Introduction

Virtual mobility offers splendid opportunities to boost employability and 21st century competences and attitudes (e.g., collaborative problem solving and global citizenship). Peer to peer learning in culturally diverse virtual teams asks that students build swift trust, and figure out how to share knowledge, while they organize taskwork and teamwork using team charters. Employability is also served because students are invited to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and picture themselves putting their professional competences to use in different cultures.
Master students at Maastricht University, The Netherlands collaborated online with master students in Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia, and students in an upper level undergraduate course on cross-cultural psychology at Yasar University in Izmir, Turkey. The assignment allowed them
1. to experience collaboration with others in a virtual setting, triggering reflection on virtual communication, information literacy, and collaborative problem solving skills.
2. to learn about different cultures through social and academic interactions, building cross-cultural competence and fostering respect
3. to learn about humanitarian work and/or to learn to contextualize psychological research, strengthening ethical and moral reasoning and perspective taking.
In 2015/2016, the assignments connected 750 students in small groups and stimulated collaborative learning and self-regulation, following Maastricht University’s problem-based learning principles,. Since uncertainty management is key employability skill, infusion of uncertainty is a feature, not a bug in the instructional design. Collaboration was stimulated by creating interdependence: students rely on their counterparts to contextualize and enrich the literature to which they have access. Radical reciprocity is our goal. For instance, Indonesian students welcome the chance to have indirect access to literature on topics that are very relevant for Indonesian society, to work on language and leadership skills, and to befriend foreign students (having very few chances to study abroad).

Synopsis

Objective

This project organizes peer-to-peer learning between psychology students from WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) countries and their counterparts in cultures that academic research has covered less extensively (Indonesia, Turkey). While connecting, students
1. experience collaboration with others in a virtual setting, honing virtual communication, information literacy, and collaborative problem solving skills.
2. learn to relate to different cultures through social and academic interactions with students from another country
3. strengthen ethical and moral reasoning and perspective taking skills while contemplating a future career abroad (e.g. in humanitarian work)
This project affords an Internationalization-at-home experience for both students in Indonesia and Turkey, who seldom have the means to engage in physical mobility, as well as students in The Netherlands, whose world view is colored by WEIRD literature. Students in Turkey and Indonesia gain better access to western psychology by interacting with peers, and build leadership and language skills. Master students in work and organizational psychology explore how they can contribute to complex humanitarian issues. Bachelor students investigate how for instance psychology of moral judgment and negotiation should be contextualized in the counterpart's culture. Connecting students from very different parts of the world, with a focus on humanitarian work and critical thinking about complex ethical issues can shape an attitude of tolerance and respect, and promote global citizenship.
In addition, students experience how virtual teams collaborate. Learning how to communicate within diverse teams, to find the right ICT tools, to build and deepen swift trust, and to set up a short-term collaboration and get to results, are valuable outcomes that enhance the employability of graduates.
Finally, bottom-up projects like these strengthen ties between academics in different parts of the world, and ignite further capacity building and research collaboration.

Approach

The project assignment centers on peer-to-peer learning, minimally invasive pedagogy, experiential learning and active intercultural engagement. Different learning styles of students in Indonesia, Turkey and The Netherlands added to the rich diversity of the virtual teams, and deepened learning experiences of participants.In 2015/2016, 80 students from 33 countries who had enrolled in a master in Maastricht University were paired with 50 peers at either Padjadjaran University or Yasar University. All 16 teams reflected on how work and organizational psychologists can contribute to improve practice in humanitarian work, e.g. by presenting a research proposal, an intervention and/or creating educational materials. The topics were related to sustainable development goals and included: diplomacy and negotiating conflicts in humanitarian work, disaster management and response, ethical decision making in humanitarian work, displacement/refugees/homelessness, child labor, corruption, and social entrepreneurship. Educational materials became building blocks of a Problem-based learning module in Humanitarian Work Psychology. Materials are published as teaching resources at http://www.gohwp.org.
Teams of students connected, worked on a team charter, and settled on communication channels after a first online plenary meeting. Weekly progress reports were delivered. After presenting their findings, students handed in educational materials and reflection reports, participated in an online evaluation meeting. The entire assignment was completed over a five week period. One group of students was given the opportunity to continue their work in a student research project.
Later in the year, virtual mobility was scaled up to include 600 bachelor students in Maastricht and Bandung who experienced how intercultural peer-to-peer learning can promote sense making and critical thinking on topics like negotiation, moral judgment and decision making. As both groups of students were engaged in a similar course, they could contextualize and reflect on current cross-cultural literature as they jointly worked on their group assignment.

