This case depiction addresses the contentious issue of providing culturally and globally accessible teaching and learning to international students in universities in the Commonwealth nations of Australia and Canada. The chapter describes the university systems and cultures, the barriers to authentic higher education internationalization, and the problems frequently experienced by international students. Two university cases are presented and analysed to depict and detail blended learning approaches (face-to-face combined with e-learning) as exemplars of culturally and globally accessible higher education and thereby ideologically grounded internationalization. Lessons learned are presented at the systems level and as teaching and learning solutions designed to address pedagogical problems frequently experienced by international students in the areas of communication, academic skills, teaching and learning conceptualization, and moving from rote learning to critical thinking. The blended learning solutions are analysed through the lens of critical theory.
The cultural and global accessibility of a university’s teaching and learning is a direct measure of whether the university’s development mission is to promote intercultural education and worldwide networks or whether that higher education institution recruits international students primarily as lucrative export-industry goods. Culture is the overall mindset shaped in a time and place and shared by a group of individuals. When individuals such as international students leave their group they typically carry a mindset with them from their culture of origin to their culture of study. This definition of culture is grounded in Hofstede’s (2001) model. He defined culture as “collective programming of the mind” (p. 1). He explained that “it manifests itself not only in values, but in more superficial ways: in symbols, heroes, and rituals” (p. 1). Cultural accessibility means that faculty members actively design their teaching to ensure that all of their students are learning, through interaction with the instructor, their student peers and with globally responsible and responsive content (McBurnie, 2000). Lanham and Zhou (2003) wrote, “the inclusion of multiple cultures in university courses means that a more flexible approach should be taken with the design of these courses to ensure that all students are able to reach their course goals” (p. 278). Cultural accessibility can only be understood against the backdrop of internationalization which is a conflicted interplay between economy, pedagogy, and ideology (Meiras, 2004).
Surging in the mid 1990s, enrolment of international students in developed Commonwealth nations became a profitable industry (Davies & Harcourt, 2007; De Vita, 2007; Poole, 2001). The economic advantage of international student enrolment drove an operational or business stance on internationalization (De Vita & Case, 2003; Edwards et.al., 2003). De Vita and Case contrasted the economic stance of universities “expand[ing] their financial base by using international students as a source of revenue” with the ideological stance in which the primary work of universities is “preparing students to live and work in a multicultural society through greater understanding and respect for other cultures” (p. 385). While cultural accessibility is a laudable goal, there is a great deal of contemporary discourse presenting universities as more interested in capitalism than knowledge emancipation (Cimbala, 2002; Gunn, 2000; Huff, 2006; Murray & Dollery, 2005; Versluis, 2004).