International Students and the Online Environment

Given the far-flung nature of students in online courses, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of where everyone is and whether the location is a temporary place or truly home. For those international students that are accommodating to new course content, the online learning environment, and new teacher-student relationship norms, things can be tricky. The article Teaching International Students in an Online Environment and its focus on cross-cultural communication offers some great tips for instructors:

  • Be slow to react and even slower in being offended by communications from students in your online courses.
  • If you are not already doing so, set up an introduction area in discussion board or create a wiki/blog and require students to introduce themselves prior to the start of class. Give them specific questions they must answer so you can get to know them better. Then, make sure you read the students’ posts so you understand their point of reference.
  • Be prepared that students not residing in or native to Westernized cultures will have unique learning needs. If they are English Language Learners (ELL) this adds another dimension that could prove difficult.
  • Working with a foreign student in the online environment may take a great deal of time and effort from the instructor. Be patient and compassionate, exercising as much flexibility as appropriate.

How do you attempt to meet the needs of culturally and geographically diverse learners?

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