. individualist, high vs. low power distance, high- vs. low-context, and oral vs. literate preference – and analyzes how students from more collectivistic, high power distance, high-context, and oral preference societies may be disadvantaged by commonly used and accepted approaches to distance/online learning. It concludes by offering some practical suggestions for adjusting online theological education to be more culturally responsive.

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