Using Online Learning to Build Global Awareness
By Carol DeFuria
Understanding diverse cultures and perspectives is essential for high school students as they prepare for careers in our increasingly global society. One of the best ways for students to experience diversity is to learn with and from those who come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and walks of life.
For students residing in major cities, diverse interactions are more likely, as large cities are often melting pots bringing different groups of people together. Students in rural or isolated areas, however, or those living in less diverse regions of the country, might have fewer opportunities to experience diversity in their daily interactions with others. For these students, online learning provides a unique opportunity.
Technology has made our world smaller and more connected. This development has important implications for a student’s economic competitiveness and future job prospects.
We live in a global society, and most U.S. companies are engaging in business around the world. Two-thirds of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies now have offices abroad, and most small businesses buy and sell goods and services internationally. With so many companies doing business globally, hiring managers are looking for employees who respect and appreciate cultural differences.
In a recent survey of nearly 500 executives and hiring managers from businesses of varying sizes, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents said the ability to communicate and collaborate with people from different cultural backgrounds was an important skill for employees to possess.
Beyond workforce readiness, an appreciation of diversity helps students become better global citizens. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic remind us that we’re all connected, and that collaboration benefits all of us because we are stronger together. To solve world-wide challenges, students need to understand and work with people from all backgrounds and nationalities.
How Online Learning Can Help
Exposure to people from various cultures, ethnicities, and religions helps students learn to appreciate those who are different from themselves. Through this exposure, they discover that although others might have different opinions, values, and perspectives, there are similarities as well. When students collaborate with their peers from around the world, they begin to develop empathy for others and a healthy sense of their own place in the world. They discover their own strengths, and how they can contribute and make a difference in our global society.
For students with little exposure to diversity in their own schools, global online learning can provide a tremendous benefit. Having students take online classes with their peers from around the world is a powerful way to foster an appreciation for diversity. When students are immersed in a global online classroom, they have opportunities to collaborate on projects and discuss and debate important ideas with other students worldwide. In the process, they broaden their own perspectives, learn how to work well with others, and even develop global friendships.
“I go to a really small high school, and so I have been talking to the same people for the past seven years,” said one student taking AP® Economics online through the online provider. “Although I love the residents of my school as a whole, it was a breath of fresh air to meet new people and it definitely opened my eyes to whole new ways of thinking.”
“I always look forward to opening up my laptop and [saying] ‘oh, I have another discussion post from my friend in Belgium,’ or I have a message from my friend in Pittsburgh,” said another student. “It’s really cool.”
Through supplemental online high school courses from VHS Learning, students from more than 60 countries around the world learn together within small online classrooms. They discover a diverse and supportive community while engaging in collaborative learning with their peers. Students select from over 300 unique online high school courses in the arts, computer science, world languages, science, humanities, and more. They build connections with their peers worldwide who have similar subject matter interests, without leaving their own school, and as a part of their regularly scheduled school day.
Understanding and appreciating diversity is essential for success in work and in life. One of the best ways for students to develop this skill is by exposing them to different cultures and perspectives while learning within a safe and supportive online classroom environment.
About the Author
Carol DeFuria is the President and CEO of VHS Learning, a nonprofit organization with more than 27 years of experience providing world-class online programs to students and schools everywhere.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.