Enhancing Cultural Competence and Enriching Virtual Learning Experiences via A Collaborative Online International Learning Project

Anisa Vahed*, Fábio Barbosa de Souza, Krista Rodriguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Despite living in a global society surrounded by a diversity of cultures, ethnicity, education, social status, and world views, some student populations have limited opportunities to study abroad or engage in cultural exchange learning activities. To enhance cultural awareness, intercultural communication opportunities and team collaborative skills, a collaborative online international learning (COIL) virtual exchange project (VEP) was infused into existing dental academic coursework. A culturally focused VEP enables students from different cultural environments (professional, personal and academic) to collaborate on a team project. The project encourages cultural inquiry and awareness, openness to varied cultural perspectives, and integration of global issues to strengthen global workforce skills such as cross-cultural competence and communication, holistic thinking and technology competency, while learning discipline- specific concepts. Virtual communication technology and social media tools, in co-ordination with a learning management system, were used to strengthen students’ virtual engagements and enable acquisition and sharing of discipline-specific knowledge. A need for more rigorous reporting on COIL from the perspective of the students’ experiences focused this research on exploration of students’ opinions and their experiences of participating in a COIL VEP. Using an exploratory case study research design within a quantitative framework, data were collected via a questionnaire. Students from three different dental professional programmes and geo-located countries (South Africa, Brazil and the United States of America) participated in the study. Positively measured results were found within the categories of project introduction and preparation; cultural and diversity competence; impacts on personal behaviour; quality of learning; course quality and overall experience. Inclusion of COIL in the curriculum is an innovative approach to co-teaching and providing opportunities to cognitively, socially and culturally enrich students’ learning experiences while encouraging development of digital and research literacies.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCo-Teaching/Researching In An Unequal World: Using Virtual Classrooms To Connect Africa, And Africa And The World.
EditorsZifikile Phindile, Daniela Gachago, Ivala, Eunice
Place of PublicationWilmington
PublisherVernon Press
Number of pages174
ISBN (Print)978-1-64889-578-4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • digital communication technologies
  • virtual exchanges
  • intercultural competence
  • internationalisation
  • Collaborative learning


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