Enduring Legacies Reservation-Based Project
the Lumina Foundation for Education,
College Spark Washington, and others), now in
its third year, supports Native American college
students of a number of Pacific Northwest tribes.
Educational technologies and e-learning play a
central role in the program. This project involves
three main endeavors.
Associate of Arts.
The first involves the creation of a three-year
associate of arts degree that is fully transferable
to any university in the US. This program combines
e-learning courses offered through
WashingtonOnline (WAOL), a consortium of 34
community colleges of Washington State, with some
credits of face-to-face courses that focus on
humanities credits and topics such as public speech,
writing and literature, e-portfolios, and
Native American teaching case studies learning)
in order to promote the learner cohort and
community. Also, the students meet with a study
leader from their own tribes one day a week to focus
on their studies. Tribal-based study leaders serve
as “whipmen” and work with learners “for tutoring
and mentoring”. The study leader relates to the
learners culturally, and, as a member of the
respective tribe, connects to the social support and
familial structure surrounding each learner.
Historically, Native American societies unite around
caring for their young and students “were not
allowed to fail” (Demmert, Dec. 2001, “Improving…”
The selected courses from the curricular offerings
of WAOL were initially revised in the first year of
the project for more Native American cultural
infusion in the curriculum, and the online faculty
underwent culturally-sensitive instructor training
and intercultural competence at
The Evergreen State College (TESC) campus, with
considerable peer learning from other faculty,
tribal members, and tribal learners. The online
instructors were handpicked for their high
engagement with learners and academic rigor. Events
at The Evergreen State College’s
Longhouse Education and Cultural Center were
designed to help learners meet and greet instructors
- over traditional and friendly forms of the
breaking of bread: fall orientation events like
clam bakes and salmon roasts. This curriculum
related to the
Reservation-Based/Community Determined Bridge
Program’s basic tenets of promoting student’s
personal authority, honoring of indigenous
knowledge, and the use of academics to “complement
personal authority and community knowledge.” Annual
themes of the 2006 – 2009 academic program include
“Contemporary Indian Communities in a Global
Society,” “Traditional Knowledge: The Foundation
for Sustainable Tribal Nations,” and “Integrating
Change in a Communal Society.”
One-credit humanities courses are taught four
Saturday afternoons per quarter at the TESC
Longhouse. These provide opportunities for peer
mentoring and socialization with Grays Harbor
College students in their freshman and sophomore
years mingling with juniors and seniors from The
Evergreen State College. The design of this degree
allows for easier transfer of freshman and sophomore
credits to the university. The pacing - a two year
degree offered over three years - acknowledges the
many outside-of-academia commitments of the Native
American learners and makes the work load more
2) High-tech, high-touch hybrid approach.
A second feature employs a “high-tech high-touch”
hybrid approach. The high-tech involves the
Blackboard™ learning management system (LMS),
e-portfolios (with a
learning framework), The Evergreen State College
(TESC) website, and digital learning artifacts. The
use of e-learning technologies allows a much deeper
reach into the geographically dispersed and somewhat
reservation-based tribes of the Pacific
Northwest for “place-bound” learners. The benefits
of the LMS are manifold. The courses used and
developed are digitally archived and may be
transferable to others. Any revisions to the
courses may benefit more than the targeted Native
American because of copyright releases built into
all system-owned courses in WashingtonOnline. The
use of accessible builds - through authoring tools
and an accessible LMS - make the curriculum
applicable to a wider audience.
The use of the World Wide Web (WWW) to collect and
deploy various learning resources in e-portfolios
and case studies magnifies the influence of this
program beyond the boundaries of the various
educational institutions. The ability to publish
broadly affords the Native American students (and
studies) voice, reach and often, respect.
The use of these technologies also involves some
cultural border crossing in the sense that many
Native American communities have been “have-nots” in
the “digital divide.” This program gives
software-loaded laptop computers to the learners as
part of the learning, and it includes face-to-face
training on the use of BlackBoard™, the laptop, and
Web resources. Native American teaching case
studies may be deployed online for a wider reach for
the curriculum, and many of these cases involve
full-sensory digital wraps (sight, sound, and
hearing). The benefits of the Web for rich research
also strengthen the learning with the definition of
web quests and other online assignments.
3) Native American case studies.
The third strand involves the development of
original Native American teaching case studies
involving primary and secondary research by college
instructors at WAOL, TESC, and experts in the Native
American communities. Teaching case studies support
the value of indigenous knowledge and the learners’
personal observations of the world and their
connections to vibrant communities. These cases
engage issues of relevance to Native American
learners and capitalize on tribal knowledge and
often less-publicly-accessible primary resources.
These may counter the observed Native American
invisibility in both the academic research and the
college teaching (Demmert, Dec. 1001, “Improving…A
Review of the Research Literature,” pp. 3 – 4).
These teaching cases are available on the WWW
and are shared with Creative Commonsk-type global
Evergreen State College (TESC) serves as the lead
institution in this collaborative endeavor.
Grays Harbor College (GHC) is the supporting
college, and WashingtonOnline (WAOL) serves as the
main online course provider. The Enduring Legacies
Reservation-Based Project started in Sept. 2005 with
an initial half-dozen First Nations tribes: the
Makah, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, the Port Gamble
S’Klallams, Quinault and Skokomish. By the second
year, a number of others had joined: Squaxin, Lower
Elwha Klallam, Quileute, and Shoalwater Bay. By Jan.
2007, the Chehalis Tribe had joined.
This paper addresses one aspect of this project:
the pedagogical and e-learning strategies applied to
the culturally sensitive curricular redesigns for
English Composition 1 and 2 (which involve essay
writing and research respectively). These are
foundational and required courses for a number of
degree programs and certificates, and the subtle
curricular redesigns for both courses address issues
of cultural sensitivity and learner focus.
