As language teachers, we promote language and cultural exchange programs among college and university students. However, for various reasons, the majority of students will not complete internships in foreign countries or study abroad programs during their college years. For this reason, universities need to develop international curricula and expand language and digital learning so that students who are not mobile can also acquire global skills.
Computer-mediated learning environments such as MOOCs can potentially be a form to exploit virtual mobility, defined by the Being Mobile team as a “form of learning which consists of virtual components through an ICT supported learning environment that includes cross-border collaboration with people from different backgrounds and cultures working and studying together, having, as its main purpose, the enhancement of intercultural understanding and the exchange of knowledge”.
It is a matter of designing the right tasks to engage students in conversation and collaborative opportunities with people across borders. As LSP (Languages for Specific Purposes) teachers, we can create an assignment where students have to follow one MOOC module or unit of their choice that relates to language or culture. As part of the assignment, they could pose questions, comments and engage in intercultural dialogue with students of different backgrounds and institutions in the MOOC environment and afterwards, they could write a reflection entry about their experience or give a mini lesson to their classmates about a language term or a cultural fact they learned about.
Here are just a few examples of MOOCs that could be used in LSP courses for this purpose:
This MOOC is open for registration now. Possible assignment: Business and Marketing students could follow week 5’s topic “What do ads teach us about race, class, gender and sexuality”. They could search an ad in the target language and share it with the class to discuss language choice and illustrate some of the aspects they learned about.
This MOOC is self-paced and always open. It explores communication and culture, Hofstede’s cultural taxonomies, Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck’s cultural patterns, etc. Possible assignment: In the MOOC, students could search for other students who study the same foreign language to engage in discussion. They could compare cultural differences between their native and target cultures, using Hofstede’s taxonomy as a model.
This MOOC has ended but there will be a future session. It explores issues of gender and power within and outside of the Latino community, Latinos in sports, Latino stereotypes in media, medicine in Latino culture, etc. Great course for anyone studying Latin America, Spanish for Business, Marketing, Medicine, etc.
This MOOC starts in June, 2015. One of the modules covers writing an informative and a persuasive document relevant to a business context in Asia. Possible assignment: Business students who take Chinese could follow this particular module and write a sample of a persuasive document as one of their MOOC assignments and they could then share it with the class, for everyone to identify evidence of cross-cultural style and genre, particular to Chinese corporate culture.
This MOOC is self-paced and always open. Possible assignment: Medical students could choose any module and topic of their choice such as global challenges related to maternal and child health. They could identify students in the MOOC who also study the target language and culture and start a discussion thread with them. They could research the particularities of the target culture they are studying in regards to maternal and child health and lead a class discussion with their teacher and class.