Building a Global E-Community: Intercultural Courses on Human Rights Education

Building a Global E-Community: Intercultural Courses on Human Rights Education

Sandra Reitz (Amnesty International & Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-678-0.ch005
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Abstract

Traditional E-Learning programs mostly focus on disseminating knowledge. Motivation and the transfer to behavior in everyday situations are often neglected. Human Rights Education specifically encompasses attitudes and behavior, but the challenge is to bring this into a virtual setting. The Intercultural Courses on Human Rights Education were conducted with 80 learners from five different countries: USA, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Germany, and Mongolia. The chapter first describes the practical background of these courses as well as theoretical considerations regarding computer-mediated communication and social constructivist learning approaches. The main focus lies on giving practical examples from the course, which include forum discussions, working with pseudonyms, internet research, and building a human rights conformant society in a simulation. A pre- and post-test enabled a thorough evaluation for all three learning areas: knowledge, attitudes and skills. The results of this evaluation, several lessons learned and a future learning scenario will be shared.
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Background

The Intercultural Courses on Human Rights Education were conducted as a part of a dissertation (Reitz, 2009) at the UNESCO-Chair for Human Rights Education at the University of Magdeburg, and with the support of Amnesty International Germany.

About 80 learners between 16 and 25 years from five different countries participated in the course. Exchange was fostered between all groups of students who came from Michigan State University (USA), and schools in Göttingen (Germany), Marrakesh (Morocco), Salcedo (Dominican Republic) and Ulanbaator (Mongolia). The learners were in various local settings and with variable access to the internet, which of course was a challenge. The learner groups were acquired through their educators – most of these educators had participated in a previously conducted multipliers' course on Human Rights Education and E-Learning. The virtual learning environment was realized with the open-source platform “Moodle” (Moodle, 2008).

The initial situation for the sub-groups was very heterogeneous, especially in form of access to the virtual learning environment, whether the course for them was part of a school setting, and in terms of their level of English. The learners from Germany and the USA were the groups with the easiest access (from home or from school) to the virtual learning environment, while also being the ones most embedded in a school or university setting. The majority of the learners from Morocco, the Dominican Republic and Mongolia were voluntary participants in the project and usually had to go to an internet cafe to access the virtual learning environment, which of course led to a difference in the time and effort they spent on the project.

Before going into the details of the course, some theoretical clarifications and considerations are necessary that will be laid out in the next three sub-chapters.

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