Effectiveness of Cultural Appreciation via Online Learning

Effectiveness of Cultural Appreciation via Online Learning

S. CHEAH, A. YUEN, B. LE, M. LE (2014).  Effectiveness of Cultural Appreciation via Online Learning. 15.

Collaborations between organizations in different countries have become more and more important in tackling various challenges of today’s globalized world. Cultural awareness is therefore an important attribute for college graduates to work together with counterparts from various countries. This paper summarizes the initial experience we gained from a pilot effort in preparing students from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) for their awareness of Vietnamese culture via e-learning before they embark on an overseas attachment at Duy Tan University (DTU) in Vietnam for a period of 5 weeks, during which they will work alongside DTU faculty and students on various projects.

The two main objectives are: (a) to instill cultural sensitivities as an important learning outcome among SP students; and (b) to ascertain the effectiveness of e-learning as a means to achieve the first objective. These objectives also serve to support SP’s effort to design a more-structured approach to its overseas training program which is currently being handled on a more-or-less ad-hoc basis. Last but not least, SP and DTU hoped that the experience gained will help both institutions improve collaborations on a more sustainable basis.

The paper first briefly explains the importance of cultural awareness and shares evidence about the effectiveness of e-learning application to achieve this goal. It then shares the approach taken by SP and DTU, which consists of SP students learning about Vietnamese culture using DTU’s preparatory e-learning resources, and then staying in Vietnam and experience Vietnamese culture first-hand. Our approach consists of an initial survey with the students about their prior experience of Vietnamese culture followed by a self-evaluation of their own perception about foreign cultures. The students then undertake weekly lessons on selected topics related to Vietnamese culture by logging into DTU’s e-learning system, with each session lasting for 2 to 3 hours and with video-conferencing instruction when needed. The students also take some online non-graded assessments to help them monitor their own learning progress. We also evaluate the effectiveness of studying Vietnamese culture via online learning by: (1) surveying the students on their confidence in adapting to life in Vietnam and working with the Vietnamese not only before and after taking the online modules but also before their actual departure for Vietnam; and (2) conducting a focus group discussion with the students when they settled down living and working in Vietnam.

At the time of this abstract submission, the team has just embarked on the initiative, and we should be able to provide more updates in the full paper later on. We will also discuss, in the full paper, some of the challenges we face, including attempts to match the different academic calendars of both institutions, trying to include an online learning component into an already packed curriculum, identifying suitable projects, and securing the needed resources. Lastly, we will offer plausible suggestions for possible future joint projects and propose a model of collaboration as we journey together in this exciting new endeavor.

NOTE: Singapore Polytechnic uses the word "courses" to describe its education "programs". A "course" in the Diploma in Chemical Engineering consists of many subjects that are termed "modules"; which in the universities contexts are often called “courses”.

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Aaron W.P. YUEN
Bao N LE
My D. LE
Singapore Polytechnic, Singapore
Duy Tan University, Vietnam
Cross-Cultural Awareness
Engineering education
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
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