The paper will begin with a brief pedagogical
rationale for the cultural sensitivities approach,
with a focus on Native American learners’ cultural
needs. Then, some course redesign strategies used
by the WAOL instructors will be summarized. The
paper then focuses on the culturally targeted online
course redesign work cycle before addressing the
specifics of the two English courses in the
Brief Pedagogical Rationale
Culture in learning has been discussed in the
research literature in different ways - as different
expectations, worldviews, assumptions, emotions and
comfort zones. It is part of the social landscape
that people are habituated to and often becomes
invisible until it conflicts with others’
expectations. Culture may be learned and unlearned.
Adaptive and variable, culture evolves (Nee and
Wong, 1985, p. 287, as cited by Aldrich and
Waldinger, 1990, p. 125).
Culturally sensitive approaches to learning came
into focus in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a
response to the growing diversity in US classrooms
and “concern over the lack of success of many
ethnic/racial minority students despite years of
education reform” (Pewewardy and Hammer, Dec.
2003). Here, a culturally relevant instructor may
mitigate some of the “social-historical-political
realities beyond the school” that may constrain
learning (Osbourne, Sept. 1996, p. 291).
Ladson-Billings’ theory of culturally relevant
pedagogy suggests dynamic “culturally responsive”
actions by instructors, regardless of their own
cultural backgrounds. There must be a focus on three
realms: conceptions of self and others, social
relations, and conceptions of knowledge (Autumn
1995, pp. 478 – 481). Ladson-Billings, in a
prescient work, suggests that culturally attuned
instructors must see themselves as part of the
community and believe that the students are capable
of academic success; they must see their pedagogy as
“art—unpredictable, always in the process of
becoming” (Autumn 1995, pp. 478 – 479). They must
maintain fluid student-teacher relationships;
demonstrate a connectedness with all of the
students, and develop a community of learners, among
which students learn collaboratively and responsibly
(Autumn 1995, p. 480). Culturally responsive
instructors also need to view knowledge as “shared,
recycled, and constructed,” and they must build
bridges or scaffolding to facilitate learning; they
must use a range of multi-faceted assessments for
multiple forms of excellence (Autumn, 1995, p.
Adhering just to mainstream norms in education may
be exclusivist and socially myopic. Pewewardy and
Hammer observe: “Ultimately, the attitudes,
beliefs, and actions of the school must model
respect for cultural diversity, celebrate the
contributions of diverse groups, and foster
understanding and acceptance of racial and ethnic
plurality” (Dec. 2003).
The grounds for a culturally sensitive course
redesign lie in a deep knowledge of and empathy with
the Native American learners and their respective
cultures. Instructor sensitivity to the unique needs
and personalities of each learner will be critical
and possibly even more relevant than generalizations
about their cultures. In this case, cultural subject
matter experts (SMEs) with ties to TESC were brought
in to advise and to critique the course redesign
plans and actual course rebuilds.
Online means have been used to teach issues of
intercultural competence, respect for others’ ways
of life, changing perspectives, and the promotion of
knowledge about one’s own and others’ cultures (Liaw,
Sept. 2006, pp. 49 – 64). Online learning
technologies have been used for adaptive cultural
heritage learning (Casalino, D’Atri, Garro, Rullo,
Sacca, and Ursino, n.d.,
Culture may affect learning preferences and styles.
Culture may affect perceptions of “time, gender,
dress, source of authority, individualism,
risk-taking, life goals, relationship of education
to community goals, and previous classroom
experience” on learning styles (Boiarsky, 2005, p.
48). A Native American journalist sees the Internet
as “raising the volume” as a “continuing legacy of
storytelling” and a sign of genetic memory for
storytelling (Merina, Fall 2005, pp. 32 - 33).
As many peoples, Native American comprise less than
1.5% of the US population. Half live in urban areas,
and fewer than 33% on reservations. Some 550 tribes
are federally recognized. As a group, only 15% of
Native American students who went on to college
achieved a four year degree, with an overall average
college graduation rate of 3%, compared to 16% for
the general population (Tierney, 1991; Fries,
1987). Kroc, et al.
(1995, p.2) found underrepresented Native American
learners with graduation rates at 17
percentage points lower than for the white student
rate. Of the American Indian students entering
university in the mid-1990s, only 24% had completed
a pre-college curriculum compared with 56% of all
college-bound graduates” (Pavel et al, 1998, as
cited by Kirkness and Barnhardt, 2001, p. 3). The
U.S. Secretary of Education’s Indian Nations at Risk
Task Force (1990 and 1991) found that “schools that
respect and support a student’s language and culture
are significantly more successful in educating those
students” (Reyhner, 2002 / 2004).
Washington State has one of the main regional
concentrations of Native Americans. Two-thirds of
Native Americans are found in ten states, including
Washington (Shumway and Jackson, Apr. 1995, p.
191). This state’s higher education statistics echo
the national crisis in Native education. There are
158,940 American Indians and Alaska Natives living
in Washington State, according to the U.S. Census.
In this state, the large majority of Indian children
are failing in all subjects at all grade levels on
Washington Assessments of Student Learning tests.
At least 32% of Washington Native American students
do not complete high school (Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington
State). Thirty-six percent of Indian students
receive a B.A. within six years of entering a
four-year college program. Fifteen percent of
degree-seeking Indian students in Washington receive
a community college degree within 3 years—and the
large majority of Indian students attend community
colleges (National Center for Ed Statistics;
Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board).
Nationally, only 29% of the Indian population is a
high school graduate, compared to 79% of whites.
Solutions to the challenge of educating a larger
number of Native American learners require
partnerships, especially in Washington where half
the students begin college in a two-year
institution, and the transfer and baccalaureate
completion rates are low (“Proposal to the Lumina
Foundation for Education”, Aug. 18, 2006, p. 3).
