Question: How to build team solidarity and nurture trusts in globalized online learning communities?
Overview of literatures
Hofstede’s five dimensions
Hofstede’s five dimensions are revering hierarchy, individualism versus collectivism, task- or relationship-focused, risk avoidance, and long-term orientation. Revering hierarchy and individualism versus collectivism are more frequently happened during globally distributed learning community. Revering hierarchy refers to how people think about the “equality and relationships with superiors and subordinates” (Sam, 63). Individuals in some countries (China and Russia) are careful about expressing their opinions to team leaders and show “proper respect” (Sam, 63). However, in some countries (United States, Netherlands, and Germany), team leaders are less concerned with status and are more willing to even expect their teammates to speak out. Individualism versus Collectivism is to the extent of how an individual sees himself/herself as an individual rather than part of a group. In collectivist cultures, people are expected to work well in group, which protect them “in exchange for their loyalty and compliance” (Blessing, 4). In individualistic cultures, learners are concerned with their personal achievements and individual rights. “The United States and the Netherlands are very high on individualism, whereas China, West Africa, and Indonesia” are collective (Judith, 54). With the purpose of developing team trust, individuals in online learning community need to be aware of the cultural differences, understanding various opinions among each other. As values of hierarchy and attitudes towards whether being individualistic or collectivist are different in multi-cultural learning community, these should be “discussed and resolved” in a group that is willing to be productive and building trust in the long run (Judith, 58). A learning community needs to have conversations about how they are going to work and learn together before they started working, “[developing] shared team work habits” (Judith, 58). They have to figure out how their relationships should be among teammates and team leader, and choose to be more individualistic or not.
Hall’s five dimensions
Hall’s five dimensions are space, material goods, friendship, time, and agreement. Friendship and time are more often occurred in globalized learning community. Relationships and friendships among people are considerably different across cultures. Americans are more willing to develop short-term relationships between co-workers or co-learners. They mostly make friends and then lose friends quickly, seeing “friends as transitory” (Sam 69). For those cultures with long-term relationships, people tend to take long time to build friendships. They are more willing to form a learning community with those they know. In global online learning community, there are definitely friendly and approachable teammates, as well as shy and introverted teammates varied by cultural backgrounds. Those who are more approachable are more likely to prefer short-term relationship, and vise versa. Individuals in a learning community need to understand the difference in people’s ideas about friendships in order to build team solidarity. In terms of the time consciousness, linear time cultures (such as United States) take time very seriously, “in a very rationalist sense” (Sam, 69). They usually do one thing at a time with careful planning and scheduling. Other cultures (such as China, Russia, Middle East, Latin America) are more “fluid” as human interactions and relationships are valued outweigh time and material things (Judith, 54). In order to build team trust within a multi-cultural group, understanding different people’s plannings for tasks are very important. Teammates need to find out each other’s habits of time management prior to work. If the conflict of time happens during work, individuals in a community ought to look for attributions that are not personally negative, but directed more toward cultural understanding.
Language barriers and time-zone differences
Language barriers can impede communication in global learning community. Different levels of English in a community affect “not only the quality of communication, but the choice of communication media” (John 72). Those who are not confident with their English are more possible to prefer instant messaging or email in communication with community members. However, video and teleconferencing are most of the time regarded as more efficient communication tools. Also, cultural diversity can affect interpretation of communication. For instance, polite “expressions of acknowledgement” by Asian community members can be misinterpreted as “agreement or commitment” by European colleagues (John 72). Moreover, when people’s level of English are different in an global learning community, those who have stronger English language skills “[occupy] a more powerful position and can appear to be more powerful, and thus suppress important communication through unintended intimidation” (John 72). The best way to deal with the language barriers is more frequent interactions among community members, promoting more knowledge sharing and feedback.