Building bridges for the future : multicultural professional development in an open learning environment
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Lengel, S. & Peacock, S. (1999) Building bridges for the future : multicultural professional development in an open learning environment, International Federation for Information and Documentation, vol. 1, , pp. 68-73,
Being obliged to work online with someone you do not know and may never meet brings an exciting added dimension to educational and professional experiences. Working online can be even more exciting and sometimes more challenging, when the participants come from particularly diverse backgrounds. This paper focuses on a learning experience designed to develop skills in pre-professionals equipping them to perform in both multicultural and virtual working environments. The paper explores an online collaborative project which uses WebCT, one of a number of virtual learning environments which supports remote conferencing. Although increasingly communications technologies is used for open and distance learning in both academic and professional domains, this project has a distinctive perspective. It brings together disparate learning communities specifically to explore cultural differences online and to develop new communications skills in the process. The 100 students per year, representing over 70 nationalities, collaborate in small multicultural work teams to produce online reports critiquing culturally sensitive websites. For instance, sites reviewed include those on intercultural communication in the workplace, linguistic differences in foreign professional settings, in online expression and presentation, virtual team working and remote co-operation through negotiation. Along with developing multicultural communication skills, the materials themselves with which the teams engage, help to develop their cultural sensitivity, important in increasingly diverse face-to-face and virtual professional environments. All of these complex skills are vital in developing pro-active networks and building cultural bridges in the future. (Authors' abstract) Cet article se concentre sur une exprience d'apprentissage cre pour dvelopper des comptences pr-professionnelles permettant de travailler dans des environnements virtuels et multiculturels. Les auteurs dcrivent un projet collaboratif sur Internet qui utilise WebCT , un des nombreux environnements d'apprentissage virtuel qui supporte la tl-confrence. Ce projet regroupe chaque anne des tudiants de 70 nationalits diffrentes qui collaborent dans de petits groupes de travail produisant des rapports sur certains sites en fonctionnement faisant preuve d'une identit culturelle forte.