Culture and effective online learning environments

Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, May 15, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Tony Bates has some sharp and insightful points on culture. "Culture is a critical component of any learning environment," he writes. "However, changing a pre-existing, dominant culture is very difficult." Depending on your perspective, these cultures may also be damaging to learning. For example, a segregated education determined to teach girls 'poise' and ladylike behaviour can scarcely be called comprehensive, he suggests. And Canada's residential school system designed to assimilate aboriginal students was openly destructive. But online learning gives us the means to build our own cultures, he suggests, and he would foster openness, recognition and respect while "making explicit and encouraging the underlying values and epistemology of a subject discipline."

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