Multicultural Learning Pods

An alternative intercultural experience

Overview

The Multicultural Learning Pods program connects students enrolled in the Certificate in International Learning (CIL) with one another and with UAlberta international students (some of whom may also be CIL students, some of whom may not), visiting students, and students from University of Alberta partner institutions. These pods meet regularly via Zoom or Google Meet (or if possible and permitted by public health restrictions, in person) to have semi-structured discussions and to engage in collaborative activities that encourage cultural exchange. 

CIL students who fulfill the program requirements may claim their participation in the Multicultural Learning Pods as their intercultural experience. CIL international students, who have already satisfied the intercultural experience requirement, may earn 10 co-curricular points for their participation.

What is a pod?

A pod consists of 3-6 students from a range of cultural backgrounds. Participating international or visiting students may reside in Edmonton 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 share/present them to the larger group.

Here are some examples of collaborative activities:

  • Pod members choose to make a collaborative digital art piece at each meeting, each piece with a different, chosen theme. They explain their contributions, share stories and discuss issues that arise as they create. 
  • Pod members introduce one another to their favourite dish, teach one another how to recreate it and develop a digital collection of their works (i.e. of recipes, poetry, drawings, etc.). They explore the significance behind their respective dishes and the context in which they are served.
  • Pod members watch films from around the world together from and discuss how the plots, characters, etc., may be perceived and received in their respective regions.

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, CIL students would need to allow additional time for post-meeting reflection (about 30-45  minutes per week). They will draw on these short reflections to complete two reflections during the program (one in December, one in March).

How much time will this program require?

Click here to see the tentative schedule.

What is the cost to participate?

There is no fee to participate in this program.

How do I join?

If there is sufficient interest in the program, registration will open in late August/early September.

If you are new to CIL and did not receive the Expression of Interest survey, you can express your interest in the program by emailing cil@ualberta.ca.