eLearning platforms allow you to have truly global classrooms. You can easily have students enrolled in your class from all corners of the world. This can create a wonderful, rich, and unique classroom environment. However, there are some concerns you should be aware of.
It is important that you establish an environment of mutual respect, especially when you have students coming from widely varied cultural backgrounds. This can be more difficult than it sounds, depending on the background and perspectives of your students. Make sure that all students should be heard and treated respectfully. If issues develop around this, deal with them on an individual basis. If you don’t already have them, you should develop standard protocols for how you address such issues in your classroom.
Don’t hesitate to explore diverse and differing opinions. Talking about content from different viewpoints and exploring where those views come from will let you create a better understanding between class members. Better understanding means a better class all around.
Students who are not fluent in English will come to your class with varying levels of comfort with the language. Be aware and sensitive to this. While the internet provides wonderful tools for translation, they are not perfect and they do not fit every situation. Many web browsers offer automatic translation options. These can be excellent for text-based communication. Unfortunately, they are largely useless for video or audio content. Whenever possible, make sure to provide transcripts of this content to your students. If a student seems to have completely misunderstood the assignment or content, then look for alternative ways to present it.
Different time zones can also offer a challenge in global classrooms. You may have some students just starting the day while others are ending theirs. How much of an issue this is, will depend on how your class interacts and on how carefully you plan ahead. Assignments that require collaboration should link only those students together who have roughly similar online schedules. Discussions should be paced so that no one feels left out simply because they were sleeping when the discussion started.
Establish the time zone of the class early. If you are associated with an institution having a physical campus, then your class time zone should match the institutions. If not, then you can either use your own time zone or the time zone that matches the majority of your class members. Make sure that deadlines are clear and that everyone in the class can easily convert them. Provide help via time zone conversion websites or apps as needed.
A global classroom offers unique challenges, but these can be thoroughly offset by the advantages you gain. Your class will only benefit from a having a variety of perspectives and views. Be sensitive to challenges such as conflicting cultural opinions and the needs of students who aren’t yet fluent English speakers. Always emphasize the pos itive value gained that comes from a global classroom. This outweighs the challenges you may face.