iMOOC101: Mastering American eLearning

This competency-based, skill-building course will help international (non-U.S.) students and foreign-born professionals better understand and master American eLearning as well as other U.S. virtual environments for college and career success.

About The Course

When taking online courses at a U.S.-based university or working remotely for a U.S. company (“telecommuting”), foreign-born students and professionals oftentimes run into pitfalls, no matter how tech-savvy they are in their native environments. The reason for this is because these U.S. online environments tend to be based on the American culture and rooted in American contexts and ways of doing things, which may make even ordinary things confusing to non-Americans abroad. In order to better understand and master American eLearning and other U.S. virtual environments, international students and foreign-born professionals need to know about the specific ways in which American universities and companies use the Internet to organize work and study, develop and execute projects, communicate ideas, collaborate, and solve organizational and technical problems. By taking this course, you will learn how to enhance your cultural knowledge and assess potential skill gaps that may hinder your online experience or negatively impact your performance in U.S. virtual work environments. Throughout the course you will systematically review competencies required for online work, better understand common barriers for non-native students and professionals in U.S. virtual work environments, learn about effective strategies and develop plans for improvement.

By the end of the course, you’ll be able to:

  • Recognize 6 key competency areas (domains) that you should better understand in order to master American eLearning and U.S. virtual work environments;

  • For each competency area, you’ll systematically review and examine required levels of proficiency in terms of awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes;

  • Examine how gaps in awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes can cause barriers to learning and work performance in American eLearning and other U.S.-style virtual environments;

  • Identify and explore effective strategies, best practices, skill-building techniques and helpful resources that can be used to eliminate gaps and alleviate barriers;  discuss those with peers across the globe;

  • Self-assess your perceived level of mastery in various levels of competencies, identify gaps in your awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes and develop personal strategies for improvement;

  • As a result, perform more effectively in American eLearning and U.S. virtual work environments, develop self-directed learning skills and enhance employability skills.

The course can be used in a variety of ways. It can be taken as a stand-alone course on Coursera or it can be integrated with credit-bearing courses offered by the State University of New York’s Empire State College (see Module 8 for details). In addition, it may be integrated with orientation courses offered for incoming and on-campus international students by SUNY and other U.S –based universities and adopted as part of credit-bearing activities by international universities outside the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is American eLearning? How different is it from eLearning in any other country?

In principle, eLearning uses the same kind of information technologies and computer-mediated communications all over the world. However, the ways in which organizations in different countries design, structure and use virtual environments for online study and work are different and reflect national and organizational cultures, contexts and culturally shaped ways of doing things. In order to effectively navigate “Made in U.S.A.” online environments, non-native students and foreign-born professionals should understand them and develop specific competencies.

What are the typical barriers for non-native students when navigating American online environments?

When studying or working online in U.S.-style environments, even tech-savvy non-natives may experience problems caused by cross-cultural misunderstanding, differences in communication patterns and protocols, unfamiliarity with the American classroom structure, particularly in the online setting, differences in roles, expectations and behaviors, and a lack of understanding of professional and local contexts. The above mentioned problems are quite common and are typically referred to as “barriers”. Barriers are real; they may cause dissatisfaction, frustration, loss of interest, and even withdrawal from online studies or work. To overcome those barriers, one needs to learn how to recognize them, find their root causes, identify and implement remedial strategies for improvement.

Why does the course focus on “mastering”?

This is a competency-based, skill-building course intended to provide a comprehensive review of required competencies for effective navigation of U.S.-style online environments. In other words, the course is not theoretical; it is highly practical and will help answering the following questions: When navigating American online environments, what are the typical barriers for non-native students? What are their underlying causes? What are the competencies that are needed to overcome those barriers? What are expected proficiency levels? How can they be achieved?

Do we use “typical barriers” as a one-size-fits-all approach?

The course is informed by research in various fields including educational and cultural psychology, sociology of acculturation, computer-mediated communications and is indeed organized around the most common, typical barriers to systematically address challenges faced by non-native students in U.S. online environments. However, this course is also intended to be highly personalized by using a specifically developed self-diagnostic tool. Each learning module of the course includes 3-5 self-assessments; self-assessments are designed to create awareness about required competencies, underlying knowledge, skills and attitudes. When conducting self-assessment, the students will compare required and existent levels of proficiency and detect potential awareness, knowledge, skill and attitude gaps. Based on self-assessment results, they will be able to develop individual plans for self-improvement.

Why does the course use student testimonials?

To develop cross-cultural competencies it is not enough to just learn new things by reading texts and attending lectures. It is equally important to learn how to unlearn (“switch”) and relearn and to also practice new ways of doing things. This is something that most of us do not do every day.  That’s why it is good to see how other students have managed to succeed in a U.S.-style online environment. Together, we can learn from their experiences.

Can I share my own experiences?

Of course! In this course, we will be glad to accommodate as much student-generated content, as we possibly can. In Module 1 you’ll find instructions and release forms that will explain how to record and share your experiences with us and other students all around the world. Explaining to international audiences about the challenges and barriers you had faced in U.S. online environments and the solutions that you had found and successfully implemented to alleviate those barriers, is a valuable contribution and also a good exercise in itself.

Why is this course useful for enhancing employability skills?

For internal communications and training, U.S.-based and international companies use the same kind of technologies, as we discuss in this course. For example, knowledge bases, e-portfolios, web-conferences, wikis, etc. Being proficient in the use of U.S. virtual environments is getting more and more important for employment. One of the best ways to prepare for this brave new world is to study online. That’s why honing technological, cross-cultural, communication, teamwork and other types of skills in this course will also help enhancing your employability skills.

Can I get credit for this course?

We do not assign academic credit for this course automatically, but in Module 8 we explain how knowledge and skills that you have already possessed or developed in this course can be used to get academic credit though the State University of New York’s Empire State College.

Recommended Background

Primary audiences for this course include international (non-U.S.) students  studying online at U.S. universities and foreign professionals residing outside of the U.S. and working remotely for U.S.-based employers or considering employment-based migration. Incoming international students and first generation immigrants in the U.S. can also benefit significantly from the course. While most of the examples and cases are based on undergraduate studies in business and management, the course is also suitable for postgraduate students and professional development regardless of academic discipline.

Please note that this course is not intended to substitute any mandatory orientation (counseling) sessions offered for enrolled international students by their host institutions in the U.S.