Intercultural Collaborative Project-Based Learning in Online Environments
Karen L. Murphy (Western New Mexico University, USA), Yakut Gazi (Texas A&M University, USA) and Lauren Cifuentes (Texas A&M University, USA)
Copyright: © 2007
The growth of online coursework has introduced challenges for learners, instructors, and course designers involved in culturally and linguistically diverse environments. Online learners face the challenges of a lack of visual cues and increased expectations for interaction and collaboration in ways that learners in conventional settings may not encounter. In online environments that include elements of globalization such as international learners, multicultural course content, and twinning projects between universities (Mason, 1998), intercultural communication issues introduce further complexities. This chapter addresses the question, “How can we overcome potential cultural discontinuities in online collaborative project-based learning environments?” We first identify differing worldviews, communication practices, and technological issues that can present barriers that frequently arise in intercultural online courses. We then identify constructivist project-based teaching strategies that reduce these intercultural barriers. Differing worldviews can be reconciled by fostering collaboration, grouping, relevance, and metacognition. Communication barriers can be minimized by attention to language and community building. Technological problems can be reduced by using asynchronous communication, simplifying online communication systems, and providing technical training and ongoing technical support. The chapter concludes with a model for a third, or polycentric culture that minimizes differences among individuals in terms of their worldviews, communication practices, and technological issues.