We hope you will enjoy this road-tested “toolkit” for implementing online cross-cultural conversations in your classes. It includes modules you can implement, assessment rubrics and related technologies, mechanisms for constant assessment such as badges, and key components for building online community. If the pedagogies and approaches are new to you, we highly recommend joining a community of peers who are also learning these ways of teaching, and other modes of professional development. Ohio State provides those resources through the office of Global Education (formerly Education Abroad). International Affairs and the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning have also launched a grant and learning community program for faculty interested in revising or creating new virtual exchange courses: https://oia.osu.edu/news/coil-virtual-exchange-learning-community-launched
Steps for Implementing Cross-cultural Learning
Step 1. At the beginning of the semester or program: Address mindset
- Set expectations for intercultural learning. You can use this presentation as a starting point. Assign a cultural autobiography to help students frame their own cultural mindset – “I’m a cultural being that’s going to have a cultural experience in this course.”
- Define Culture. At the beginning of the semester make time to define what you mean by “culture.” (You can use this lesson, if you wish. This presentation explains culture according to an intercultural awareness framework: https://u.osu.edu/globaleportfolio/2019/08/21/what-is-culture, Consider your learning objectives and shape the rest of the semester’s discussions of culture accordingly.
- Assess where your students are in their level of cultural awareness. We recommend the IDI. There are a number of certified IDU administrators at Ohio State, in the Columbus area and around the world. Assigning an IDI at the beginning and the end of the semester and a debrief done with an IDI administrator also greatly enhances the mindset students need for intercultural learning.
Step 2. Throughout the semester: Integrate authentic cultural experiences and perspective-taking assignments
- Research on Global Education states that sustained interaction with international partner gives us the most intercultural development. Students gain intercultural awareness by curating knowledge in dialogue with others through:
- discussion-based lessons
- online forums with students in partner country
- Writing reflections on cultural perspectives of both students’ home culture and the partners’ culture(s). We recommend students keep their reflections in an e-Portfolio.
- Reflections can include research from literature, actual conversations, or collaborations with people from another country.
- A variety of disciplinary lenses can be used for this exercise – social science, for example, may look at cultural practices that take place in both countries and compare – the objective is to identify the cultural norms, beliefs and attitudes that shape them.
Step 3. Culminating assignments and final projects that are cross-cultural and collaborative
- Assign a culminating paper or project that requires students to work with peers in another country, or to get their direct input on the subject under study.
- Track learning and mark achievements through e-Portfolios and badging.
Other high impact practices we recommend, are a personalized learning environment, or dashboard for learners. We used Suitable. Gamification, feedback on micro-accomplishments through badges also appeared to motivate some of our students. There are two badges we used in our pilot: The Global Community Building Buckeye Badge, and the Global Media Project Buckeye Badge. They assess learning cumulatively Students start with the community building badge, demonstrating they are able to effectively communicate with partners online across cultural boundaries and build rapport. Once they have demonstrated this ability, they are eligible to participate in a collaborative project online to earn the second badge. We also recommend the book Teaching Students How to Learn for understanding student motivation, and Cooperative Learning Resources for engaging group project design. Some other simple ways to create a learning environment include:
- Have a conversation about the difference between rote learning and authentic learning.
- Take an e-portfolio approach to promote authentic learning. In addition to maximizing learning, e-Portfolios are an effective way of linking classroom learning to real-world skills and abilities.
- Badges (e-Portfolios and Badging FAQ) can be used in conjunction withe-portfolios
- Research assignments with real-world significance and tangible results are another high-impact practice (HIP) that will motivate and engage your students. We piloted a collaborative writing assignment (Windows into Turkish Culture) in 2017 to test the idea of combining e-portfolio practices with online cross-cultural learning. For our cross-cultural group assignment, we chose an e-book which we edited and published as an OSU Pressbook. We set up the assignment group assignments so that each student had a distinct role and was accountable to the group.
The approaches and methods on this website are designed to be content-independent – you should be able to implement it in any class. We do recommend some basic knowledge of the country the students will be connecting to, however, and a discussion of what culture is. A basic cultural primer should include:
- cultural norms, including do’s and don’t in Turkish culture, different perspectives on time, relationships, etc. .
- basic language, greetings, etc.
- Here is our Primer on Turkey.
It is also essential that you establish a working definition of culture to be able to discuss the learning throughout the semester. Try to establish what the definition will be before starting the cross-cultural learning activities. You can define it together in class on the first day in brain-storm fashion before providing students with the academic definition you will be working with. You can use our word cloud brainstorm activity, located here. You can also discuss what culture is with this presentation, “What is Culture?”
