This competency-based, skill-building course will help non-U.S. students, first generation immigrants and foreign-born professionals better understand and master American eLearning as well as other U.S. virtual environments for college and career success.
When taking online courses at a U.S.-based university or telecommuting for a U.S. company, foreign-born students and professionals oftentimes run into pitfalls, no matter how technologically savvy they are in their native environments. This is because U.S. online environments tend to be based on American culture and American ways of doing things. This may make even ordinary things confusing to non-Americans abroad. In order to better understand and master American eLearning and other U.S. virtual environments, international students and foreign-born professionals need to know how American universities and companies use the Internet to organize work and study, develop and execute projects, communicate ideas, collaborate and solve organizational and technical problems. By taking this course, you will learn how to enhance your cultural knowledge and assess potential skill gaps that may hinder your online experience or negatively impact your performance in U.S. virtual work environments. Throughout the course you will systematically review competencies required for online work, come to better understand common barriers for non-native students and professionals in U.S. virtual work environments, learn about effective strategies and develop plans for self-improvement
By the end of the course, you’ll be able to:
· Recognize six key competency areas (domains) that you should better understand in order to master American eLearning and U.S. virtual work environments.
· For each competency area, you’ll systematically review and examine required levels of proficiency in terms of awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes.
· Examine how gaps in awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes can cause barriers to learning and work performance in American eLearning and other U.S.-style virtual environments.
· Identify and explore effective strategies, best practices, skill-building techniques and helpful resources that can be used to eliminate gaps and alleviate barriers; discuss those with peers across the globe.
· Self-assess your perceived level of mastery in various levels of competencies, identify gaps in your awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes and develop personal strategies for improvement.
· As a result, perform more effectively in American eLearning and U.S. virtual work environments, develop self-directed learning skills and enhance employability skills.
The course can be used in a variety of ways. It can be taken as a stand-alone course on Coursera or it can be integrated with credit-bearing courses offered by the State University of New York’s Empire State College (see Module 8 for details). In addition, it may be integrated with orientation courses offered for incoming and on-campus international students by SUNY and other U.S –based universities and adopted as part of credit-bearing activities by international universities outside the U.S.
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The course consists of eight modules.
Module 1: Introduction: Learn about barriers to effective online learning in U.S.-style virtual environments and how a competency-based approach can help overcome these and other barriers
Module 2: Review technology-related competencies
Module 3: Learn how to overcome barriers of language and culture
Module 4: Learn how to communicate ideas effectively
Module 5: Understand the United States academic system
Module 6: Examine the specific competencies and prerequisites required to successfully navigate American professional contexts
Module 7: Conclusion: Learn how to make sense of self-assessments and to plan for the future
Module 8: Find out how you can get U.S. college credit for this course
Primary audiences for this course include international (non-U.S.) students studying online at U.S. universities and foreign professionals residing outside of the U.S. and working remotely for U.S.-based employers or considering employment-based migration. Incoming international students and first generation immigrants in the U.S. also can benefit significantly from the course. While most of the examples and cases are based on undergraduate studies in business and management, the course is also suitable for postgraduate students and those seeking professional development opportunities regardless of academic discipline.
Please note that this course is not intended to substitute any mandatory orientation or counseling sessions offered for enrolled international students by their host institutions in the U.S.
There are no required textbooks for this course, though students should be prepared to read extensive content guides. The video lectures and content guides will provide basic information; for a greater understanding, additional resources (websites) will be suggested within each learning module. For further reading and skill-building activities, course instructors may also recommend supplementary resources, such as books, articles and web-based resources.
The course will consist of eight modules. Modules 1 and 7 will provide an introduction and a conclusion, Module 8 explains how interested students can receive U.S. college credit for this course. Modules 2-6 are self-contained content modules, where each content module deals with one broad area of competency. These include technology, language and culture, the American educational system, communications, and professional contexts. Each content module will begin with a brief video lecture introducing the corresponding set of competencies; then, each broad competency area will be broken down into units and elements of competency. For each competency level, we will provide a brief description, an explanation of required levels of proficiency, a discussion of potential gaps in awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes, followed by a review of effective strategies, best practices and skill-building techniques for improvement. For illustrations, we’ll be using pre-recorded testimonials and interviews with foreign-born students and professionals. Each competency section will also include self-assessment, one or more forums and answers to frequently asked questions.
