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A review of research on intercultural learning through computer-based digital technologies.


Intercultural interactions and exchanges have started to gain an important place in our everyday life as one of the indirect results of our globalizing world. This state of interconnectedness among people and cultures has been so apparent that it is claimed nowadays that "international relations become the basis for a well-functioning tomorrow." (Schenker, 2012, p. 449). In line with the impact of global developments on functioning of modern societies, having global communication networks and developing an intercultural communicative competence (ICC) have become one of the aims of today's educational systems (Alptekin, 2002; Thorne, 2003). Thus, ICC is strongly supported as a part of language instruction in schools as it enables people to communicate and negotiate successfully with people from other cultures (Byram, 1997; 2000).

Although no agreement has been established on the definition of ICC, there seems a general agreement on its key goals (Deardorff, 2006; O'Dowd, 2003). Byram's (1997) ICC model, which is the most commonly referred one in the literature, covers attitudes, knowledge, skills of interpreting and relating, skills of discovery and interaction, and critical awareness. Within his ICC model, the aim is to go beyond superficial intercultural fact exchanges and to develop a deep intercultural learning. The model suggests people to be open-minded, reflective on cultural similarities and differences, and to reduce their ethnocentrism. Developing this intercultural competence seems as a challenging task but is necessary to be a part of the global world (Talkington, Lengel, & Byram, 2004). Teachers of foreign languages or of other relevant fields therefore need to find sound ways to integrate intercultural competence into their courses. Moreover, cultural knowledge alone may not precede intercultural competence (Bennett, 2009; Perry & Southwell, 2011; Talkington, Lengel, & Byram, 2004), so a critical examination of cultures is a must to go beyond simple facts and knowledge about cultures, which is possible through interactions with people from other cultures.

With respect to helping every student to develop an intercultural competence, computer-mediated communication (CMC) and telecollaborative projects provide environments for students to have an opportunity to communicate with people from diverse cultures (Belz & Thorne, 2006; Kern, 2006; Lee, 2009; Muller-Hartmann, 2000; O'Dowd, 2007). Telecollaboration studies in fact have started to gain more importance due to their practical nature in terms of intercultural contacts. However, existing studies stress a lack of research in technology-oriented intercultural learning environments (Jin & Erben, 2007; Lee & Markey, 2014; O'Dowd, 2007; Perry & Southwell, 2011). Perry and Southwell (2011) especially state, in their review of intercultural models and approaches, that there is no thorough research on the development of intercultural competence via digital technologies, so, according to them, the area needs further research. To my best knowledge, there is no review research on this issue as well. Thus, this review study aims to fill a gap in the current research in intercultural learning through computer-based technology use in order to mark prevalent issues in the field. These major questions therefore seek for answers in this review study:

* What kinds of technologies were used in intercultural studies?

* What type of participants and contexts were involved?

* How long did the studies take place?

* What were the major findings in terms of intercultural learning?

* How effective were digital technologies to promote intercultural learning?

* Are there any potential gaps and suggestions for further research directions?

Research methods

Different inquiry styles utilizing quantitative and qualitative paradigms in this technology-oriented intercultural field made it more appropriate to have a qualitative synthesis of quantitative and qualitative research (Baran, 2014; Suri & Clarke, 2009). As it has been implied, this review did not adopt a positivist approach to synthesis; rather, it benefited from the interpretative and transparent nature of qualitative synthesis (Suri & Clarke, 2009). The study also did not follow an existing model or methodology but it was inspired and directed by Baran (2014), Cooper and Hedges (2009), and Suri and Clarke (2008). The systematic steps that were broadly followed were problem formulation, literature search, data evaluation, data analysis, and interpretation of the results (Cooper & Hedges, 2009).


Articles for this synthesis were chosen following a systematic process of selection (see Figure 1 for a summary of the selection process). As a result of the inquiry, 26 studies were identified for the review (Appendix A). Time frame was set as 2004 and 2014 covering a 10-year-long period including recent developments in web 2.0 tools and telecollaboration studies (Guth & Thomas, 2010). In this way, the focus is more on the effect of recent computer-based digital technologies and their effectiveness on intercultural learning, which may pave the way for a more reasonable and innovative research direction.

After identifying the articles, they were examined and coded in an analytic synthesis table (see Appendix A for a detailed illustration of the categories). In addition to this analytic table, major outcomes of the studies in terms of intercultural learning were included as data. The table helped the study to recognize research descriptives in the field while the major outcomes of the studies formed the qualitative findings of this review study after they were coded in a qualitatively emergent/evolving and interpretative fashion (Creswell, 2013).