A lesson on culture to produce an evolving definition of it for the rest of the semester would be even better. Culture has many definitions and you might be surprised by the variety of ways your students think about culture. You can use this lesson, choose other definitions, or develop your own working definition. Sample definition (socio-cultural):
“Culture is a collective set of shared ideas, meanings, and circumstances which shape the practices in a given cultural community, or larger national collective. In short, communities often possess a common understanding of “the way things are done” that are derived from those circumstances and patterns of activity. These are taken-for-granted understandings that insiders consider as universal if they are not aware of the existence of culture. Those without cultural awareness also often find the cultural practices of other communities to be strange, irrational or even offensive – such a view on cultural difference is called “ethnocentrism”. This defines the “insider” vs. “outsider” dynamic which has often been observed (Gay,2010, p.69) and appears to be a universal feature of human societies across the globe. Finally, cultural awareness is actually a process of discovering the self as a cultural being.” ~McClimans, 2017
We recommend assigning this reading on the topic of culture: Keywords by Raymond Williams.
Authentic Intercultural Learning Online: Cross-cultural Online Conversations Module
Students participate in online discussions with peers in the other country or countries (see an overview here, and download the entire module along with related assignments and assessment rubrics here). The purpose is to build an inclusive community and to reflect on cultural differences. Students seek posts to comment on that others haven’t commented on yet so that everyone feels included. Students use active listening and follow the ground rules so that everyone feels respected. Emphasize that everyone’s contribution matters. We highly recommend that in addition to the forum assignments you assign frequent small reflections, and an overarching reflection for the whole semester focused on growth and how students feel they have developed cultural awareness from the forums and related assignments. Ideally, students will be assigned collaborative group projects which include students in both countries, as well, to really challenge their ability to use perspective-taking and communication skills to be an effective team player. Please read more about this approach here: https://u.osu.edu/globaleportfolio/about/purpose-and-learning-objectives/
The forum discussions start with a discussion focused on getting to know each other and building trust so that people gain a level of comfort to feel free to express themselves (see Autobiographies Assignment below under related/complimentary assignments). Follow the icebreaker discussion forum with topics focused on practices, situations, or common experiences (it could be an assignment they are all working on), that students can compare in both of their countries (see prompts, below, for some examples). You can ask the student to share pictures or to simply describe phenomena under discussion and provide a brief explanation of why they considered it meaningful to share. Scaffold discussions toward any relevant social and/or identity dimensions such as gender, class, race, sexuality, religion, etc., if students are ready and able to grapple with the ways in which cultural norms in both countries shape these in different ways. If you only have time for one forum, focus on getting to know each other and the ways in which culture may have shaped the experiences they share. Note: Students need to agree to ground rules before they begin participating in the forums. You can download the complete module along with related assignments and assessment rubrics here.
e-Portfolio Platform Such as Portfolium (Ohio State University uses this platform, but there are others)
An e-portfolio for writing reflections, marking achievements, and sharing reflections and final products with the world. An e-portfolio should encourage reflection-based learning and helps students to track progress and mark major achievements and milestones in their academic journey (and later their career journey). OSU uses Portfolium. Networks within OSU have their own presence within that platform. For example, the College of Agriculture: portfolium.com/network/osu-cfaes Students who may have started their own portfolios using different tech tools may wish to continue with what they are using. For example, students may wish to use a blog platform for sharing their achievements. Many students at OSU use u.osu.edu, based on the WordPress blogging platform. We also recommend the app Suitable which integrates badges and social learning into an e-portfolio.
Learning Management System Such as Canvas (Ohio State University uses this platform, but there are others)
We recommend including an Orientation Page for the cross-cultural conversations in your Learning Management System (LMS). We use Canvas at Ohio State (we call it Carmen). Students should be able to easily access the agreement regarding groundrules and privacy as well as general standards and expectations for cross-cultural assignments. It is also a good place to discuss copyright, image attribution and avoiding plagiarism.
Turnitin is a useful tool for countering plagiarism which gives students feedback on their own work so they can get clearer on how plagiarism works and learn how to avoid accidentally plagiarizing. It integrates with the Canvas LMS by allowing students to submit their assignments for your course through Turnitin. Turnitin not only checks their work via the internet, it compares it with other student papers in their database.
Peermark facilitates student paper exchange and criticism. You can either let students grade each other, or you can grade students on the quality of their feedback to their peers. This is a great learning tool and works really well for developing self-awareness. It also integrates with Canvas.