"Interactional Affordances and Curricular Constraints in a U.S.-Hong Kong Telecollaboration"
This exploratory case study investigates the online interactions (and reflections) between 55 undergraduates enrolled in Intercultural Communication at a public research university in Hong Kong, and 19 undergraduates in a professional writing course at a private research university on the East Coast in the U.S. Institutions had no prior contact but were put in touch through the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning in New York, upon the Hong Kong researcher-instructor’s request.
The aim is to advance our understanding of the curricular affordances and constraints involved in different socio-institutional contexts. This study adopts an ethnographic case study approach, and data triangulation includes a pre-project needs analysis, Facebook interactions, and a post-project reflection. The status of the researcher-instructor was that of participant observer.
In spring 2016, five telecollaborative Hong Kong-U.S. teams completed a set of tasks - with increasing levels of complexity - over ten weeks. Online interactions took place via a private Facebook group. All participants in Hong Kong had used Facebook before. Collaborative tasks were accompanied by prompts designed to help students build on a shared knowledge base regarding personal and institutional contexts, and to facilitate development of their skills of interacting and relating with one another via social media. The content of the online exchanges centered around parallel readings on business and corporate cultures and ideologies in the U.S. and Hong Kong. Prompts for the Facebook interactions were designed to facilitate students’ reflections on their online intercultural interactions. Hong Kong teams were encouraged to analyze their virtual interactions with global partners through a discourse analytical framework. Findings indicate that a few Hong Kong teams took advantage of the affordance of their Facebook interactions by analyzing and integrating the exchanges into their final ethnographic projects. Curricular constraints included balancing the telecollaborative tasks against streamlined course requirements.