In using G. Hofstede’s
cultural dimensions model, Native American
cultures—while diverse—may be described through the
issues of power distance, individualism,
masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term
orientation quite differently than mainstream
American culture (“Geert Hofstede™ Cultural
Dimensions”, 2008). “Power distance refers to the
unequal distribution of power, prestige and wealth
in a culture. Individualism looks at the
degree of cultural emphasis on the individual vs.
the collective. Masculinity examines the cultural
focus on traditionally masculine vs. feminine
traits. Uncertainty avoidance looks at the value
placed on risk and ambiguity. Long-term orientation
examines the focus on short-term vs. long-term
forward-thinking values in a particular culture” (Hai-Jew,
2007, p. 8). Native cultures tend to be less
tolerant of high power difference differentials;
they tend to focus on the collective instead of the
individual; they focus on more traditionally
feminine values; they are comfortable with
ambiguity, and they tend to maintain more of a
Another way of viewing the cultural divide may be
between Western and Non-Western worldviews. Some
Native Americans may subscribe more to the
Non-Western model, which emphasizes group
cooperation and group achievement, “value harmony
with nature, time is relative, accept affective
expression, (value) extended family, (practice)
holistic thinking, (see) religion permeating
culture, accept world views of other cultures, (and)
(be) socially oriented” (Sanchez and Gunawardena,
1998, p. 51). A subjective and relativist approach
to reality may be more common: “Objectivist
research has contributed a dimension of insight, but
it has substantial limitations in the
multidimensional, holistic, and relational reality
of the education of Indian people. It is the
affective elements - the subjective experience and
observations, the communal relationships, the
artistic and mythical dimensions, the ritual and
ceremony, the sacred ecology, the psychological and
spiritual orientations - that have characterized and
formed Indigenous education since time immemorial” (Cajete,
1994, p. 20).
Academic competition between learners is
discouraged, contrary to many of the confrontational
student-competitive approaches. Culturally, Native
Americans revere Native art and share a mythical
storytelling. Native American students may mask
their competence so as not to stand out from others
in their communities (Swisher, 1991). Those who do
earn their higher education degrees may have a
reverse acculturation challenge in reintegrating
with their communities.
E.T. Hall’s high- and low-context cultures analysis
could be understood as also applying to this
cross-cultural situation. High context cultures
understand information to be an inherent part of a
person, so a minimal amount of verbal interchange is
needed in human relationships. Because they have
experienced stable traditions and history, “age,
education, family background and such things that
confer status do not change rapidly. In dealing
across cultures, high-context cultures become
impatient and irritated when low-context people
insist on giving them information they do not need.
They perceive low-context people as being less
credible because silence sends a better message.
High-context cultures tend to handle conflict in a
more discrete and subtle manner and are predisposed
to require learning for the sake of learning. For
example, high-context cultures include … Native-American(s)”
(Sabin and Ahern, 2002, p. S1C-11).
The concept of an “Indian theory of education” was
offered by E. Hampton, a Chickasaw academic from
Oklahoma. He listed the twelve ‘standards’ on which
to judge any such effort for creating education for
Native Americans: spirituality, service, diversity,
culture, tradition, respect, history,
relentlessness, vitality, conflict, place, and
transformation (1998, p. 19, as cited by Kirkness
and Barnhardt, 2001, p. 8).
However, there are
detractors to the idea of cultural learning
dispositions (Brown, 1979; Chrisjohn & Peters, 1989;
Harris, 1985; Shepard, 1982; Stellern, Collins,
Gutierrez, & Patterson, 1986; Bland, 1975; Kleinfeld
and Nelson, 1991; Stellern, Collins, Gutierrez and
Patterson, 1986). Several warned of taking
uncritical approaches to the idea of Native American
cultural dispositions towards learning (Chrisjohn
and Peters, 1989, as cited by Pewewardy, 2002, pp.
22 – 56; McCarty, et al., Mar. 1991, pp. 42 – 59).
Culturally Targeted Online Course Redesigns
Combined with the unique needs of many in Native
American communities, the instructors applied
concepts of a kind of universal design. The concept
is to create barrier-free learning (“Universal
Design,” Nov. 12, 2007), without cultural
hindrances. In the same way that accessibility may
be designed into structures, such broad-spectrum
solutions help everyone, not just those from a
special group. This approach was needed because
these courses for the Native learners would be
taught to mainstream learners simultaneously. Too
much of the cultural tuning may conversely make the
curriculum too difficult for non-Native learners.
Augmented curriculum for cultural awareness.
One political science course on American government
involved a deeper integration of tribal
organizations, treaty rights and intergovernmental
relations to include the Native American view. One
objective was to ensure that students “more
effectively understand the unique relationship
between federal and state authorities and Native
American tribal government.” Textbook readings were
integrated with Web links and video clips for more
rich learning. A Native case study was included in
the learning. A group project was designed to
address Native American cultural property rights.
“Redesigned assignments emphasize relationships
between First Peoples and local and national
governments” (Enduring Legacies Course Redesign
Report, 2007). Here, the instructor strove to
create more cultural relevance for Native learners.
Scaffolding for disadvantaged learners.
Other courses humanized the technology for students
unaccustomed to computer technologies by offering
extra credit assignments to encourage familiarity
and facility with the LMS and virtual learning
environment. Developmental learning add-ons to
mitigate the preparedness of some of the less
prepared learners was designed, such as through the
building of a glossary of terms, incremental
assignments to help students build their larger
projects step-by-step, simplified languages and
terminology were used. One math teacher worked out
a number of solutions for the learners to study,
learn from and master. A biology instructor designed
at-home “web labs” that would allow learners to buy
the materials at local grocery stores and to pair up
with other learners to actuate these experiments,
for lowered cost barriers.
Promoting Native American scholarship.
An anthropology professor used readings from Native
American writer-scholars. She included more work
that took place within the learners’ individual
tribes. Her assignments targeted issues within the
tribal communities (Enduring Legacies Course
Redesign Report, 2007).
