As online courses gain global student bases, it is crucial for instructors to consider strategies and challenges in creating a cross-cultural collaborative online learning framework for their classes. To examine best practices and largest obstacles, researchers recently conducted a study analyzing the online teaching practices of 40 instructors at two large universities in the United States. Through interviews and examinations, the researchers constructed a list of best instructional strategies and greatest challenges to supporting cross-cultural learning among their students.

There were four particular instructional strategies that the researchers found to be most successful. The first is the use of group work, which instructors said allows students from different backgrounds to engage in knowledge construction together. Instructors found both large and small group activities beneficial. The second strategy involves incorporating self-introductions and a cultural awareness activity into the first session of class. These activities demonstrate the diversity of the students and can increase intercultural knowledge and respect in the class.

The third strategy involves using online platforms to facilitate discussion and collaboration among students. Many instructors use tools such as wikis, blogs, Google Docs, and forums to encourage students to talk and work together even outside of class hours and assignments. Finally, the fourth strategy involves including global examples in the curriculum. Even a few thoughtful examples can make the material more relevant to students of diverse backgrounds and promote cultural awareness in the class.

Despite these strategies, instructors also identified challenges to fostering cross-cultural learning in their online classes. One of the biggest factors mentioned was that instructors can’t assume students’ backgrounds based on just their looks or names; however, online classes rarely provide instructors with more student information than this before getting started. Another challenge was the language barrier that occasionally arose between students, which made discussion and collaboration difficult. In addition, instructors sometimes felt they lacked the skills to design activities that would promote cross-cultural collaboration.

Creating a cross-cultural collaborative environment in an online class will only grow in importance as online education becomes more global. The strategies listed here can help instructors build a respectful multicultural community within their classes, and hopefully avoid the challenges that other instructors have faced trying to do the same.

Kumi-Yeboah, A. (2018). Designing cross-cultural collaborative online learning framework for online instructors. Online Learning, 22(4), 181–201.

Image: Multicultural Explainer—Dragonbridge via Vimeo