Zettie Venter

Johann Möller


Beverley Wilcock


Lynette Jacobs

A visit to the South Campus by Prof Barbara Howard from the Appalachian State University in North Carolina in May 2019 started a conversation that resulted in experimental virtual collaboration between three universities on three continents. Drawing from the diverse strengths of academic and professional staff across these spaces, and working transdisciplinary, we are building a series of short courses to support the internationalisation of higher education and to inclusively develop global competencies in staff and students, while embracing local and international diversity. When the first drafts of the learning platform for two of these future SLPs were developed, staff members from the South Campus and the International Office took on the role of ‘students’. We experimentally went through the learning that future students will experience. For six weeks at a time, we met virtually on a set weekday evening, while in between, the ‘students’ worked in smaller groups across continents on their ‘assignments’ to present to the ‘class’. 

A take-home message for Zettie was that, while we were a diverse group culturally, historically, as well as institutionally – and that even the group of South African participants varied greatly in terms of age, culture, background, first degrees, current jobs, and so forth – strong bonds were formed with participants (internationally as well as locally), and collegiality and trust developed in the virtual space.  Johann was intrigued by the huge variety of rules and differences between nations but appreciated how virtual engagement could lead to understanding different nationalities and could be a way for students across nations to learn from one another and about each other. 

An interesting take for Beverley was how English was employed as a lingua franca in the online and global space. Although it is becoming the norm nowadays to conduct business etc., in a lingua franca, it was a truly international cross-cultural experience. Even for the South African participants whose linguistic and cultural backgrounds vary greatly, and for most of whom English is not their first language – particularly for the Russian compatriots, some of whom did not speak a word of English at the start of the six weeks – it was such an enriching experience to communicate in this newfound manner using code-switching, translanguaging, computer-assisted translation tools, and in some cases informal interpreting among ourselves to ensure that we get our message across in this virtual space.

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