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Course Management System: A Tool for International Student Collaboration

Course Management System: A Tool for International Student Collaboration
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Author(s): Diane Boehm (Saginaw Valley State University, USA) and Lilianna Aniola-Jedrzejek (Poznan University of Technology, Poland)
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 2
Source title: Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-019-6.ch305
ISBN13: 9781616921286
EISBN13: 9781466665361

Abstract

University faculty around the world share responsibility to help their students learn how to interact and communicate successfully with those from other cultures. Since the beginning of this new century, the world has seen “the creation of a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration—the sharing of knowledge and work—in real time, without regard to geography, distance, or, in the near future, even language,” according to New York Times bestselling author Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat (p. 176). Consequently, college students today must prepare themselves for such sharing of knowledge, as well as for work in a global marketplace, where highly educated and culturally aware knowledge workers will thrive, and where those who lack these capabilities will see their options shrink. Students can most successfully develop strategies for international collaboration, we believe, by actually engaging in such collaboration. One strategy to accomplish this goal is to design online collaborative projects involving students of different countries. Modern technological tools, such as course management systems, offer a structure that enables both synchronous and asynchronous student interactions to be conducted successfully. For the past several years, we have used the Blackboard course management system to conduct student online collaborative projects, linking students in writing courses at Saginaw Valley State University, a regional state university in Michigan, USA, with students in English language courses at Poznan University of Technology, Poznan, Poland. (PUT students are enrolled into the SVSU course.) Our collaborations have been marked by both challenges and rewards; the greatest reward has been seeing students learn firsthand about collaboration across cultures, even as they were learning more about themselves and their own culture in the process. The challenges can indeed appear formidable. When we have discussed past collaborative projects with colleagues from other universities, one experienced teacher indicated she had twice attempted similar projects; in both instances, “the students ended up hating each other.” Clearly this was not the outcome intended! Hashimoto & Lehu identify three special challenges for virtual working groups to be successful: careful attention to language and tone, given the lack of non-verbal cues; a need to develop rapport and trust when physical interaction is not possible; and agreement on a method to accomplish tasks in spite of individual and cultural differences.

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