How Do Universities Develop Students’ Intercultural Competence?

543266_10150772354506354_665823583_nAnd why is Cultural Detective quickly becoming a preferred tool?

University of Southern California is the most international campus in the USA. The Marshall School of Business at USC recognizes the value of intercultural competence and is committed to truly developing it in their students.

They know that the mere experience of study abroad, or working in a multicultural team, does not build competence. Experience is not learning. Learning is the sense that we make of our experience. USC knows that research shows developing competence requires ongoing, structured reflection on the part of students—with faculty guidance. They have been using Cultural Detective for the past two years, in a growing variety of programs, because they realize the tool helps them accomplish their goals.

The video below is of Assistant Dean Gita Govahi, telling us why the Marshall School of Business has chosen Cultural Detective, and how they use it:

At Cultural Detective we are particularly impressed with something USC has done: they have students generate learning material for the following semester. For example, while students are abroad and after they return, they are required to upload stories of intercultural interaction from their own experience into Cultural Detective Online. They are also required to debrief those stories, to make sense from them. Each program and each semester, faculty award prizes for the “best of” these stories and debriefs, and honor the student-authors by using them in the pre-departure orientation for the next cadre of students.

This second video shows Professor Jolanta Aritz, giving her opinion as an instructor:

I often say that launching a book or a tool into the world is much like having a child: you nurture them to the best of your ability, and at some point you just have to pray that they do good in the world. Children become independent, with minds and lives of their own. Books and tools are used by people in ways we, the authors and creators, can not always control, despite our best efforts. It’s people like the talented professionals at USC who make us very, very proud of the tool we have created. They are putting it to excellent use and students are learning lifelong skills.

We know you all are doing some incredible things with our tools. Please, share your story and make sure we know about it!

Using Cultural Detective Online in a College Class

BCCUNYhoriz_PMS288_PMS286A guest blog post by Dr. Elisabeth Gareis (Communication Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York)

With many colleges increasing their online course offerings, there is a great need for training tools that can be used as segments in online classes. Last fall, I was looking for such a tool for my graduate class in International Business Communication. In previous face-to-face renditions of the course, I had used Ecotonos with great success. When I couldn’t find a simulation game for online asynchronous settings, I decided to try the Cultural Detective Online (CDO).

One course assignment involves student groups investigating a country of their choice through readings and interviews, focusing on sub-topics such as oral and written communication, business customs, and business-related news events. In the end, the groups create webpages on their country, complete with narrated slideshows on each sub-topic.

Last fall, I assigned the CDO only for exploratory purposes. Before the students embarked on their adventure, I gave a screencast lecture on training tools, covering differences in type (e.g., simulations versus games), giving examples of specific ones (e.g., Barnga, Ecotonos, Diversophy), and discussing different uses (e.g., training versus coaching). The students had various levels of exposure to intercultural communication: some had overseas experience and others were new to the subject matter. None of them had used a training tool before.

Ellissa Corwin (COM 9656 Fall 2013)
The students all obtained a one-month subscription to explore CDO as an example of a training tool, and, at the same time, to get started on their country research. Their assignment was to view the video tutorials and then to complete the CDO package for their target country (i.e., to explore all sections, including the Lenses, proverbs/sayings, daily life examples, negative perceptions, and all incidents). In the end, they analyzed and discussed the experience. Here are some representative responses:

  • “The interface is easy to use.”
  • “The dashboard is a great way to orient the user at the start of their cultural investigation. It can be very helpful to write out what your aims are when doing research.”
  • “I think the Cultural Detective does a very good job of outlining primary Lenses. I particularly enjoyed the in-depth materials associated with each lens and learning from the interactions. I also appreciated that they include both positive and possibly negative perceptions of each trait.”
  • “I like how the Lenses are organized. I especially like the proverbs and daily-life examples.”
  • “I found it useful to begin learning about my group’s particular country and a good starting point for further research.”
  • “This type of in-the-moment skill-building practice really helps reinforce learning and build user confidence. The Cultural Detective also helped bring our textbook to life and clarify learning.”
  • “I liked the fact that all of the site’s sources are listed. This can really help someone who wants to dive deeper into a particular country.”
  • “Very organized and user friendly!”

Exploring the CDO gave the students insight into the world of intercultural training and coaching, and provided them with quality information on their target country. As it is self-paced, it is easily integrated into asynchronous online college classes.

I am using CDO again this semester, but this time a little differently. In addition to exploring the tool, students’ final presentations will include using their research findings (readings and interviews) to design an activity that is modeled after the incidents in CDO. In other words, each student will contribute an issue from his/her sub-topic to a scenario or dialogue, which will then be analyzed by other classmates. Not only will this better integrate CDO into the course, it will also allow students to directly apply their learning.

Cultural Detective Online is a great tool, and I recommend it highly. Students greatly enjoy their learning via the CDO.

A note from the Cultural Detective Team:

Please contact us if you’d like to learn how to integrate CDO into your classroom experience.

Coming soon—exciting new CDO functionality will allow members of a “group” (e.g., a class or a team) to collaboratively create critical incidents, which can be submitted to the group administrator (professor or team leader) for approval, and then shared with other group members for analysis and discussion.

Have you joined us for a free webinar to see how Cultural Detective Online can be integrated in your academic or business setting? We hold them twice a month—attendance is limited so register now: Cultural Detective Online Webinar