Multicultural Learning Pods

An alternative intercultural experience


The Multicultural Learning Pods program connects domestic students enrolled in the Certificate in International Learning (CIL) with UAlberta international students (some of whom may also be CIL students, some of whom may not) and with students from University of Alberta partner institutions. These pods meet regularly throughout the fall term via Zoom or Google Meet to have semi-structured discussions and to engage in collaborative activities that encourage cultural exchange. In the Winter term, students would complete an intercultural project where they use intercultural communication theory to analyze their experiences in their pod.

CIL students who fulfill the program requirements may claim their participation in the Multicultural Learning Pods as their intercultural experience.

What is a pod?

A pod consists of 5-6 students, divided roughly evenly between domestic (i.e. Canadian, permanent resident) CIL students and international students (i.e., degree-seeking, visiting or from partner institutions). Participating international students may reside here in Canada or they may be in their home country, so the timing of pod meetings may need to account for differences in time zones. The CIL program will assign interested students to their respective pods. 

What would pods do together?

Semi-structured conversations

During pod meetings, students would engage in semi-structured conversations with their peers on a range of topics. Questions and sentence stems would be provided to prompt discussion. Topics of conversation would be grounded in Edward T. Hall’s 10 primary messaging systems, each of which provides a window into culture. 
As an example, one primary messaging system is Learning. So, students may be asked to discuss what “learning” looks like in their cultural context. Prompting questions may be: Who is considered wise in your culture? Who do people learn from? How do they interact with the teacher? Where does learning take place? What are your earliest memories of learning or schooling? How has learning or schooling changed for you as you have grown? The goal is for the conversation to take on a life of its own around the broader topic.

Collaborative activities

Pods would also move beyond talking and thinking to actually doing something together. What pods decide to do together will be up to the members of the pod. Pods are required to submit a brief proposal of what they plan to work on together throughout the term and to capture their collaborative activities in some way so they can be shared at the pod wrap-up in December.
Here are some examples of collaborative activities:

  • Pod members introduce one another to their favourite dish or art form, teach one another how to recreate it and curate a digital collection of their works (i.e. of recipes, poetry, drawings, etc.). 
  • Pod members collaboratively document the experience of COVID 19 in their home city and around the world and create a digital scrapbook
  • The pod works together to build a virtual treehouse in Minecraft and records a virtual tour, explaining the ideas behind the design 

The output of the collaboration is not as important as the process of working across cultural differences to plan and execute something. It is important to be aware of the conversations and dynamics that these collaborations give rise to.

What are the expectations outside of my pod?

Students will check-in with students from other pods and with program staff during the academic year to discuss what is coming up for them (see the sample schedule below).  
Outside of pod meetings and collaborations, domestic students would need to allow additional time for post-meeting reflection (about 30 minutes per week). They will draw on these reflections to complete an intercultural project (in addition to their CIL capstone project) in the Winter term.  

How much time will this program require?

Click here to see the tentative schedule.

What would an intercultural project look like? 

Domestic CIL students would be required to complete an intercultural project in the Winter term. The project would use Hall’s intercultural theory to conduct a cultural analysis of their own cultural assumptions and values and of the interactions that took place during their pod meetings/collaborations.
For example, a student could choose to do an intercultural project around Hall’s concept of Association and then explore ideas around hierarchy and social position.. They would also consider what their fellow students said about hierarchy and authority in their pod discussions and how/whether it presented during their pod collaboration. Students would draw on theory offered in Orientation, the intercultural communication training, monthly check-ins and from research that they conduct. They are also required to draw on their weekly personal reflections from the Fall term.

What is the cost to participate?

There is no fee to participate in this program. 

How do I join?

Register online by September 15, 2020. In the event of overwhelming interest, CIL students graduating in June 2021 will be given priority registration.

Still have questions? Contact