Cross-cultural collaboration through virtual teaming in higher education


  • Barbara Howard Appalachian State University,North Carolina
  • Natalia Ilyashenko Novgorod State University
  • Lynette Jacobs University of the Free State, South Africa



Collaboration among higher education students, cross-cultural teaching in Higher Education, international studies, internationalisation, transformative learning


Scholars from three universities in three different parts of the world – North America, Africa, and Eurasia – across different
cultures, disciplines, and contexts, collaborated with the objective of advancing transversal skills and intercultural competences through immersing their students in international virtual teamwork. Students and lecturers represented the Appalachian State University (United States of America), University of the Free State (South Africa), and Novgorod State University (Russia). In this article, we share our lessons learned from the challenges we faced in the hopes of deepening understanding in higher education concerning what can be accomplished through remote learning across continents and cultures. This work allowed us to be ahead of the collapse of traditional teaching on campuses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as we had prior experience of online pedagogies reaching across international borders, cultures, time
zones, and languages. Even during hard lockdown, when travelling abroad was impossible, our students experienced internationalised curricula, interacted with international scholars and staff, and were able to continue with the programme as planned. We began this work more than five years prior to the pandemic; therefore, these efforts led to successfully switching to online learning in other courses. We began with engaging staff members as well as students in ongoing, project-based collaboration across cultures from these institutions. This required the use of synchronous and asynchronous digital platforms, which would enable staff members and students to work collaboratively for six to eight weeks to create realistic projects. Staff members began to compile the collaborative co-creating courses that would be taught together, thus combining and adapting various pedagogical approaches. We then shared the responsibility for co-facilitating each course, despite different philosophies of teaching and learning. The result was a balanced blend of pedagogies, allowing students to collaborate successfully with students from the other universities. Students overcame a number of challenges: (a) cultural differences; (b) infrastructure for technology platforms; (c) time zones; (d) languages; (e) age and generational differences; (f) unfamiliarity with various pedagogies; (g) interaction with other cultures and settings; and (h) stereotypes fuelled by popular media. We share our journey and the strategies that addressed these challenges, including the use of technology and results from this continued collaboration.



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Author Biographies

Barbara Howard, Appalachian State University,North Carolina



Lynette Jacobs, University of the Free State, South Africa






How to Cite

Howard, B., Ilyashenko, N., & Jacobs, L. (2023). Cross-cultural collaboration through virtual teaming in higher education. Perspectives in Education, 41(1), 74–87.