An art instructor integrated more Washington State
Native American art into her course and emphasized
experiential and communal learning by using forums
for student-to-student discussions. She built
studio critiques or “visual evaluations of the
student’s and peer’s work(s)”. She strove to make
the course “more culturally sensitive and relevant
to all the multicultural aspects of contemporary
society”. She encouraged research topics along the
lines of which indigenous people’s works affected
the works of modern artists, to emphasize the
“fusion of materials, formal elements, and
contextual themes that artist deal with on a daily
basis.” She avoided artificial “subjective
hierarchies” sometimes used in the definition of
art. Likewise, a music instructor redesigned his
music course to reflect more Non-Western culture.
He adapted his adopted textbook to Native American
resources and Nonwestern music sites (Enduring
Legacies Course Redesign Report, 2007).
Researching and learning.
The course instructors all researched more about
Native American studies and history. One music
instructor wrote: “Also, I have been actively
exploring, reading, researching American Indian
music…examining its influence on Western Art music”
(Enduring Legacies Course Redesign Report, 2007).
Defined virtual spaces.
A math instructor defined the e-learning paths in
her course more clearly and offered a richer range
of assignments (“Search the internet (sic) for
information about any mathematical topic of your
choice such as how math was used in an early culture
such as a Native American tribe or any other culture
of your choice” (Enduring Legacies Course Redesign
Listening to learners.
The instructors also solicited student feedback
(“Student Feedback: What They Say about their
Courses,” 2006). Many designed integrated feedback
loops in their online courses to capture learner
experiences in order to make the courses more
The Courses in the Redesign
English Composition I and II went through this
cultural sensitivity rebuild process. While a
redesign could suggest a thorough change, the
limitations to this project prohibited that. The
Native American cohorts taking these courses would
be only a few students, or a total of maybe less
than a dozen each quarter. That number
would be too small to “carry” an entire course
section. This means that non-Native American
learners would be in the section, and their academic
needs should also be considered. The shared course
model of WAOL meant that these team-created courses
would have to meet the academic requirements of 34
Whatever curricular changes are made should broaden
and promote learning across a wider swath of the
learning public. The changes cannot be so
culture-specific or explicit that it becomes
exclusivist. The “universal design” tenets and
practices would have to be followed. Course
redesigns could not fundamentally affect the
textbook selection, main curricular build,
quarter-length scheduling, main assignments, and
grading structure. In other words, these course
redesigns would have to function implicitly on the
margins—even though they had not been revised
systematically for a number of years.
The course revision build would occur in a master
classroom, isolated from learner access. Once the
build was complete, it would go through an alpha
testing phase with the critique of cultural subject
matter experts (SMEs). Then, after revision, it
would go straight into “beta testing” with student
feedback and insights. Another round of revisions
would follow the first quarter of testing with live
The work progressed in general in the following
Cultural Immersion and Formal / Informal
Initial Development of Culturally Sensitive Course
Syllabus Revision, Grade book Revision
Creation of Digital Learning Objects
Uploading of Materials / Annotations (to the LMS)
Subject Matter Expert (SME) Critique and Feedback
Further Revision (alpha testing)
Final Report to Supervisors on the Project
Going Live with Learners
LMS (Learning Management System) Data mining
Further Revision (beta testing)
Learner Performance Results and Learner Feedback (Hai-Jew,
Culturally Targeted Online Course Redesign Work
Figure 1: The culturally sensitive course redesigns
followed a general work progression.
Defining a Course Revamping
The redesign approaches then are applied to a course
revamping or retrofitting. In broad terms, this
relates to an updating of the pedagogical
approaches. This may involve the application of new
e-learning technologies. New approaches regarding
the design and delivery may add value to the
learning and make it more applicable to learners.
Learning objects may be integrated more tightly with
the defined e-learning paths. A greater range of
ways to move through the curricular materials may be
created. Scaffolding for both amateurs and experts
in the course domain would enhance the accessibility
of the course for a wider range of potential
learners. (Some of these learning experiences will
be mandatory, and others will be opt-in.) Course
resources may be annotated for the other instructors
who may be inheriting the course.
Course revamping should optimally also be informed
by learner feedback about their needs and what would
enhance their achievements. The inclusion of former
learners’ works (with their legal copyright
releases) would help norm quality based on the
reality of what learners are actually producing
instead of a defined normative ideal.
Accessibility retrofitting may involve the inclusion
of verbatim transcriptions for sound files and video
files. Files may be versioned from Word and
slideshow files into portable document files for
easier accessibility. The technological strand is a
part of online learning and should be considered an
integral part of the course revamping.
Some possible re-branding of a course may be
helpful. This would enhance the ecology of the
online learning environment and to make the space
more coherent about the learning and the
professional values of the field.
Some Cultural Assumptions in Relation to English and
One of the assumptions is that the reservation-based
learners are place-bound. Many not only were single
heads of household with children but also had
full-time jobs (often within their tribes), in
addition to their college studies. This suggests a
requirement for distance access to courses and
on-reservation activities for face-to-face (F2F)
Accessibility. Another angle related to the
place-bound learners is that most learners have
dial-up access because of the lack of broadband
wiring on many reservations. An occasional winter
storm often knocks out electricity access for days
given some of the tenuous infrastructure on some
reservations. Any online course redesigns would
have to take into consideration accessibility and
digital file size and design strategies regarding
For various basic academic skills, many Native
American students need remediation because of the
poor quality of teaching and learning (and often
low-resource conditions) that they received prior to
enrolling in college. This need applies both to
urban and rural learners, non-reservation based as
well as reservation-based. Academic preparedness, of
course, applies to a majority of conventional
university students as well. A curricular build
needs to scaffold for learner preparedness and
academic success as well as to support an internal
locus of control / sense of self-efficacy.
