REACHING ACROSS CONTINENTS: ENABLING UNDERGRADUATES OF INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TO DEVELOP THEIR CROSS CULTURAL MANAGEMENT SKILLS THROUGH MOBILE DEVICES
Agreeing with Sethi (2013:5) that “implementation of technology in enhancing higher business management education is not an option but a requirement” the authors, as module leaders, decided to implement the use of mobile devices in our Cross Cultural Management module.
Given that 82% of new students at universities in the UK own a smartphone (UCAS, 2013), we wanted to use their technology as a pedagogical tool. As Middleton and Nortcliffe (2009) point out “students needed to be encouraged to think beyond their expectations of a traditional learning environment”. As our previous experience showed that students were intrigued by the innovative use of technology, and engaged positively with it (Rushton et al, 2014), we were not innovating for the sake of it; but rather in order to enhance the learning experience and promote student engagement. With a view to this, we focused on two primary innovations, the use of Google Apps for student self-reflection, and a link up with a university in Brazil via Facebook and email.
The module assignment was based on a reflective essay of 3,000 words. Engaging in reflection is a vital part of learning for university students and its practice should be embedded in course design, (Quinton and Smallbone, 2010). In order to support the students with this substantive piece, we required them to make a weekly audio/video reflection using YouTube, for which they have university accounts.
Students in our module were also required to communicate with students on the English semester at PUCPR in Curitiba, Brazil. In the UK cohort, there was a mix of home and international students, and at PUCPR, there were a small number of Brazilian students, but the group mainly consisted of exchange students from Europe. The reflective learning from this experience was to be included in the reflective assignment.
The aim of the interaction was to include an emic approach to cross cultural management education, following Zhu and Bargiela-Chiappini’s (2013) call to include a situated learning approach to the curriculum, so that students were able to consider culture in context, rather than solely relying on universal frameworks such as those of Hofstede (2001).
With this aim, we created a Facebook group, and also asked students to work in small groups, using whatever means of communication they preferred, and to discuss a certain topic each week.
We were initially surprised by the student reactions and expectations regarding recording their voice and image, and how they managed the interaction with the students in Brazil. This appeared to be due to the fact that “adopting a new approach that takes the learner out of their comfort zone can have positive and negative connotations (Warwick et al, 2014). However, at the end of the module we feel that it had been a valuable tool, supporting the students in their reflective assignments, as evidenced by student feedback and is therefore one that will be repeated in the module next year, albeit with some alterations in order to better facilitate the learning process. This concurs with the findings of Woodcock (2012) that students are interested and open to the potential of using mobile phones to support learning.
In addition to our own reflections on the innovations, the paper will also include suggestions for practical guidelines for learning and teaching strategies of this nature.