Enhancing cross-cultural interaction in courses with a large component of visiting study-abroad students

Alex Friess, Ivan E. Esparragoza, Dylan Connole

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


International student mobility programs enhance the global exposure of students, and represent a vital and increasing component in the offering of many universities worldwide. These programs often involve the travel of a group of students to an overseas location, where they, in addition to a variety of cultural activities, also register for a series of courses towards their degree completion. These courses are taken jointly with their local peers. While collaborative exchange programs among different universities often target individual student mobility, and the travelling student (or small group of students) generally represents a minority in the overseas class, in the case of branch campuses, and due to the seamless integration of the academic coursework and perhaps more systematic organization of the study abroad experience, an increasingly homogeneous and larger travelling student group can result, which may in turn imply that the visiting students can represent a large fraction of a class. This more even distribution between study abroad and local students can generate classroom dynamics that effectively split the class into two groups, and thus are not supportive of the cross-cultural interaction dimension of the international experience. This work discusses the observed barriers to cross-cultural collaboration in the classroom at the Dubai campus of Rochester Institute of Technology (RTI), where this effect has been noted in a senior/graduate level course in renewable energy systems that was composed by over 50% of study-abroad students from the main campus. Class dynamics of preferably working with peers from the same background developed, in part due to an easier out-of-class access to these peers, and in part due to a higher comfort level in the peer interaction. While the academic learning outcomes were met by both groups, this experience has shown that in order to increase cross-cultural interaction in the classroom, specific learning criteria and outcomes that stress global competencies need to be introduced. This paper presents the lessons learned in the process (including out of classroom factors that affect in classroom collaboration), and presents a work in progress of designing appropriate learning objectives, activities and assessment tools to foster development of global competencies in classes with a large and homogeneous component of study abroad students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012

Publication series

NameASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5965


Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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