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Students Undertake Cross-Cultural and Virtual Teamwork Project
Final year Keele Management School (KMS) students taking the 'Comparative Business Cultures' module have been working with counterparts at one of Keele University’s Erasmus partners, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (DHBW) in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. Under the direction of Dr Paul Forrester, KMS has joined the Blended Learning International Cooperation (BLIC) programme, funded by the Baden-Württemberg state government, to promote international partnerships between universities around the world.
Twenty KMS teams worked closely with DHBW students throughout Semester 1 with DHBW student teams as the clients, and KMS teams were their consultants. The German student teams were developing business plans as part of their studies and have identified a country for market entry for their selected product or service. The KMS teams produced a “cultural analysis” report for their German clients to inform them of potential cultural consequences they might expect to face in entering the market and setting up in their chosen country.
Consulting reports included:
- A review of cultural issues in “doing business” in the client’s country of choice, relevant to their industry and product/service offering.
- An analysis of specific plans for organising their operations, indicating the issues they are likely to face.
- Any other matters specifically asked for by the clients, so long as this was reasonable and fell within the brief of the “cultural analysis”.
- Recommendations on how to proceed.
The exercise involved KMS and DHBW students working in virtual teams – a reality of working in today’s business world and something which is often difficult to simulate in the classroom environment. The main intention was to provide both KMS and DHBW students exposure to cross-cultural teamworking via experiential learning. KMS students had guest access to DHBW’s own virtual learning environment (VLE), the equivalent of Keele’s VLE system and ten page consulting reports were submitted electronically into clients’ folders. DHBW’s VLE system also provided professional videoconferencing functionality enabling virtual meetings between the KMS and German teams. Students were also encouraged to use any form of communication and social media platforms on agreement their clients.
The KMS teams presented professional reports so they developed their skills in producing effective business reports. The module assessment took the form of producing a poster to visualize issues in comparative business culture. The theme of the posters was to “Identify and analyse cultural issues that arose during the virtual teamwork consulting exercise on the BLIC project? Reflect on how your team dealt (or failed to deal) with issues that arose during the exercise.”
At an event last week fellow students and KMS academic staff browsed and discussed the posters with the teams. The project and cooperation with DHBW in Germany provided the opportunity for some truly innovative teaching and learning. Module leader, Dr Paul Forrester said “The combination of theory learned in lectures combined with virtual and cross-cultural group work in tutorials not only reinforces principles and concepts, but also provided students with skills in analysis, consulting, client relationship management and virtual working they will require in employment beyond their university studies.”