Culture and distance learning in Hong Kong : a case study of an overseas distance learning programme offered to Chinese learners in Hong Kong
This research aims to initiate a critique of the prevailing beliefs about Hong Kong educational culture, particularly with regard to the culture-specificity of Chinese learning styles. It explores this theme through examining distance learning. The central research question pursued concerns the extent to which distance learning is compatible with Hong Kong adults' learning styles. This central research question is addressed by conducting a comprehensive review of the literature on Chinese culture, focusing on the learning styles of Hong Kong Chinese adults. This review is supplemented by a case study using a threefold research method that involved all the Hong Kong course members of a two-year distance learning Master's programme with the Centre of Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester. Focus groups were conducted to identify themes before a questionnaire based on these was sent to all course participants; then 22 in-depth qualitative interviews were held with a sub sample of the course participants to discover how participants reacted to the distance mode of learning. There were three main findings: 1. Contrary to common misconceptions, this case study indicated that not all Chinese learners are passive, reserved and reluctant to challenge a teacher's authority. They are active in group work, intrinsically motivated and are not always concerned about the issue of `face'. 2. Distance learning is acceptable to those Hong Kong Chinese adult learners who are autonomous learners and can make good use of the infrequent face-to-face tutorials to receive feedback from the teacher. 3. The respondents in this case study feel more comfortable making use of technology as a resource generator rather than as a learning platform. The aim of this research has not been to test theoretical propositions against a representative sample but rather to explore key theoretical premises in relation to a specific case study. That is to say, if these theoretical premises and assumptions do not apply to this particular case study, then we may be able to question the accuracy of the depiction of Hong Kong Chinese learners as a whole. This research provides insights into a hitherto somewhat under-researched group of Hong Kong adult learners in an informal learning environment. It has significance for overseas distance learning course providers in catering for their learners' needs.