The cultural considerations for these course
redesigns involved a complex mix of understandings
of Native American learners’ living situations,
worldviews, academic needs, understood values
systems, rituals, and motivating topics of interest
(for writing and research). Their communal
orientation came into play in terms of assignment
designs that emphasized cooperative work and support
for community-based writing and research topics.
Many reservation-based learners lack access to
computers in their homes. Many of those who do have
computers have only dial-up Internet access from
their homes. This suggests that the accessibility
design must take into consideration this aspect.
Digital learning objects will need to be updated to
avoid the “slow fires” of disintegration based on
updated software programs (many of which may not be
able to read versions from a few software cycles
Lowering unnecessary costs.
The statistics about Native American learners’
economic lives show many living below poverty. The
costs of college tuition, books and supplies may be
highly prohibitive. Part of these redesigns
involved using electronic book resources and essays
(many from published textbook anthologies) archived
online to save on costs.
Acculturation into academia.
The course rebuilds also involved awareness of the
cross-cultural issues between academia, mainstream
Native American cultures, and online learning
assumptions (Web 2.0, open-source). The awareness of
such challenges led to cross-cultural and
cross-values sharing moderated by the course
annotations, learning activities, and informed
instruction. Surfacing the various cultural
understandings may enhance learner comfort and offer
a language and openness to talk about their own
perceptions and concerns. Defining ontologies in
particular fields may help new learners more quickly
grasp relationships and understandings.
Building for instructor transferability.
Any course that is a shared one (inheritable by
needs to be adaptable. Given that there is little
courseware space for instructor guidebooks, the
learning itself must be common in the stated field,
up-to-date, flexible and pedagogically transparent.
If the value in the learning is not clear from the
beginning, then the course adoption may be more
difficult. Assignments must be able to be
“versioned” for different learning contexts. The
design must be neutral and generally non-political
in order not to be off-putting for various
instructors and their respective learners.
The Teaching / Facilitation of the Online Learning
for Native American Learners
The course redesign did not only refer to the
“static” curricular build elements of the courses
but also in how the courses would be taught.
The way the redesigned courses would be taught
should align with the cultural sensitivity
concepts. Among some Native American learners, they
talk about “checking heart.” This refers to their
understanding of the motives of others towards them,
in particular those of their instructors. If
benevolence is not found while checking heart,
learners will not take the risks necessary to learn
because they may not feel sufficiently free from
potential harm. This suggests that the instructor’s
telepresence -his or her digital embodiment, voice
and video and still photo depictions, and
interactions in the online classroom - should align
with his or her person. This also would suggest
that learners should be encouraged to bring their
full selves into this online space in terms of their
telepresences as well. They should be welcomed and
supported in a sense of belonging. E-mails sent out
at important junctures to learners (beginning,
midterm and the end-of-term) may encourage stronger
course retention and more participation.
Building a sense of community requires the
development of a shared sense of trust and open
communications. Culturally, Native American
learners tend to be drawn to cooperation more than
competition, so shared small group tasks may be more
conducive to some types of learning. Some
Native American learners
also feel awkward having attention directed to them,
so instructors should not create such “calling on”
situations synchronously or asynchronously. The
mainstream American focus on individualism
for topic selection, and the focus on the
first-person point-of-view in essay writing may be
awkward for some Native American learners, so there
should be sensitivity and flexibility about these
Facilitating group work online requires a range of
skills given the difficulty in coordination,
assignments, guidance, learning support, and
assessment. However, The Enduring Legacies
Reservation-Based Project educators (and
administrators) who work with Native American
students have found that this may be efficacious to
promote their learning online.
A more relativistic sense of time.
The sense of time that many Native American students
share may be less driven or deadline-centered.
Instructors may offer more of a flexible deadline
schema. Instead of daily deadlines, maybe the
closing of forums at week’s end would be helpful.
Extending deadlines based on the unique family,
health and other challenges of the learners may be
more flexible and pro-learning. However, there also
need to be limits to deadline extensions—as these
may be abused to the point where a learner may not
reasonably catch up with his / her peers.
Protection of learner interests.
“Learner interests” may be interpreted in a variety
of ways in freshman composition writing and research
writing courses. Of course, their quality of
learning is important, so they may have transferable
knowledge and skills into their future courses,
careers and lives. Their ability to discover and use
their own voices would be important, which would
suggest their ability to choose writing topics that
are socially, communally (tribally) and personally
relevant (and have learning value). Their
empowerment of speaking out in the larger world also
is critical. Another aspect of learner interests
would be their protection in terms of copyright and
Range of assessments.
People with a range of different learning styles may
assess differently based on the assessment
instrument. Being open to different learner
interpretations of the work would be helpful. As
mentioned before, giving learners a wide sampler of
prior student work (with the proper copyright
releases) would be helpful, too. There may be more
connections between learners’ expressed ideas and
formal projects than the occasionally dry writing in
Encouragement of help-seeking behaviors.
Learners’ help-eeking behaviors should be
encouraged for enhancement of their learning.
Research has found that those who have fewer
academic skills tend not to use the resources
provided to them. Building motivations to access
and use such resources are an important part of
curricular rebuilds. “As described earlier, when
students in these studies were provided with helpful
resources (informational and strategic) and given
the freedom to use them, many elected to utilize
little or nothing. As this suggests, learners may
have access to relevant information or strategies
but may not choose to employ them. Because
strategies as we have operationally defined them,
are characterized by carefully planned and
intentional use, their susceptibility to
motivational effects may be rather considerable”
(Alexander and Judy, Winter 1988, p. 396). Lifelong
and discovery learning suggest that learner
help-seeking behaviors would be a critical aspect to
Another assessment approach could be to offer
incremental assignments that coalesce to create the
larger multi-week or term projects. For example,
smaller fine-focused assignments may be designed for
the writing, essay organization, resource evaluation
and citations for the term research paper. This
allows more feedback to learners and support for
their larger projects in incremental ways. This
learners focus on the building of specific skills.
