Web-based Program Connects Across Cultures

Vo Tong Xuan, president of An Giang University, talks with EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and professor Dan Wessner
Vo Vo Tong Xuan, president of An Giang University, talks with EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and EMU history professor Dan Wessner during his recent campus visit. Dr. Swartzendruber paid a reciprocal visit to An Giang University in March, 2005.
Photo by Jim Bishop

The potential for learning in a virtual classroom setting is taking giant steps forward even as several courses are reshaping students’ world views at Eastern Mennonite University.

Associate Professor of International and Political Studies Dan Wessner has been crafting computer-based course work to interact with and learn from students at two universities in Vietnam. He terms the approach "IC3" – Inter-Cultural Communicative Competence.

Dr. Wessner, associate professor of international and political studies in the history department, arranged for EMU students to converse by computer with Vietnamese students on a regular basis at An Giang University and Can Tho University, both in the Mekong Delta.

Wessner drew from his earlier experience as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in Vietnam and his connections with Mennonite Central Committee personnel serving at An Giang University. This collaborative learning was augmented by Mr. Tran Quoc Thang and Ms. Nguyen Hoang Bich Ngoc, both Vietnamese students in EMU’s MA in education program.

IC3 participants Kevin Docherty and Erica Kraybill
Kevin Docherty, an EMU senior history/sociology major from Harrisonburg, and Erica Kraybill, a junior history major from Columbus, Ohio, use the Blackboard computer program to carry on in-depth conversation with students in Vietnam and Iran. Docherty plans to attend EMU’s cross-cultural study seminar to Vietnam in May.
Photo by Jim Bishop

The first day of class, each Vietnamese and American student, none of whom was born during the Vietnam-U.S. War, was asked to write a paragraph of "first impressions" of the other