Have you ever thought cultures can clash over online collaboration, especially when using Web 2.0 tools like Wikis?
According to an interesting report from The Chronicle of Higher Education , Singaporean students tend to show resistance or reluctance to editing things that other people have posted. In an interview, a student said that it is "dangerous" to have the ability to change work that others have done. That is because publicly correcting a peer can cause the corrected one to lose face. Of course, causing someone to lose face is not polite not only in Singapore but also in other Western countries. But its negative impact on people's emotions or self-esteem could be much stronger in Asian countries like Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan.
Therefore, Web 2.0 tools, like Wikis, run up against some Asian cultural norms about how one should treat others in public. Especially if students need to edit work done by seniors or people older than themselves, it will be much more difficult for them because respecting seniors is a of core Asian value (mostly those values come from Confucianism). As another students noted in an interview, "you have to be more aware of others and have a sensitivity to others."
Students also worry about publicly posting their classwork on the Web if instructors ask them to do because it might cause themselves to lose face . According to the report, Michael Netzley, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and is an assistant professor at Singapore Management University, has also faced hesitancy when asking students to use social-media tools for class projects.
According to Mr. Netzley, few students seemed to freely post to blogs or Twitter. His students set the privacy level high so that only close friends could see their work. Especially when the class project was not finished yet, they showed greater hesitancy to post it. Mr. Netzley said that Singaporean students seem to resist adopting education 2.0 in a deeper fashion.
So instructors who want to incorporate online collaboration into classes should take into consideration cultural differences. As Asian students expose themselves to Western culture, they can get used to Web 2.0 activities including posting their work publicly on the web and correcting or being corrected by others. But until then, those class activities may be difficult ones for Asian students.