This also may allow more customized and unique
feedback for each learner and more constructive
interactions with the instructor.
Redesigned rewards structure.
With the additional assignments and opt-in
resources, the grading rewards structure was also
redesigned to more fully represent the value in
learner interactivity (higher points) and support of
each other. Extra credit was added to provide
incentives for some of the optional value-added
learning. Learners who published their works in
their respective student or community newspapers
earned extra credit points. This new rewards
structure encouraged deeper learning and also moving
beyond the virtual classroom into the wider world of
publishing and sharing.
A Virtual Community of Online Course Redevelopers
The faculty from various fields working on these
course redesigns did not work in a social vacuum
even though they were separated by distance. WAOL
established an “open house” of courses for mutual
sharing, including the creation of open guest
accounts. A conference was hosted by TESC in the
early summer of 2006 and another in Summer 2007 to
train faculty in the writing of Native American case
One of the goals of the collaboration was clearly to
support each other’s work. Another was to
collaborate around the goals of interconnectedness
between the learning and transference. For example,
the research and library course was linked to the
various academic projects from the areas of
anthropology, history, and political science. The
premise is that connectivity between the courses
would create a sense of alignment in the course
studies and better transference of reinforced
The pedagogical theories applied to the course
redesigns should lead to a sense of alignment and
coherence between the
learning objects. A clear learner experience and
e-learning path should exist from the
pre-week through the entire term and into any opt-in
post-week learning. The focus should be both
specific at the learning object level and broad at
the course level.
The Selected Courses
Understanding the original intentions of the initial
lead instructors of both courses and analyzing their
digital artifacts and structural builds may form a
stronger basis for the redesigns. The idea is to
align with the thinking in the respective fields but
also to offer some alternate narratives and
options. Both of these courses were built by lead
instructors with the advisement of colleagues under
course development grants in the late 1990s.
EC1 focuses on a number of learning objectives,
mostly around the introduction of various rhetorical
modes of nonfiction essay writing, paragraphing,
organizational strategies, and the development of
author voice. There is an early introduction of
analytical reading and the concepts of objective and
factual summaries vs. analytical evaluations of
EC2 was built around contemporary global
literature. It adds academic research, which
involves research strategies, various schools of
literary criticism, Modern Language Association
(MLA) citation methods, strategies for writing long
papers, and other elements. The learning outcomes
from both courses are fairly well defined for the
respective colleges for transfer, and the skill sets
expected from both have clear definitions in various
master course outlines. These learning objectives
must be left intact in any redesign, but new
learning may be added to enhance the courses. A
cultural redesign also strives to make the existing
learning more accessible for a wider range of
learners. The original course was built around the
use of contemporary international literature as a
basis for the research writing.
Redesign Strategies: English Composition I
English Composition I involves a reading and a
writing strand. The readings expose readers to a
range of ideas and topics. The learners explore a
variety of individual and public voices. They learn
various ways to summarize and analyze college-level
readings. They acquire new vocabulary. Students
form a sense of open-mindedness to others’ ideas.
The writing strand emphasizes self-expression and
the discovery of a personal voice. Learners
practice pre-writing, outlining and organization,
thesis-writing, various literary techniques,
point-of-vied, proper essay writing semantics, and
empowerment in building a public voice.
Online collection of contemporary essays.
For English Composition I, an online reader of a
variety of contemporary non-fiction essays was
created with live URL links. Learners were assigned
to choose a total of 12 essays throughout the
quarter to summarize and analyze—to enhance reading
analysis skills and the differentiation between
objectivity and subjectivity. The URLs were broken
up by rhetorical mode and sequenced into the
existing curriculum. This was to enhance reading
comprehension and analytical abilities.
This was also added to address an oversight in the
earlier curricular build, which left the course
without a reader and only a few brief essay
readings. The assignments highlighted
socio-cultural and historical assumptions underlying
the various literary works and therefore raised the
ability of learners to see others’ cultural ideas,
and more directly, their own. There were efforts to
avoid inaccurate, commercial, or fly-by-night
sites. Rather, the focus was on quality sites which
offered just the essays without excessive or
Different assignments were created for the students
to focus on lead-ins and conclusions. More time was
spent on rhetorical modes and outlines. Writing
strategies were emphasized not only in the
curricular materials but also in the feedback of
learner works. The emphasis on extensive revision
was brought to the fore, in part to counter amateur
tendencies to go with just the first draft.
Clearly defined policies on civility, plagiarism,
and other relevant guidelines were created,
particularly given the academic nuances of these
issues. A slideshow on how to annotate readings for
helpful recollection and later analytical writing
was designed and written. A clearer explanation of
the course’s pedagogical theory - to enhance the
metacognition of learners - was created, with an
emphasis on study strategies and approaches. A
scaffolding piece on how to learn online was
included in the pre-week, to
help learners who are new
to this mode of e-learning.
Some other resources defined terms with greater
clarity, such as defining non-fiction vs. fiction
writing. Differentiating between facts and opinions
was addressed in one slideshow lecture. More
elaboration on the different genres of writing was
included. The use of
rhetorical mode forms to create a piece of organized
writing was built onto the course; learners were
introduced to both writing samples and strategies
based around narration, comparison and contrast,
description, definition, analogy or extended
comparison, collage, division and classification,
causal analysis, and other modes. Using more
effective thesis statements was included.
Audience analysis as a starting off point for
writing a paper was introduced as a strategy. One
lecture strove to show how the different stages of
the writing process fit together. And at the
conclusion an e-portfolio analysis was included at
the end, to provide a way for learners to analyze
their own work and thoughtfully approach their
Wider topic ranges.
While memoir writing was accepted, the learners
could also go to the other objective extreme and
choose less individual-focused writing topics.
