Harnessing Cultural Diversity – A FutureLearn Collaboration with Lee Martin & Kristen Richards
NOV, 2019
Teaching & Learning
Digital Innovation
Cultural Diversity
In partnership with FutureLearn, Deakin University has developed an online course highlighting the impact of cultural diversity in the workplace – examining the benefits and challenges that diversity brings to any team and business, and how to manage that. In an Australian business context this is particularly important given that the workforce is multicultural.

This course is also symbolic of the great collaborative work at Deakin. Harnessing Cultural Diversity has brought facilitators and contributors from across the university together to create a new course for a global cohort. Lee Martin, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Management in the Deakin Business School, and Kristen Richards, Senior Educational Developer in the Global Studio team, discuss working collaboratively to create the FutureLearn short course.

Lee: The course came about when Deakin applied for a competitive grant that FutureLearn was offering and I was brought in as a specialist to help develop the grant application, and then the course. I wanted to be involved because it seemed like a golden opportunity to:

a) develop a new course that was directly in my area of expertise and bring in the latest research ideas in that area;

b) gain experience and new skills in developing a MOOC, with the support of learning designers; and,

c) reach a wider (global!) audience and hopefully have a real impact on how people work in culturally diverse teams.

It was exciting to bring to life our vision for the course, as the team helped us to produce videos (animations, case studies and interviews). We were able to access all this extra support that you don’t usually have when designing a traditional course alone. Having said that, it was a lot of work as you have to rethink the way content is structured, delivered, and engaged with, but if you are passionate about the subject material it can be a lot of fun. Working closely with learning experts – Kristen, Harsh Suri, and Puva Arumugam – and the broader teaching and learning team who supported us, was one of the best collaborative work experiences I’ve had.

Above (in order): Lee Martin & Kristen Richards
Kristen: It was wonderful to work with a team who were so engaged in the whole process of designing and developing the course. I think that because everyone cared so much about the subject, and the potential impact of the course, it led to more active collaboration.

Designing courses for FutureLearn requires an openness to change. Especially when we’re developing MOOCs on an open platform, the accessibility of the content and how it’s delivered becomes more important than what we might normally be used to. So educators need to think more about how they deliver content to students online. Delivering resources of high academic integrity needs to be balanced with making sure the content is also catering to a diverse range of learners.

The course has done really well since launch, with over 1600 registrations, and 500 active students, 200 of who are engaging with each other as social learners.

Above-left: Lee interviewing Dr. Jeff Shao
Above-right: Team developing a video resource for the course
Lee: I think collaborating in a multicultural team helped us develop well-thought out course materials by considering the design from different perspectives. I think our team embodied the principles that we were trying to teach in the course. For example, I believe everyone felt respected, included and comfortable to offer their opinions and ideas, which ultimately leads to a better product. Given the course is about cultural diversity, it’s good for learners to see that the teaching team is also culturally diverse. We have had so much engagement and this is really affirming. The level of thoughtful conversation from students on FutureLearn has been great.

Kristen: I agree with Lee, the discussions we had during the design phase gave us more of an insight into how we needed to design the course to be more inclusive for a global cohort. We tried to develop content and tasks that diverse learners would be able to connect with and contribute to. It’s been interesting see that now play out in social learning aspects of the course; learners are genuinely benefiting from sharing their experiences.

I also really appreciated how stakeholders from the wider Deakin community were willing to review and give their feedback, which gave us more confidence about what we were producing.

Lee: Yes, absolutely. I think appreciating and respecting what everyone brings to the process is important, and when everyone who is involved is genuinely enthusiastic about what we are trying to achieve, the collaboration works really well and is a great learning experience.


For more on Harnessing Cultural Diversity visit the course page here.

For more on FutureLearn go to their homepage or contact globalstudio@deakin.edu.au

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