This again was another topic which has lead me to think more in depth about both my own knowledge but also the institution/environment which I work.
I enjoyed listening to the elluminate presentation with Kate Timms. I thought the three categories she spoke about - "stereotypes, generic characteristics and unique aspects" was very helpful. To be honest it got me away from thinking all students were the same and made me more aware at how little there actually was that was common between all students.
When I had first started thinking about this topic, my first assumption was about relating designing flexible learning to the Treaty of Waitangi. Now this in my mind is without a doubt the most important aspect. How can you ensure you are incorporating the Treaty of Waitangi if you haven't actually completed a workshop or in fact don't know about it? It's why I believe its very important all teaching staff have participated in this. Now that I have had a rant about that I also (after listening to Kate) began to think broader in regards to cultural diversity. I went on a search and found an interesting site (through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework). The site identifies why considerations to cultural diversity is important.
"When pedagogical values in one culture are culturally inappropriate to another, students question knowledge, or may challenge the teacher's view" (McLoughlin & Oliver 1999). Students then may question the merit in participation, or worse, feel disenfranchised if the course or learning resources do not fit their world view. They identify drop out rates are high in online courses - this is a world phenomenon.
"Lack of culturally appropriate learning is considered to be a major cause of unsuccessful completions. Inadequate teacher and provider sensitivity to cultural differences, lack of teacher relations with students and their communities as well as language difficulties all contribute. Distance from providers is also critical in some rural and remote parts of Australia." (A&E R019RL, p. 5)
Cultural needs and cultural differences need to be taken into account at every phase of the design and delivery of online materials and support if courses and learning content are to meet learner needs (this to me can be related directly to the Treaty of Waitangi).
For me this hit home, especially as my project is about adding to an online component of the distance courses we provide in our Postgraduate Programmes. Thinking of cyberspace as having a culture in itself means there is much more to think of. In terms of my own project often the thought of using "new fangled technology" for some of the students puts them off before they start and by not meeting their needs in the first place we get the withdrawals from programmes.
Definitely something for me to be thinking about!