Different Englishness


After looking into the economic incentives for both learners and universities, I am moving to the second part of my effort to compare MOOCs with Online degree program, addressing culture inclusion/exclusion. I will start with a platform experience – different Englishness, followed by learning experience and community experience.

Any learners taking a MOOC course or an online degree program in an international context would naturally assume an English language environment. Does it make an indiscriminating climate for everyone when English – a universal language is anointed?

cat speaks english

Payment – money can’t buy you inclusiveness. I have issues paying my online degree tuition. The payment system requires me to either send a check of a Canadian bank or transfer online with a Canadian bank card. I have Unionpay card issued in China, master card issued in Hong Kong and visa card issued in UK but that does not help. This makes me further ponder, for cultures which are more cash driven, how easy it is to make money travel. 

At the same time, I have to awkwardly acknowledge my ignorance in payment process for any MOOC platforms.

Platform – please don’t say of course. 

For many websites, there is a house icon to indicate that this leads  you back to homepage. A colleague cited this example to show how a culture assumption is made that everyone’s home will be like a house.  He further asked if red is a merry color and white indicates death in Chinese culture. Without hesitation, I responded ‘ of course’. He looked into my eyes and said seriously ‘ please don’t say of course.’

It was that moment of truth,  I realised how many cultural assumptions I still make even I thought I am well-travelled. So do web platforms.

A culturally neutral learning platform means that anyone coming to virtual place to teach and to learn will gain the same understanding, no matter where they come from.

My experience with my online degree platform is that learning mostly takes place within the platform (Blackboard in my case). At the same time, a wider system is provided in order to give us a taste of campus environment. This comes in forms of a virtual access to university library or emails about national insurance card. It is an interesting taste of venturing into another culture, halfway.

My learning of MOOC courses usually extend to tools beyond the platform itself. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google hangout, Youtube are used widely. In places like China these tools are not available. People engage tools such as wechat (a combination of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, medium, name it) to organize learning outside the platform. The separation of Facebook and Wechat world is there.We don’t know what we don’t know. Neither is fully aware how fascinatingly green grass at the other side is.

You think a platform in English naturally serves global. But when it comes to how you pay, what reading resources you access, which insurance scheme covers you and which social tool you base your community on: there are different Englishness.


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