Andrea Hall

Designing online learning environments for local contexts as exemplified in the Sultanate of Oman


Online learning has a significant role in teaching and learning as it can be used to address the issues of quality and access to learning in higher education. However, for online learning to provide an effective solution, it needs to be designed to meet the learning needs of the students. This is particularly important for the Sultanate of Oman, the focus of this study.There is little in the literature on how people in this culture learn, how they learn online, and how learning may be designed in a culturally-suitable manner. This is the problem investigated in the research: if culture does impact learning, how can learning be designed in a way that considers cultural values, and enables a successful learning experience? This thesis describes the development and refinement of design principles as an effective means to design culturally appropriate learning environments for higher education in the Sultanate of Oman.

A design-based research approach was selected for this study, as it can be used to develop a design solution that has been tested and refined in a genuine learning context, thus making the solution more useable and robust. This approach begins with the identification of the teaching and learning problem, then the proposal of a draft design solution from a literature review. This is followed with iterative testing in a genuine context, so that the theory is informed and modified in the learning environment. The final stage is the production of refined design guidelines and a modified learning environment that is specific for the context where it was tested. This solution was tested iteratively in a context in the Sultanate of Oman, using a case study strategy, during two three month online professional development courses for university faculty.

It was found that the refined guidelines developed in this research were consistent with, and extended, the existing models they built upon. They were also able to apply cultural preferences to the design of the learning environment which became increasingly suitable for learners from an Oman cultural background.


Hall, A. & Herrington, J. (2010). The development of social presence in online Arabic learning communities. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7), 1012-1027.

Hall, A. (2006). Who’s learning? Responding to the needs of a culturally diverse world of online learners. In L. Markauskaite, P. Goodyear, & P. Reimann (Eds.), Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the ASCILITE Conference, (pp. 293-302). Sydney: ascilite

Hall A. (2010). Accounting for cultural preferences in the design of online learning in the Arab
world.  Educational Technology Magazine, 50(3), 18-21.

Hall, A.. & Sandell, L. (2010). Designing e-learning language courses in the Omani context. In Al Mahrooqi, R. & Tuzlukova, V. (Eds), The Omani ELT Symphony: Maintaining Linguistic and Socio-Cultural Equilibrium (p 435-454).

Hall, A. (2011). Designing culturally appropriate E-learning for learners from an Arabic background: A study in the Sultanate of Oman. In Edmundson, A. (Ed.),Cases on Globalized and Culturally Appropriate E-Learning: Challenges and Solutions. (pp. 94-113).