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Support for Online Cross-Cultural Conversations

We provide online learning consulting for maximizing intercultural awareness and integrating accessible but academic knowledge of the Middle East, including a toolkit for global online learning.  According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities (Fournier, 2016), perspective taking is central to becoming a global citizen, and a key 21st century ability.  We found that certain learning approaches scaffold students’ perspective-taking abilities by providing a safe environment to immediately test their cross-cultural collaboration skills. While students know they must interact with individuals from other countries online, and may also recognize there are cultural differences, they may not account for them sufficiently or know what to do when they encounter them. A safe environment for testing their intercultural skills better prepares students for these interactions “in the real world”.  

We piloted a set of learning activities and e-portfolio autumn semester of 2017 for Turkish 2241 which included online interaction with students at Istanbul University. We designed the learning to take place in three stages, in accordance with research cited above:  the “icebreaker stage,” the “community-building stage,” and the “collaboration stage.”
The first stage, the “icebreaker stage,” is needed in order to build the trust required for cultural sharing. This is the community stage, and is where students practice online cross-cultural communication and begin sharing and learning about how their cultural experiences have shaped them.  
The second stage, “the community-building stage,” is the substantive cultural learning stage and is where students gain academic knowledge about each other’s countries – it is recommended, if possible, that they be assigned a partner from the partner institution for each topic.  We also recommend that students exchange some of what they learned from their partner with the whole group through a final group conversation on each topic. 
The third stage, “the collaboration stage,” is the stage which requires students to take responsibility for the completion of a group project. Students form a cross-cultural team to co-author a text or media item, such as an e-book, website, video, or other type of media. They must take on a particular role to work primarily on one essential aspect of the final product - this creates interdependence to motivate students and holds them accountable to the group as a whole.  We award Buckeye Badges for successful completion of stages two and three; namely, the Global Community Building Badge and the Global Media Project Badge.  
The combination of these two badges develop students’ substantive knowledge of another culture, develop respect for different cultural perspectives, and require them to achieve cross-cultural teamwork skills, all three of the priorities of Global Competence (“Putting the World into World Class Education: State Innovations and Opportunities,” 2008).  Our goal is to create a set of best practices, and a set of tools which will allow these badges to be implemented across the curriculum. At the same time, badges are becoming accepted as co-curricular credentials that are essential for making higher education relevant to “real world” job market demands (Stony Brook U, Career Center ), and are a critical part of the trend at universities to become learner-centered institutions.  

You can learn more about the specifics on what we learned from the AU17 pilot in Turkish 2241 “Introduction to Turkish Culture” from our presentation recordings and materials. We gave presentations at AAC&U's national e-Portfolio forum and the Academy of Teaching’s annual conference and OSU' Innovate Conference.  You may also access a recording of a webinar.  See the FAQ, Tool kit, and other resources for replicating what we did at u.osu.edu/globaleportfolio