Virtual Academy Spotlight Hochschule Bremen: Overcoming Linguistic Challenges in International Teams
Back in February 2021, Professor Mechthild Schrooten from the Bremen City University of Applied Sciences (HSB) and Professor Rita Biswas from the University at Albany (UA) started a joint transatlantic teaching project as part of the UAS7 Virtual Academy. On April 12th, the third joint session took place, which was a highlight of the course for teachers and students alike.
The aim of the project is to introduce students to the connections between financial markets, external relations, exchange rates, international finance and the emergence of financial crises. The project features lectures at each university, asynchronous meetings between mixed student teams from both universities, and four synchronous virtual meetings with all students from the HSB and the UA.
A Simulation Game to overcome cultural barriers
For the third synchronous session the teaching team prepared a very special interactive session featuring a Simulation Game from Harvard Business School. The game “Tip of the Iceberg” simulates a conversation between two native speakers of English and two non-native speakers as CEO and CFO, who are trying to collect as much information as they can in 15-20 minutes for a presentation to a venture capitalist to obtain investment. However, there is one problem: the chat function provided by the game does not allow the roles of non-native speakers to write correct English sentences. It is not possible to enter full sentences, words are changed and sentences are thus made unreadable. This leads to frustration and misunderstandings. More than once, students complained to the lecturers that the programme would not work. "It's all part of the game," Rita Biswas replied with a smile, "try to find a solution for how to communicate with each other." Frowns, grins and irritation could be observed.
After the first run-through the students were asked to reflect the experience they had during game in small groups. Mechthild Schrooten asked students to talk about the roles they played during the game, to think about what inferences and assumptions they made about other team members and to reflect on how they felt during the conversation. During the second round of the game the students showed an improved level of communication and intercultural understanding, making the joint meeting a real success.
Thanks to its success, the Simulation Games will be held again at the next synchronous online meeting of all students. This time, in line with the theme of the course, the simulations will be specific to the financial sector. This is a graded activity for the students, for which they are well prepared after their previous session.
The UAS7 Virtual Academy pilot phase is funded by DAAD and BMBF.