Best practices contribute to marginalization and isolation among underrepresented students taking classes because cultural responsiveness is absent. To help foster a better understanding of the cultural aspects of COI a model of cultural presence is presented to increase the cultural scope of the COI framework. Cultural presence is defined as the intentional inclusion, use, and application of ethnic and cultural norms within the teaching and learning process that supports learning, student well-being, and meaningful outcomes. Cultural presence applies to teaching and learning, course design, and student socialization in the online space. There are five aspects of course design and teaching that construct cultural presence:
Intentionality is one’s ability to understand the how and why of what is occurring in their online space. Researchers noted that the faculty’s specific and intentional focus is required for knowledge and skill regarding culturally responsive teaching. To facilitate cultural presence in online spaces, faculty require specific training in areas such as effective collaboration across cultures, building and maintaining community, and fostering appropriate learning climates in virtual spaces with the use of culturally responsive models of teaching.
Transactional versus relational course design
Current design models of teaching are transactional and contribute to significant barriers to creating human connection. Transactional connections in online spaces are orchestrated and quantified (e.g., week one: post once, respond twice). Alternatively, faculty can focus on the relational nature of information delivery and exchanges by building a sense of community and course climate. This focus creates more meaningful connections between students and their peers as well as students and course content.
Independent versus interdependent learning
Independent learning is often associated with online learning outcomes. But the concept of independence or individuality is Eurocentric in nature. Instead, creating a cultural presence focuses on the interdependence of learning for students in online spaces. In addition, cultural presence applies opportunities such as social modeling, building peer support, and increasing interconnectedness as cultural norms within the online course.
Convergent versus divergent thinking
Academic culture is often associated with one’s ability to think critically. For example, originally placed more value on cognitive presence (critical thinking) than on social and teaching presence. They noted cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence were equivalent and contributed equally to learning outcomes in online spaces.
Collaborative cultures often prefer divergent (creative and imaginative) thinking and identify this manner of thinking as something valued more than convergent (critical) thinking. Applying the model of cultural presence within an online course increases the opportunity for divergent thinking within the teaching and learning process.
Collaboration and contextual learning
Collaborative and contextual learning align with best practices for social learning. The current COI and collaboration models rarely highlight the role culture plays in communal experiences. Current models omit the importance of how ethnic student groups use cultural norms to position themselves in collective social experiences. This absence of cultural norms contributes to negative experiences for underrepresented populations. Social positioning via cultural norms is essential for minoritized students working collaboratively in online spaces.
Cultural presence is an essential facet of effective teaching and learning. Community psychology, multicultural psychology, and learning and cognition researchers highlight the importance of effective culturally responsive education for minoritized student groups. The lack of culturally responsive teaching in online spaces contributes to acculturative stress among student populations. Using this model of cultural presence for online spaces can support faculty and instructional designers in creating robust learning experiences for students of different ethnic groups.
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