Instructors would benefit from further readings into
Native American history, literature, politics,
culture, health, and other elements—in order to be
conversant on some of these issues.
Promoting learner interactions.
The interactive curricular build encouraged learners
to read and critique each other’s works and to
respond to each other in every forum. The idea here
was to broaden their
sense of possibilities in work and to learn from
each other’s writing strategies.
Research transition for English Composition II.
A folder focused on research as the transition piece
into the next course, English Composition II. This
involved a segment on research strategies, the
citation of primary sources, how to use online
databases, and also how to use libraries. Some
resources on Modern Language Association (MLA)
citation methods were created.
Other learner works.
Additional annotation was added to the student essay
sampler, with insights on style and writing
strategies. These annotations also enhanced the
accessibility of their works, and reminders were
included in the Announcements about this resource.
Current students were encouraged to write quality
works, with a perk as possible inclusion of their
works in this small in-class repository (with their
The essay assignments will connect more clearly to
community (two of the current four assignments
already relate to community), especially the
evaluative first essay and the research final essay.
Redesign Strategies: English Composition II
The premises of the English Composition II course
redesign were to strengthen learners’ understanding
of information, the different valuations of
researched and discovered information, its use in
research, professional research citation, and
research writing. The ownership of information and
their de facto ownership of their own writing was
also an important element. The goal was to empower
learners as authors and researchers.
EC2’s focus on literature may be off-putting to
learners of different cultural backgrounds because
so much of literature is based out of cultural world
views and time periods. So one adjustment was that
learners were allowed a wider range of author
selection for their term projects. Learners need a
sense of comfort regarding their reading milieu
especially given the relative rarity of reading in
today’s society. More “scaffolding” would make
visible the cultural assumptions behind the literary
works, the authors’ lives and times, the values of
the times, and potential embedded worldviews.
Pre-week transition materials and tasks.
An opt-in pre-week folder was set up in the
Assignments area. This
included transitional lectures on issues of ethics
in research, research strategies, ways to write
longer research papers, and schools of literary
Updated learning resources.
Some elements were revised for better quality
learning and up-to-datedness. These included “Tips
for Organizing Longer Research Papers,” “Schools of
Literary Critique” (with a new explanatory graphic),
“Avoiding Logical Fallacies,” and other related
handouts / lectures in EC2. These resources were
created for easy downloading and learner
comprehension, with the hopes that learners would
use these as resources into the future post-course.
One fundamental change involved a visual literacy
element. This lecture addressed the inclusion of
graphics, drawings, maps, tables, charts, graphs,
diagrams, timelines, photographs, and other
elements, in a broad way. This encouraged the
examination of visually delivered information. This
covered the need to have captioning and labeling as
well as clear citations in the Works Cited list.
This addressed what visuals may convey in a paper in
terms of learning and memory. Also, some principles
of including graphics in a research paper were
included. The idea was to include more
multi-sensory modes in learning and in the handling
A fundamental change came with the addition of a
visual literacy resource. Students occasionally
will drop images into their papers, but these are
often done willy-nilly and without a larger
sensibility about how images may convey, summarize,
highlight, or communicate information in rich ways.
This touches on “other ways of knowing” promoted in
Coherent research strategies.
Learners often do not have a coherent research
strategy, so they often end up with highly disparate
works that may be unrelated to their original
pursuit. A strategy lecture covered a more coherent
applied way to approach research, both primary and
Another slideshow lecture addressed tools that may
be used to organize and present longer works -précis,
subheadings, transitions, and others. Given the
difficulty of in-text citation (both in-sentence and
parenthetical) for many learners, this was
addressed. The relation between the in-text
citations and the Works Cited list was also
emphasized. Other common errors - such as how to
cite one author with multiple works in a paper -
were addressed. New authors also have difficult
times differentiating their own writing from their
cited writing, so a new resource was created about
when to quote, when to paraphrase and when to
Opt-in group assignment choice.
An opt-in group assignment for the third critical
essay was created which would give learners a chance
to communicate and interact with peers in the
writing of one essay with a shared grade. This essay
allows for use of personal first-hand
reader-responses to a piece of literature.
Addressing common domain fallacies. The
embedded schools of literary critique from the
initial course design can be quite difficult to
grasp. Many students assert that authors write a
work to fit a particular literary critique tool and
do not seem to realize that all literary critique
tools can be applied to all literary works—with
differing outcomes. Authors may write a work that
may seem conducive to certain critique, but they do
not generally write works to fit a certain school of
critique. Others will reverse engineer a literary
work and make assumptions about authors’ lives, even
without any factual support. Addressing logical
fallacies and differentiating facts and opinions are
The author's hand in research writing.
New research writers also need support in
understanding the importance of the author
hand—originality, worldview, clear values in
selecting research—in the writing of research
papers. Amateurs and those from other cultures seem
to be comfortable letting a research paper merely be
a listing of ideas from other resources, and they
forget the importance of actual authorship.
A passive mitigation.
A more passive mitigation involved setting up a
learner lounge, a space just for learners without
instructor presence or intervention. However, just
the mere existence of this space often is
insufficient to encourage learner participation, so
designing and placing some resources in this lounge
may be conducive to learner use and forum
The course redesigns have not themselves undergone
rigorous testing for learning efficacy. Anecdotal
support has been positive from the learners who’ve
taken the courses. Part of The Enduring Legacies
Reservation-Based Project involves regular and
constant support and monitoring of the learners.
Planning for when to revise and update the
curricular materials of both redesigned courses will
be critical in maintaining the quality of the
curriculum. This would suggest that having clear
documentation of the decision-making for the current
rebuild, a definition of the applied cultural
principles, and documentation about the
technological standards and software used, will be
critical for later work.
