The current world is seriously undergoing a rapid change brought by the continuous evolution of computer technology. The persaviness of the computer in society has resulted in a generation of young people who have grown up knowing only a world with computer technology. This has produced a world in which generational responses to technologies differ noticeably (Alsunbul, 2002). The degree of variability or differences in teachers and students experiences with and perception of computers probably has the potential to help and shape both the teachers design of computer supported activities and the students understanding of these activities.
A number of factors have been considered to influence students on line learning behaviour in Arab Open University. One of the factors is the cultural understanding about the nature of online learning by the Arab University students pursuing degree programs in United States. With the expansion of the use of Internet, the worldwide web can now be used by students to have an opportunity to interact with people from different cultures (Hanna, 2000). However the use of English has been major problem since in Arab countries English is regarded as a second language.
Therefore the ability of students to take studies online differs significantly because of the cultural differences. Among the cultural differences include language difficulties, gender differences and role in the society and probably the role and powers instructors have when doing online teaching. Culture is basically defined as people way of life or the dictionary of concepts. The difference in thought provides the clear differences in how different cultures view themselves. In this context we are going to study how the perception pf Arabs and Americans culture influence Arab students learning behaviour online (Smith 2000).
This can be divided into three dimensions. One dimension is low/high uncertainty avoidance. This clarifies the extent to which Arab community deal with ambiguity and tolerance for derivation from the norm. For example learning should be students centered apart from being teacher centered. Students should also be left to decide on the career path they want to follow. Individualism vs. collectivism is another dimension. For example in Arab, people are still tied with some norms and beliefs that bind them together. People are integrated into strong cohesive in groups in collectivisms.
In America, individuals are expected to take care and control of themselves. These two differences also determine the ways in which online education is carried. In Arab open University students are not suppose to learn on their own. The last dimension is masculinity vs. femininity. Feminine cultures favor interdependence and service while masculine culture embark more on materialism and self-centeredness. This will influence how women and men view online learning. After having gotten some of the concepts the students behaviour and perception of online learning in AOU can now be explained very well.
A language difficulty is one of the factors influencing online learning in AOU. English is regarded as a second language and not all students are at the same level of English proficiency (Henderson, 1996). Students with low English proficiency have difficulty in online learning because of the rigorous amount of reading and writing required. One cause of language difficulty is lack of physical gestures and the total dependence on the written word. Collective cultures depend more on high context messages while individualistic cultures depend more on low context messages.
The cultural difference has made it hard on Arab student who come from a collective culture to participate online in low context messages. Many Arabs students also hate taking distance courses because of fear that their cultural attache would not approve of them taking the business courses (Venter, 2001). They view distance education as very difficult because of their perception on it. Normally Arab culture feel more threatened by uncertain or unknown events than members of American culture. This feeling is expressed through nervous stress. Lack of technical skill is another reason why Arabs students to develop anxiety (Hanna, 2000).
They are very unfamiliar with the new environment this can only be proved by developing self-concept in them. Persistence of shame culture online is another factors that influences students’ online learning behavior at AOU. This is mostly associated with race and gender biases. For example Muslim women in a non-Muslim country looks totally different especially when they wear Hejab a headscarf used to cover a woman’s head. The appearance of these women made them fear participating in face-to-face classes. There is also a fear that they might be discriminated by others because of their culture and limited knowledge in English.
However because of the introduction of online learning most of them feel satisfied to participate in education setting in Arab Gulf sites (Venter, 2001). The culture of Arabs does not allow feminine culture to appear too eager. The masculine cultures students tend to participate a lot in making themselves visible and participating in open class. Because of this different female students have emerged to take active part in online learning than male counterparts. Participation of students in online learning is also related to the type of power distance between a teacher and student.
In small power distance educational environments such as America, students are encouraged to intervene and ask clarification questions about the material while in large power distance cultures for example Arabs teachers initiate all communication. Students are only supposed to speak when called upon by the teacher (Henderson, 1996). This has encouraged the students learning online because a number of students have preferred communicating at individual level with the instructor for inquiries instead of posting online for class forum.
It is the instructor who controls everything during learning. He is given powers to add and delete course posting, as he wants. This has made some students to become helpless and frustrated when instructors over exercise such powers in the online environment without proper reason. Lack of proper response from instructors not only affected their grades but also their self-concepts, as they will start doubting themselves and their ability to learn (Chan, 2005). Most of them have decided in avoid the conflicts by keeping their options often for future cooperation.
Therefore they have resorted for new change. The use of University website by students is still very low. Most students still require assistance from their teachers especially to assist them with file manipulation and network navigation. When classroom activities require students to use Internet to retrieve or locate some useful information for use in classroom assignments and projects most students actually are not confident at all. They are unable to associate the Internet with computers. Most of them view Internet as a different thing altogether.
This implies that proper guidance and training has not been provided/ given of students. Conclusion It is very clear that gender differences affects the way in which distance learning is viewed between Arab men and women. We expect the young generation to adapt to the changes brought by the computer technology. Islamic nations or Arab states still remain in traditional societies in the world. More specific research and policies should be developed to investigate how the gender difference can be harmonized.
From the above discussion we can actually interested in n distance learning opportunities in Arab open Universities located in United States. The fear that their culture does not favor them gives poor or wrong perception on the online learning. Teachers or instructors should ensure that students are encouraged towards positive self-growth and they should also be guided to develop a positive relationship between them and students to ensure a conducive environment for learning is established. The management staff should instill a culture of teamwork and good relations among students.
Racial discrimination should be avoided by al mean. Training should also be provided to both teaching staff and students to strengthen their knowledge on Internet. Teachers are regarded to play a very important role in providing guidance to students. This means that the styles he is going to apply in incorporating computer technology will affect all variable in that set up. They need to understand the implications of the ways they use the technology in the classroom. There is no end in sight to the technological advances and we still allot of changes to be brought by these changes worldwide.
The perception of the new generation on how they view the new technology should be changed. We are in a computer era where learning is mostly done online. Unless the behaviour is changed then no positive improvement will be realized. Work cited: Alsunbul A Issues relating to distance education in the world. Convergence 35 no 1 2002, 59-81 Chan B . A study of the relationship between tutor’s personality and teaching effectiveness: Does culture make a difference International Review of Research in open and Distance Learning, 3 no2. Retrieved October 6, 2005 from: http://www. irodl. org/content/v3.
2/chn. html/ Hanna D (Ed) Higher Education in and Era of Digital Competition: Choices and Challenges. Madison W Atwood Publishing 2000 Henderson L Instructional Design of Interactive Multimedia: A cultural Critique. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44 no 4. 1996: 85- 104 Smith S W and Smith P. L Implication for Distance Education in the Study Approaches of Different Chinese National Groups. Journal of Distance Education. 15 no 2 2000: 71-84 Venter K. Coping with Isolation. The Role of Culture in adult distance learners. Use of Surrogates, Open learning, 18 no 3 2001 271-287.Sample Essay of Custom-Writing