Communities of practice for developing intercultural competence


International collaboration has inevitably become a part of the engineering profession. Consequently, it is natural for universities to include topics related to intercultural communication into their undergraduate engineering curricula to prepare graduates for their future career. As the majority of engineering students are focused on acquisition of technical knowledge, it is important to integrate properly elements of intercultural communication into their technical activities, otherwise students might consider them to be an extracurricular burden and, thus, will not take the full benefit of the training in this important area. At the University of South Australia (UniSA), School of Electrical and Information Engineering, a framework for enriching students' learning experience through international on-line collaboration was developed. The framework considers three aspects that are important for successful international online collaboration: discipline knowledge, enabling technology and intercultural competence. The framework supports the learning of international collaboration skills through the process of on-line interaction with students from different countries. As such, it acknowledges the importance of the social aspect of learning, and is based on the concept of communities of practice. In this article, the community of practice as a concept suitable for this project is presented.


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