Transnational Collaboration in Teaching and Learning
June 17, 2011
College of Management
While many online courses reach students around the world, a more unusual model for higher education is the full collaboration of two universities in different countries to allow students in both to enroll in one common course. Professor Ed Romar of the College of Management, with the help of a Hungarian colleague, Professor Annamaria Sas, has been providing an opportunity for significant cross-cultural collaboration to students at UMass Boston and the University of Pannonia in Veszprem, Hungary. Instructional Support Team Members Irene Yukhananov, Alan Girelli, and Teddy Hristov, provided technology support for this effort.
In their conference presentation, "Two Markets, Two Universities, an English Language course", Ed and his IT colleagues demonstrated how he used the latest course delivery technology to introduce students to the global business environment, bringing student and faculty participants from both sites together for the conference through virtual technology.
As stated in a paper for the conference proceedings (to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal, Human Architecture <http://www.okcir.com/habottom.html> ): "In the contemporary global business environment it is not unusual for business professionals to work in cross cultural teams across several time zones." To prepare students to collaborate effectively in a global environment, Ed conceived of offering students at two universities in two countries the opportunity to work together in a special topics marketing course.
Such a daunting enterprise required several elements to be successful.
During a Spring 2009 Fulbright semester at the University of Pannonia, Ed conceived of the idea of preparing students for that global environment by designing a course that would bring together students there with UMass Boston students to carry out team projects. In the months before the first course offering in Fall 2010, he identified both Hungarian companies and also US companies looking to expand into the Hungarian market and willing to act as project case material. He identified a primary collaborator at the University of Pannonia, Professor Annamaria Sas. He also negotiated a formal memorandum of understanding between the two universities.
A carefully designed collaborative activity
A centerpiece of the course was the work of cross-cultural teams of students, with each team preparing a marketing plan for one company, learning, in the process, about different cultures and different business climates. Students were guided to contact companies and develop actual plans for marketing projects, to shape their teamwork and roles, to share their work through Googledocs, to offer regular informal reports of their work for discussion in Blackboard, and to prepare final marketing plans and PowerPoint presentations of those plans.
Appropriate Technologies and Support
As for other online courses, Blackboard provided a primary means of course delivery, augmented by Wimba, a tool that allows synchronous online meetings and voiced discussions. But other tools contributed to the success of the course.
Pre-recorded lectures (recorded when Ed was teaching face-to-face in Hungary) were videotaped and then presented in Presio, a software that allows the combining of video, audio, and images. These materials helped Hungarian students to develop their ESL listening skills.
Students used Googledocs to create collaborative files that could be edited by any team member. At the same time, Googledocs also allowed the instructors to follow the contributions being made by individual students.
Significant support from UMass Boston instructional designers and technical support staff ensured that the course would work successfully for students in both locations. The students themselves, as indicated by a course entry survey, had a high level of motivation, good technology skills, and a desire for high academic achievement.
What was achieved
Within the course, student teams accomplished their immediate goals of creating authentic business plans for real companies, in a cross-cultural collaborative effort. At the same time, students felt that they had improved their critical thinking, language, and communication skills. Multi-modal teaching materials (auditory, textual, graphical) supported ESL learning, as did live, interpersonal interaction. Participants from Hungary who joined the CIT/EdTech conference in real time through Wimba, spoke to the value of the experience in giving them a chance to improve not only their marketing skills and their team leadership skills, but once again, their communication skills-something they demonstrated through their very participation in this conference presentation.
Conference participants particularly appreciated the fact that the Hungarian faculty and students participated in the conference in real time, giving all of us the opportunity to share, in a small way, in a this cross-cultural learning experience.