The work of retrofitting courses for cultural
sensitivities may be seen as a larger part of making
the courses more accessible, albeit along cultural
lines. Some strategies involve the following:
surfacing cultural differences in a safe learning
creating a range of assignment options for learners
scaffolding the learning for accessibility,
technologies, developmental learning, and costs
affirming learners’ abilities and experienced lives
offering student work samplers for deeper peer
creating opportunities for the development of
learning communities, group work, dyadic work, and
interactivity among learners
considering learner budgets in the course design
promoting the scholarship of the learners’ works
soliciting learner feedback for more
learner-responsive cultural course redesigns
(and) exhibiting instructional flexibility (to some
degree) regarding time and student work.
The application of universal design aims to improve
the cultural accessibility and intercultural
understandings of all learners taking the e-learning
courses. In this paper, the focus was on English
Composition I and English Composition II, with a
focus on Native American learners through The
Enduring Legacies Reservation-Based Project. The
learning and general principles from these course
rebuilds may apply to other course retrofitting
situations from a cultural angle.
Thanks to Dr. Barbara Leigh Smith, The Evergreen
State College; Connie Broughton, Managing Director
of WashingtonOnline (WAOL), and R. Max. Thanks also
to the Society for Applied Learning Technology
(SALT) for showcasing the cultural sensitivities
work in 2007.
Aldrich, H.E. and Waldinger, R. (1990). Ethnicity
and entrepreneurship. Annual Review of
Sociology: Vol. 16. pp. 111 – 135.
Alexander, P.A. and Judy, J.E. (1988, Winter). The
interaction of domain-specific and strategic
knowledge in academic performance. Review of
Educational Research: Vol. 58, No. 4. pp. 375
Boiarsky, C. (2005). Making connections: Teaching
writing to engineers and technical writers in a
multicultural environment. IEEE. pp. 47 – 53.
Cajete, G. (1994). Look to the mountain: An
ecology of indigenous education. Asheville: Kivaki
Press. p. 20.
Casalino, N., D’Atri, A., Garro, A., Rullo, P.,
Sacca, D. and Ursino, D. (n.d.) An XML-based
multi-agent system to support an adaptive cultural
heritage learning. International Conference on
Networking, International Conference on Systems and
International Conference on Mobile Communications
and Learning Technologies (ICNICONSMCL ’06). IEEE.
Demmert, Jr. W.G. (2001, Dec.) Improving academic
performance among Native American students: A
review of the research literature. ERIC
Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
pp. 1, 3 and 4.
Enduring Legacies Course Redesign Report. (2007).
The Evergreen State College. pp. 1 - 6
“Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions.” (2008) ITIM
Hai-Jew, S. (2007, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2). Cultural
sensitivities in eLearning: Designing hybridized
eLearning for Native American learners through ‘The
Enduring Legacies Project’” (A Case Study). SALT
2007 New Technologies Conference. Orlando, Florida.
Kirkness, V.J. and Barnhardt, R. (2001). First
nations and higher education: The four R’s—Respect,
Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility.
Knowledge across Cultures: A
Contribution to Dialogue among Civilizations.
R. Hayoe and J. Pan, Eds. Hong Kong: Comparative
Education Research Centre, the University of Hong
Kroc, R., Woodard, D., Howard, R., and Hull, P.
(1995). Predicting graduation rates: A study of
land grant, research 1 and AAU universities.
Association for Institutional Research Forum,
Boston. p. 8.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995, Autumn). Toward a
theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American
Educational Research Journal: Vol. 32, No. 3,
pp. 465 – 491.
Liaw, M-L. (2006, Sept.) E-learning and the
development of intercultural competence.
Language Learning & Technology: Vol. 10, No.
3. pp. 49 – 64.
McCarty, T.L., Lynch, R.H., Wallace, S., and Benally,
A. (1991, Mar.). Classroom inquiry and Navajo
learning styles: A call for reassessment.
Anthropology & Education Quarterly: Vol. 22,
No. 1. pp. 42 – 59.
Merina, V. (2005, Fall). Covering Indian Country:
The Internet: Continuing the legacy of
storytelling. Nieman Reports: Vol. 59, No.
3. pp. 32 – 34.
Osbourne, A.B. (1996, Sept.) Practice into theory
into practice: Culturally relevant pedagogy for
students we have marginalized and normalized.
Anthropology & Education Quarterly: Vol. 27,
No. 3. pp. 285 – 314.
Pewewardy, C. (2002). Learning styles of American
Indian / Alaska Native students: A review of the
literature and implications for practice. Journal
of American Indian Education: 41, No. 3. pp. 22
Pewewardy, C. and Hammer, P.C. (2003, Dec.)
Culturally responsive teaching for American Indian
students. ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and
Small Schools. p. EDO-RC-03-10.
“Proposal to the Lumina Foundation for Education.”
(2005, Aug. 18). Smith, B.L., Special Assistant to
the Provost. pp. 1 – 10.
Reyhner, J. (2002 / 2004) “American Indian /
Alaska Native Education: An overview.” Northern
Sabin, C. and Ahern, T.C. (2002, Nov.)
Instructional design and culturally diverse
learners. 32nd ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in
Education Conference. pp. S1C-10 to S1C-14.
Sanchez, I. and Gunawardena, C.N. (1998).
Understanding and supporting the culturally diverse
distance learning. In C.C. Gibson, (Ed.), Distance
learners in higher education. Madison, WI:
Atwood Publishing. pp. 47 – 64.
Shumway, J.M. and Jackson, R.H. (1995, Apr.)
Native American population patterns.
Geographical Review: Vol. 85, No. 2. pp. 185 –
201. “Student Feedback: What They Say about their
Swisher, K. (1991, May). American Indian / Alaskan
Native learning styles: Research and practice. ERIC
Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
“Teaching and Learning with Native Americans: A
Handbook for Non-Native American Adult Educators.”
“Universal Design.” (2007, Nov. 12). Wikipedia.
Downloaded Nov. 20, 2007.