DLS innovation exemplar: Dr Susan Keller and team

The 2015 Digital Learning Strategy (DLS) Innovation Grants were designed to encourage inventive, future-thinking practices that aim to enhance digital learning experiences for La Trobe students. These grants cover four categories: multi-campus teaching, digital assessment, online international learning and multi-campus technologies.

Promoting internationalisation and cross-cultural competency through online collaboration

The team: Dr Susan Keller, Dr Susan Inglis, Dr Nick Pawsey and Dr Jennifer Laing

We would highly recommend engaging in project work, even though it does take time, as it can be very rewarding and add to the student experience. It's important that we are always reviewing how we can help our students learn and be ready to work in a global setting, and projects like this do just that.

What did you do? Why?

This project aimed to provide opportunities for La Trobe students to engage in an academic cross-cultural experience through cloud-based technologies. We partnered with Ms Marcia Cassitas from the Instituto Superior de Administração e Economia (Higher Institute of Administration and Economy) (ISAE) in Brazil. Her Masters students collaborated with our MBA students on a case study to suggest how a manager from Australia could successfully manage a business team in Brazil, drawing on current management theories.

In an increasingly globalised market this project allowed the students to better understand business issues and practices in diverse cultures, giving them an advantage in their future careers.

What is innovative about your project?

We replicated real-world global communication, by having a project that required students to collaborate virtually with people from a different cultural background in real time and to jointly solve a series of management problems using online software.

What support did you receive?

This project was superbly supported by Debbi Weaver from La Trobe Learning and Teaching (LTLT) who set up and managed our Wikispaces teaching site, assisted team members with Zoom video-conferencing and provided invaluable advice on our learning designs and other key aspects of the project.

What surprised you?

A positive surprise was how much fun it was to work with a team of different people and get to know more about cultural intelligence by working with Marcia.  Another interesting element was conducting interviews with practitioners in industry to learn how they manage virtual and cross-cultural teams, and some of the challenges that this new way of working presents.

How have students responded and how will they benefit?

The students who participated in the project were very enthusiastic and committed – this is note-worthy since it was a not-for-credit activity.

They also become familiar with important online tools that will enable them to collaborate effectively in modern business settings that increasingly involve working in geographically dispersed teams.

How can staff utilise your project outcomes?

Our learning design is a transferrable design, easily plugged into other subjects and disciplines, with just the specific case study (and relevant timing / deadlines) needing to be changed.

As part of the project outputs we are creating short 3-5 minute videos that will be helpful for colleagues who would like to try the approach.  These videos will include 'how-to' clips for the technology, tips and tricks, and lessons learned.  In addition, the transferable learning designs, case study and database of potential international partner universities will be made available through the project LMS site.

What are the broader applications (or) implications for the future?

Business graduates of the future will increasingly work in geographically dispersed teams, often involving foreign partners. Students undertaking business studies should be increasingly provided with opportunities to engage in authentic case studies that replicate such practices. New ways of collaborating virtually are being created constantly. Universities must be flexible enough to scan and adapt such technologies within their subjects.

This proof of concept provides a foundation for expanded international collaborations between La Trobe and other international students.