In order to design effective online courses, the instructor needs to understand the diversity of online learners, both the primary and secondary characteristics and the cultural differences that can make an impact on one’s learning. Primary characteristics consists of aspects that do not change over time, such as age, gender and ethnicity. I found the data interesting that was shared in the book on page 3, referencing a study conducted in 2009. Out of about 69,000 learners, the majority of the learners were female, between ages 25-34 and primarily white in ethnicity (Stavredes, 2011). Secondary characteristics are obtained or can change over time, such as career, income, education, marital or parental status. It is also critical to know the needs of online learners because they all come to the course with different experiences, backgrounds, challenges and needs.
Online courses can bring anyone around the world together onto one platform. Some of the cultural differences the author mentions is power distance status, or where one fits into their society, can determine whether they view the learning should be more teacher or learner directed. Uncertainty avoidance was defined as how comfortable one can be in a learning environment that is more or less structured. Does one need the answers from the teacher or their peers through discussion? Another dimension discussed was individualism vs collectivism, or the relationship one has with others. Is the learner participating for themselves and unmotivated/uncomfortable to learn from peer interactions? The final cultural is based around gender, whether the cultural background is masculine or feminine. In a masculine dominant culture, men make the decisions, the learning is more competitive. In a feminine culture, decisions are made by both men and women, and is more learner driven.
Knowing how to support each individual and facilitate in their learning, their characteristics, can assist in the success of designing a successful online course for the learners. Providing choice, having some flexibility and alternatives to allow for success of the diverse group of learners.