Engagament

This project exemplifies bottom-up innovation, building on existing contacts between teachers in Maastricht and Bandung. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Maastricht University and Universitas Padjadjaran so the Indonesian teacher had time to work on the project. A visit by the Maastricht teacher to Bandung marked the start of the project. Successful pilots with smaller groups of students, focusing on employability of psychologists, highlighted few obstacles (time zone differences, differences in digital literacy and English language competences, frail Internet connectivity). Obstacles were framed as opportunities for learning to manage uncertainty and to improvise. No specific technology was pushed onto students: autonomy proved to be an important motivator. Students communicated through social media and other ICT tools (FaceBook, Whatsapp, Slack, .. privacy concerns limit sharing of screenprints of interactions). After engaging psychology staff at Yasar University, the project reached 140 students in 2015/2016. In 2016/2017 collaboration between Bandung and Maastricht intensified with the project reaching 750 bachelor and master students. Teachers from universities in Kenya, Colombia, and Russia have expressed interest in joining.
Minimally invasive pedagogy precluded strong involvement of educational stakeholders (e.g. examination boards) once an MoU was signed. The limited workload of the assignment (1 ECTS) allows for easy portability into existing courses, without triggering course or curriculum revision. Hence, the engagement plan was limited to arranging regular virtual meetings between teachers, to finetune the assignment, to procure some money to allow the team with the best idea to explore implementation, and to disseminate student products. Engagement of students was immediate and needed no attention (apart from preparatory role-playing to help Indonesian students feel more secure about participating). Perceived relevance was obvious and engagement was very positive (see survey results in 2016 presentation).
There have been no barriers to continue the collaboration, which now enters its fourth year.

Impact

Students reported the assignment strongly impacted satisfaction with and understanding of intercultural group work, assertiveness and virtual collaborative problem solving skills. Teachers and students noticed that experiential learning enriched parallel study of literature (e.g. articles on team work, moral identity, and cultural diversity). Most students in Maastricht indicated the assignment had affected their acceptance of people with different religious or spiritual traditions (62%), their willingness to work with people with different cultural values (77%), their self-image as global citizen (71%), and their readiness to consider different cultural perspectives when evaluating global problems (76%).
Indonesian students valued novel content, and felt empowered learning they can collaborate with westerners, their English skills are sufficient, and they can take on leadership roles:
œ..I learned how to communicate, negotiate and also persuade other people who have different culture from me. What a priceless experience for me!€..
..œI learned about the work style of students from Maastricht as a team and tried to adjust to it with our own style..
Differences in self regulation could be challenging: students in Turkey initially reported that students in Maastricht ..delivered products while we were still deciding who was going to do what...
One group of Indonesian students continued the assignment as undergraduate research and presented findings at an international conference. Student products were disseminated via websites.
The project was presented at conferences on internationalization (EAIE, Glasgow, 2015), psychology (EAWOP, Oslo, 2015), educational innovation (QS Stars Awards 2015, regional silver award), educational technology (BETT, London, 2016), online pedagogy (COIL, New York, 2016), and a showcase of best practices organized by the Dutch ministry of education (October, 2016). We currently meet a request to publish results In an international journal. At Maastricht University, the project stimulated development of a university wide educational innovation project targeting global citizenship competences.

Next Steps

Other faculties and universities will be approached to start similar projects or join the existing one. Academics in Russia, Colombia and Kenya have expressed interest to join the project. Extending the project, we will focus on lessons learned, and attend to (in random order)
1 Non-matching academic climates (learning / teaching) which require gentle introduction of self-regulation, and appeasing students who crave for detailed instructions (in response to infused uncertainty)
2 Duration of project (5-6 weeks period may seem too short, esp. in tight cultures)
3 Monitoring effects of linguistic competence differences
4 Mining digital footprints (digital media leave rich materials for learner reflection, and evaluation)
5 Monitoring cultural differences in teams (e.g. in assessment of trust in teams, power imbalance favoring WEIRD leadership)
6 Improving teamwork and task work planning, maintaining team motivation and cooperation, and providing background information on project management tools (no communication tools were pushed; yet some students suggested to push project management tools like Trello, Slack, Asana, Basecamp in future years)
7 Identifying opportunities for joint (student) research or social entrepreneurship
8 Measuring the impact of the experience beyond student reports and questionnaire data, using instruments to measure cross-cultural competence and global citizenship. Questionnaire data revealed interesting differences between EU-Indonesian and EU-Turkish groups (see slide in 2016 presentation) which require further analysis of larger numbers of groups.
9 Collecting and condensing results in scientific article
10 Relating project to character education initiatives that will be developed as part of an educational innovation project on global citizenship
11 Making sustainability competences (systems thinking, anticipatory, normative, strategic competences) more salient, either by tweaking or adding to humanitarian work assignment

Other Information

PDF - Click to download
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Other - Educational materials uploaded to gohwp website in 2014
Other - Example of how students shared resources: padlet
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