Following an open coding process (Elo & Kyngas, 2008) of major findings and outcomes of the studies (see Appendix B for a coding sample), and collecting an expert opinion on the process of theme formation, several main categories emerged from the selected 26 empirical studies. They are given as (1) research descriptives, (2) an overall satisfaction with digital tools and intercultural learning, (3) increased knowledge toward both own and target culture, (4) superficial and fact-based exchange between similar cultures and profiles, (5) varied levels of ICC development, (6) lack of in-depth analysis and of detailed reports, (7) necessity for training, guidance, and good communication skills, (8) need for stimulating contexts, and (9) technical and institutional challenges.

Research descriptives

Applied technology types and environments created

Most of the reviewed studies did not use only one digital tool in fostering intercultural interactions. In order to have a glimpse of what kind of technologies were used and how frequently they were applied, a frequency graph is provided in Figure 2.


Online discussion boards were the most frequently used ones in the studies. Text-based chat, blogs, and email exchanges followed online message boards in terms of frequency of use. These tools offer both asynchronous and synchronous communication, which reflects the effort put by the studies to take advantage of different types of communication ways to help their participants to develop an intact intercultural competence. Other tools such as video recording, video conferencing, and podcasting were also used to enrich both the nature and function of the communication. Microblogging -Twitter- was used only once in the study conducted by Lee and Markey (2014).

Study contexts, countries and subjects

Studies were conducted with participants from at least two different countries or cultures. Except three studies, all of the exchanges took place only on online platforms. As for exceptions, Lee (2011) conducted the research in a study abroad context where participants had a chance to have a face-to-face interaction with the target culture, so technology was used to enhance their intercultural development in that context. Elola and Oskoz (2008) created an online environment where American students in a study abroad environment maintained communication with the students at home university to increase home students' intercultural understanding. Canto, Jauregi, and van den Bergh (2013) included an experimental group that explored intercultural aspects only in inauthentic classroom environment, and they compared this group with an online interaction group in which language learners had a chance to communicate with native speakers.

Regarding the countries and interactions involved in the studies, Spain-USA exchange (n = 4) formed 15.3% of all intercultural exchanges. Following this pair, there were Germany-USA (n = 3), and Taiwan-USA (n = 3) exchanges. USA-China (n = 2) and Chile-USA (n = 2) followed these pairs in terms of frequency. Lastly, there were other interactions that were established only once. You can refer to Appendix A to see these remaining exchanges. However, there were four studies which did not require participants to communicate with another culture directly over some technological tools. Lee (2011; 2012) conducted her studies only in Spain with American study abroad students. Ducate and Lomicka (2008) studied only American students in the USA who followed blogs by native speakers of German and French, and wrote their own in time. Lastly, in Elola and Oskoz (2008), American students in Spain helped the students at home university to increase their intercultural understanding through blogs. Overall Figure 3 below illustrates country context of the participants and how many times they were involved in intercultural communication or intercultural learning. The figure shows that USA is the most popular country for technology-oriented intercultural studies.

As for the participants of the studies, it is possible to say almost all studies were conducted between undergraduate students from different cultures even though there were some exceptions that involved in-service teachers (Angelova & Zhao, 2014), MA students (Hauck, 2007) or local people (Lee, 2011; 2012). Language learning or practice was highly frequent in the studies, so sometimes the focus of the studies was not only intercultural learning.

Study duration

Except four studies (Ducate & Lomicka, 2008; O'Dowd, 2005; O'Dowd, 2007; Ware & Kramsch, 2005), studies were conducted around one semester. Since data were mainly collected from undergraduate students at different universities, one semester seemed as an ideal duration for the studies. However, O'Dowd's (2005; 2007) studies were exceptions, which lasted for nine months and two years respectively, but these were large scale projects designed for longer periods. Moreover, Ware and Kramsch's (2005) research took only three weeks to complete, which seemed also as an exception to the research descriptives.

An overall satisfaction with digital tools and intercultural learning

Analyses revealed that most of the participants completed intercultural projects with satisfactory feelings although there were some varying voices among participants. Participants generally ended up with a feeling of enjoyment as a result of using technology to establish some types of communication with native speakers of their target language or with people from another culture (Jin & Erben, 2007; Keranen & Bayyurt, 2006; Lee, 2009; Lee, 2012; Lee & Markey, 2014; Liaw, 2006; Liaw & Bunn-Le Master, 2010). Some even reported their emerging desire to study abroad after they engaged in an intercultural exchange (Tudini, 2007; Zeiss & Isabelli-Garcia, 2005). It can therefore be said that CMC played a useful role in providing enjoyable intercultural experiences and in increasing the motivation and preparation for study abroad programs (Angelova & Zhao, 2014; Hauck, 2007).

