WebQuest: Why is an understanding of Culture important in International Business?

Many Canadian businesses cannot survive within the Canadian market alone. Without venturing outside Canadian borders, Canadian business would not be as economically successful, nor experience growth. The borders have opened up and an understanding of international business is fundamental to growth internationally. In order to obtain a competitive advantage in a global economy, it is important for students to understand culture and many of the business-related aspects of culture. Culture is not merely the visual differences we see (e.g. dress, language); it is the hidden aspects we don’t see such as social norms, values and beliefs.

Task:

I teach a Culture and Ethics Course in Red River College’s International Business Program. One of the course’s learning objectives is “to prepare for international assignments in order to maximize personal and commercial success”. A group project on how to research another culture would help accomplish this objective by providing students with hands on experience on how to research another culture prior to initiating business outside Canada’s borders. A WebQuest on culture preparedness could be created to help instructors guide them.

Process:

Students are divided into groups of four to five, depending on class size. Each group is assigned a country (other than their own) to profile from a cultural perspective. Following their research, they will present their findings to the class in a 25 minute PowerPoint presentation using images only (i.e. no words on the slides). The presentation is to include an economic overview, cultural profile, global etiquette and business customs.

By the end of their research, the students will be able to acquire knowledge about international cultures. Moreover, they will have an understanding that international business requires research beyond the country’s geographical location.

Based on recent search, a WebQuest on intercultural business communication was located on zunal.com. It deals with communication skills when dealing with other cultures.

http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=92000

Resources:

Cultural Differences – An Introduction (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp2dEM1jJOM

Geert-Hofstede compares countries on 6 dimensions of culture. The Hofstede comparison helps students discover cultural differences.

http://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html

The Importance of Cross-Cultural Business Communications Gayle Cotton (Entrepreneurs’ Association)

https://www.eonetwork.org/octane-magazine/special-features/theimportanceofcross-culturalbusinesscommunications

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Flipped Classroom: Friend or Foe?

The flipped classroom can be an excellent student centered technique to advance learning. It provides students the skills to learn, to be independent and to take responsibility for their personal development. In addition, it can be a valuable way for the instructor to find more classroom time when we have the students face-to-face. It can work as long as the learning is assessed along the way.

I teach Culture and Ethics to a cohort of international student who bring with them various forms of learning experiences. In some countries the learning is driven by assigning reading with a follow-up lecture by the instructor. In other countries, the learning is done by memorization of words in a text book. The movement in the Canadian educational system is away from lecture-drive teaching to student centered learning and may be a culture shock for many of these international students.

I tried the flipped classroom technique, however, I did not know at the time that I was using this technique. I provided the students a web link to discover for themselves the Hofstede Cultural Dimensions study for particular countries. The Hofstede measures the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members and compares them again certain dimension such as individualism versus collectivism or masculinity versus femininity. The following class we had a discussion of what the Hostede measures and how they could incorporate this information into their group presentations due later in the course. In order to complete the group presentation, they were required to research a culture and provide the learnings from an international business perspective. The students were able to grasp the Hofstede measurement and introduced their finding in their presentations. That is a true measurement of their comprehension of the material. Self-discovery and research engages and prepares the student for real life scenarios that may present themselves. The flipped classroom worked for me as an instructor and the students.

It is important to assess comprehension (besides results from an exam). Robert Talbert provides four assessment strategies for a flipped learning environment. The four dimensions include developing good learning objectives, employ a “frequent and small” approach, use pre-formative” (as opposed to formative or summative) assessment and act on the data.

Resource:  http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/educational-assessment/four-assessment-strategies-for-the-flipped-learning-environment/

Give the flipped classroom a try as it can be your friend. It will create a wonderful learning environment for students and should be a tool in your tool kit of student centered instructional techniques.

Technology Integration in Student Centered Learning – Article Review

Article: Technology Integration, 1 to 1, and Student Centre Learning: Five Ideas to Consider

Mike Gorman: https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Technology in the classroom in the 21st century is inevitable and growing exponentially. As an instructor, I have to ask myself, “are my teaching methods growing exponentially or am I becoming obsolete?” Personal motivation to keep relevant is so important in this fast moving technological world we live in to help students learn. The movement to student-centered approaches to learning is a positive movement, with the use of technology sprinkled in as needed.

The above-noted article outlines the use of technology in a student-centered approach to learning and shares a view “that students…not technology…should be the centre of learning”. But, who doesn’t like the glitz and glamour of new technology? Technology, including applications/software can help students access information in creative ways such as YouTube (visual and audio combined) or simply by reading material. Technology should be considered simply a “tool” in a “tool box” of learning methods instructors have at their disposal. Students can learn how to learn through self-discovery with technology. We all want students to be able to learn how to learn independently, and technology can help support that.

Most of my students in my class do not bring their textbooks to class; they bring their smart phones, iPads and laptops. Students are able to view the course textbook online and search key words and chapters during the class. Bye-bye text books, hello e-books! At first I found this distracting as I was never certain what the student were viewing. Were they on facebook? Were they emailing a friend? Or, were they engaged in the content and taking notes as the class progresses. In addition, as costs rise, students are finding technology a less expensive way to fund their education and you can’t fault them for that.

Here are few words of inspiration for incorporating technology in the classroom. Realize that to introduce technology in a student-centered approach to learning is a process. Experiment with it. Try it. Adjust as necessary. Try it again. Learn from your mistakes. Be creative. Solicit feedback from students. Don’t be afraid. Ask other instructors how they introduce technology in the classroom. Be adventurous. Have fun. It can be addictive!

An instructor at Red River College once said, “you can be in the 21st century and teaching like you are in the 21st century, or you can teach like you are from the 20th century”. Which one are you? Let’s all embrace technology as a tool to help students learn.