The University of West Florida is now offering its newest massive open online course (MOOC), Cross-Cultural Competency.
The nationwide course tackles sensitive subjects and helps participants learn how to navigate diverse people and environments encountered in their daily lives.
The idea for a cross-cultural course originated with Dr. Kim LeDuff, UWF’s chief diversity officer and vice president for academic engagement, when she first came to the university in the fall of 2013.
“We wanted to work with HR to offer a program, a certificate program for our employees, for faculty and staff, to learn more about interacting with others, whether it be at the front desk, in the classroom,” said Dr. LeDuff. “But, really we talked about topics that might be of interest to our employees.”
So, with NO budget, Dr. LeDuff recruited a group of like-minded faculty and asked them to come up with a two hour course that they would teach twice a semester to university personnel at no charge.
“We started off, I did one called ‘Awareness, Acceptance, Respect” which is just an overview of how we have to self-assess in order to think about how we interact with others,” LeDuff said. “We had someone do a course on disability; one on gender, sex and sexuality; another course called “Rock of Ages,” talking about four generations in the workplace.”
LeDuff says they knew they were on to something when all of the courses filled for the semester within fifteen minutes of posting.
Far exceeding expectations, 75 staffers completed the certificate program in the first two semesters offered.
With that success, LeDuff says they started fielding requests for something similar outside the university community.
“So the Innovation Institute last year did a program called "Mother Mother Ocean," where they worked with faculty in history and archaeology and some of the other areas to do this MOOC, a massively open online course,” said LeDuff. “So, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if we were able to take this cross-cultural course and create it as an opportunity for anyone to take the course.”
The idea was pitched to UWF Vice President Pam Northrup, who quickly got on board and partnered LeDuff with her web and curriculum designers at the Innovation Institute.
“So the ‘Golden Rule’ is treat others as you want to be treated, but I’m going to challenge you to think about the ‘Platinum Rule,’” said LeDuff, kicking off a preview video on the Innovation Institute website.
Joining LeDuff on the video, course facilitator Christian Garman, and faculty instructors Vannee Cao-Nguyen, Greg Tomso, Rachel Hendrix and Benjamin Stubbs.
“So, people create stereotypes and judgements based on what they think they know,” said Dr. Cao-Nguyen, associate vice president for academic engagement and the University’s student ombudsperson. She teaches a section titled “disABILITY.”
“And, we have to recognize that we live in a diverse world and an increasingly diverse society in America and even locally,” said Dr. Stubbs, director of student involvement, who teaches a section on “Religious Diversity.”
Other topics include “Global Village,” taught by Rachel Hendrix, executive director of international affairs; and “Gender & Sexuality,” taught by Dr. Greg Tomso, interim director of the Kugelman Honors Program.
The introductory module, “Awareness, Acceptance, Respect,” taught by LeDuff establishes the foundation for the course. She says her team worked hard to come up with curriculum that was comprehensive, interactive, and timely.
“If you look at the nightly news right now, you see that there is lots of cross-cultural conflict, whether it’s issues of politics, immigration, race relations, and the thing is those are actually teachable moments,” said LeDuff. “People don’t realize that when our cultures collide, very often that’s the time when we can learn about ourselves and learn about other people.”
However, LeDuff says the problem is individuals don’t always have the tools to understand or communicate across difference, thus addressing that was their goal in developing the cross-cultural competency course, which takes 12-15 hours to complete.
The course was designed without a module focusing specifically on the issue of race. But, Dr. LeDuff says the topic found its way into all of the post module panels called “Perspectives,” moderated by Sue Straughn from WEAR-TV.
“We recruited some very brave members of our community to participate in roundtable discussions,” said LeDuff, referencing the videos of the discussions that are available in addition to the coursework. “That was probably most valuable part, just hearing those people talk about their real world experiences.”
LeDuff says the massive open online course (MOOC) Cross-Cultural Competency is off to a great start, with over 350 people, including one from Beijing, already registered. She adds there’s plenty of room for others who want to enhance their own understanding of diversity.
“My hope is that people will participate in this course in hopes of helping their interaction, whether at work, in their personal lives, but really giving them tools and opportunities to engage across difference, and I think if we all work towards that, we can’t help but to be better”
For more information about the course, or to register, visit uwf.edu/crosscultural.