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Cultural sensitivity and diversity in the context of flexible learning is based on cultural practices which shape and influence the way a person learns. There are several factors at play: ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, location, professional role, belief systems and gender. All these factors influence the way in which people behave and live. This is because they develop particular perspectives and values depending on the group or community in which they reside. As you can see learning styles and preferences are just one aspect of diversity. In some situations diversity also relates to disability - physical, psychological, learning. All these factors can impact on access and equity when it comes to learning.

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Case Study
Compare these two learners:
  • Robert has always had access to books, a computer and education at all levels and comes from a fairly well off family. He has a very supportive family and lots of friends with whom he studies. This learner sails through all his courses and has defined some career goals for himself. He identifies as Maori.
  • Melissa has always struggled at school and cannot read or write at the expected level for a tertiary level student. She was disruptive in school. She had problems paying attention and also suffers from anxiety. This is related to her abusive home environment and her overweight status and the financial status of her family - they are on the breadline. Her family originates from Europe and has very strict religious views.

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Who is more likely to succeed at tertiary level?
  • What sort of assistance will they need?
  • What sorts of diversity and culture have you noted in your learners?
  • How does this affect their learning?

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Slide presentations:

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  • Uzuner, S.(2009). Questions of Culture in Distance Learning: A Research Review. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,10(3). Print and audio versions.
  • Rhode, J.(2009). Interaction Equivalency in Self-Paced Online Learning Environments: An Exploration of Learner Preferences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(1).Print and audio versions

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Online Discussion Forum: Describe a situation where access & equity, diversity and cultural sensitivity need to be considered. Provide feedback and some possible solutions to at least one person. The due date on the schedule is 1 April but you may extend it if necessary. Send email to: flexible-learning-class-discussion@googlegroups.com