Friday, 22 August 2014

R Vurdien: social networking:developing intercultural competence and fostering autonomous learning

The presentation reported on a study that was based on 2 focus groups, one in Mauritius and Spain, made up of university students and involving out of class activity. The research questions underlying the study looked at what students can learn about each others culture, and does online learning foster learner autonomy. There were 24 students in total, with C1 (Spaniards) and C2 level (Mauritians) in English, respectively. Tasks were assigned every 2 weeks, asking students to post on their blogs covering areas such as university education gastronomy, lifestyle etc. The final two tasks involved students interviewing each other across the two groups, as well as making short videos. Sample interview questions asked by participants in their interviews included questions on architecture, health, politics and research.

The study adopted a qualitative approach, using questionnaires at the beginning and the end as well as an interview at end of the study. Findings suggest that in general students had enhanced their knowledge of the other countries, and interestingly, when asked to assess the cultural similarities and differences they observed, the Spaniards reported more similarities, e.g. in in habits and lifestyle, while the Mauritian found more differences, e.g. in outlook and opportunities. Likewise, the Mauritian students thought the interaction had helped building friendships with the other cultural groups, while the Spaniards didn't consider the study long enough to allow for friendship to form. The study concluded that there was an increase in motivation due to the dynamic online nature of the interaction. The data further showed that the interaction enhanced the students' understanding of the other culture, and pertinent collaborative tasks encouraged them to interact, share information and think critically.

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