The Impact of Digital Learning on Cross-Cultural Communication

Culture, as defined by Geert Hofstede, is “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” (1991, p.5).

(Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash)

How has digital learning impacted cross-cultural communications? In collaboration with Eric Yu and Shelley Dougan, we investigated this question. Below is a breakdown of background information on this topic categorized from the literature as positive or negative.

Austin, R. 2006. The role of ICT in bridge‐building and social inclusion: Theory, policy and practice issues. European Journal of Teacher Education, 29: 145161.

A study of the use of telecommunications to link schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with the goal to use the “contact hypothesis”, to study how sustained interaction can improve the perceptions of each other and could be a model for international relations. The program was called Dissolving Boundaries. Teachers believed that cultural awareness was not impacted the most but the students believed the intercultural awareness was the most impactful.

Positive: Digital learning has resulted in increased cultural awareness, even among adversarial countries.Sustained interaction has improved relationships and understanding.  

Negative: Some findings suggested that negative perceptions can be strengthened if polarization and depersonalization occurs.


 Gómez-Rey, P., Barbera, E., & Fernández-Navarro, F. (2016). The Impact of Cultural Dimensions on Online Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 19 (4), 225–238

Directly links Hofstede’s 6 dimensions and how a dimension like Power Distance and a cultural perception of hierarchy affects autonomy levels, motivation, and initiative. The study used Power Distance, Individualism, Pragmatism, and Indulgence dimensions and compared American, Chinese, Spanish, and Mexican students.

Positive: Hofstede’s model can help to understand the motivation of online students and contribute to a more diverse instructional design.  The study found that online learning is more related to “open-minded” learning (p.232).