To receive a Statement of Accomplishment, students must complete self-assessments, participate in discussion forums, and complete the Final Paper.
Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is American eLearning? How different is it from eLearning in any other country?
In principle, eLearning all over the world uses the same kind of information technologies and computer-mediated communications. However, the ways in which organizations in different countries design, structure and use virtual environments for online study and work are different and reflect national and organizational cultures, contexts and culturally shaped ways of doing things. To effectively navigate “Made in U.S.A.” online environments, non-native students and foreign-born professionals should develop specific competencies to use them effectively.
What are the typical barriers for non-native students when navigating American online environments?
When studying or working online in U.S.-style environments, even tech-savvy non-natives may experience problems caused by cross-cultural misunderstanding, differences in communication patterns and protocols, unfamiliarity with the American classroom structure, particularly in the online setting, differences in roles, expectations and behaviors, and a lack of understanding of professional and local contexts. The above mentioned problems are quite common and are typically referred to as barriers. Barriers are real; they may cause dissatisfaction, frustration, loss of interest, and even withdrawal from online studies or work. To overcome these barriers, one needs to learn how to recognize them, find their root causes, and identify and implement remedial strategies for improvement.
Why does the course focus on “mastering”?
This is a competency-based, skill-building course intended to provide a comprehensive review of required competencies for effective navigation of U.S.-style online environments. In other words, the course is not theoretical; it is highly practical and will help answer the following questions: When navigating American online environments, what are the typical barriers for non-native students? What are their underlying causes? What are the competencies that are needed to overcome those barriers? What are expected proficiency levels? How can they be achieved?
Do we use “typical barriers” as a one-size-fits-all approach?
The course is informed by research in various fields including educational and cultural psychology, sociology of acculturation and computer-mediated communications. It is organized around the most common barriers faced by non-native students in U.S. online environments. However, this course is also intended to be highly personalized by using a specifically developed self-diagnostic tool. Each learning module of the course includes three to five self-assessments, which are designed to create awareness about required competencies, underlying knowledge, skills and attitudes. When conducting self-assessment, the students will compare required and existent levels of proficiency and detect potential awareness, knowledge, skill and attitude gaps. Based on self-assessment results, students will be able to develop individual plans for self-improvement.
Why does the course use student testimonials?
To develop cross-cultural competencies, it is not enough just to learn new things by reading texts and attending lectures. It is equally important to learn how to unlearn and relearn and practice new ways of doing things. This is something that most of us do not do every day. That’s why it is good to see how other students have managed to succeed in a U.S.-style online environment. Students are able to learn from each others’ experiences.
Can I share my own experiences?
Of course! In this course, as much student-generated content will be accommodated as possible. Module 1 contains instructions and release forms that will explain how students can share their experiences with instructors and other students around the world. Explaining to international audiences about the challenges and barriers faced in U.S. online environments and describing the solutions that you found and successfully implemented to alleviate those barriers, is both a valuable contribution and worthwhile learning experience.
Why is this course useful for enhancing employability skills?
For internal communications and training, U.S.-based and international companies use the same kind of technologies, as are discussed in this course, including knowledge bases, e-portfolios, web-conferences and wikis. Being proficient in the use of U.S. virtual environments is getting more and more important for employment. One of the best ways to prepare for this expectation is to study online. That’s why honing technological, cross-cultural, communication, teamwork and other types of skills in this course also enhances your employability skills.
Can I get credit for this course?
Academic credit for this course is not automatically assigned, but Module 8 explains how knowledge and skills already possessed or developed in this course can be used to get academic credit though the State University of New York’s Empire State College.