Digital tools such as blogging, podcasting, email exchanges, and chat rooms were welcomed by the participants and were reported to be valuable and enjoyable in terms of cultural exchanges (Lee, 2011; Lee, 2012; Lee & Markey, 2014; Schenker, 2012; Tudini, 2007). Blogs particularly helped people to create a sense of community (Lee, 2011), or to have flexibility in what to share with other people (Lee & Markey, 2014). Furthermore, blogs sometimes functioned as a window to the target culture and let people have a taste of the target culture (Ducate & Lomicka, 2008). Overall blogs can be regarded as a convenient digital tool to foster intercultural learning. Although they were not implemented frequently, email exchanges and chat rooms were also reported to be suitable and stimulating for intercultural communication (Chun, 2011; Furcsa, 2009; Tudini, 2007).

Increased knowledge toward both own and target culture

Myriad intercultural opportunities were provided by the studies in terms of learning target culture and language (Lee, 2011; Lee & Markey, 2014), and these opportunities contributed to cultural awareness (O'Dowd, 2007) or to intercultural understanding of the participants (Menard-Warwick, Heredia-Herrera, & Palmer, 2013). Since Bennett (1993) and Kramsch (1993) highlight the importance of reflecting on cultural differences and similarities as a crucial and a triggering aspect of intercultural contacts, it can be said that CMC helped people to reflect on both own and target culture, and contributed to the process toward being an interculturally competent person (Canto et al., 2013; Angelova & Zhao, 2014; Liaw, 2006; Keranen & Bayyurt, 2006). As well as stimulating people to contrast and compare cultures, CMC also helped participants grow interculturally (Liaw & Bunn-Le Master, 2010) by increasing their knowledge (Ducate & Lomicka, 2008; Keranen & Bayyurt, 2006; Lee, 2009; Schenker, 2012), interest (Jin & Erben, 2007; Liaw, 2006) and awareness (Angelova & Zhao, 2014; Elola & Oskoz, 2008; Rooks, 2008; Ware & Kramsch, 2005; Zeiss & Isabelli-Garcia, 2005) toward the other and own culture. Reflection on both own and target culture did not only increase intercultural understanding but also resulted in an attitude change or a development of a positive attitude toward other cultures to a certain extent (Elola & Oskoz, 2008; Furcsa, 2009; Schuetze, 2008).

Varied levels of ICC development

Byram's (1997) ICC model is by far the mostly adopted framework for the studies reviewed here. Adopting a complete intercultural framework as ICC seemed to be helpful for researchers to conduct deeper analyses rather than only focusing on fact-based intercultural exchanges.

The main claim by the telecollaborative studies was that ICC could be developed through facilitating communication between different cultures over appropriate technology (Schenker, 2012). To support this idea, O'Dowd (2007) highlighted the potential of telecollaboration in supporting the development of students' ICC compared to the traditional instruction. Those studies using ICC in interpreting data reported evidences for different levels of ICC. Lee (2012) showed differing attitude among participants toward the host culture but also showed the signs of a growth from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism. These varied levels of development could also be seen in Liaw (2006; 2007) where English learners who communicated with native speakers showed four levels of ICC. In addition to Liaw's studies, Jin and Erben (2007) showed a variable process of ICC among their participants. Their development fluctuated but eventually they improved their intercultural sensitivity. This varied and individual aspect of ICC in the studies indicates that learners show signs of being on the way to develop a complex ICC (Schuetze, 2008). Using a more secure phrase like "being on the way" is actually more appropriate with studies reviewed here because they mostly fail to provide detailed reports for their participants and data analysis process, so strong claims as "they have developed ICC" must be avoided due to ICC's complex and always evolving nature (Byram, 1997).

Although a clear developmental process among participants was not observed, it is fair to say that participants developed a sense of awareness toward viewpoints of other people and their differing perspectives (Furcsa, 2009; Ware & Kramsch, 2005). It is therefore possible to say that intercultural communication through technology triggered learners to develop interculturally; however, this improvement changed from person to person. Although ICC might not be easily measurable due to its dynamic and ever-changing nature, it was showed that it was possible to track major changes in perspectives toward target culture and in reflections on own culture (Elola & Oskoz, 2008).

Superficial and fact-based exchange between similar cultures and profiles

Computer-based digital tools, as it has been shown so far, enabled people to communicate with people from other cultures without visiting each other. These interactions also fostered ICC of participants though there were some variability among participants. While explaining the sources of this variation, it was found that cultural understanding was sometimes superficial and fact-based (Lee, 2009; Lee, 2011; Liaw, 2006), but some superficial understandings were developed in consequence of reflecting on both own and target culture (Ducate & Lomicka, 2008). Similarly, Keranen and Bayyurt (2006) admitted interchanges of ideas might seem to be depending on a superficial level; yet, people might build understanding on this superficiality. Furthermore, Liaw and Bunn-Le Master (2010) found that the majority of exchanges of information were fact-based. At this point it could be necessary to engage a facilitator in the dialogue to maximize the intercultural environment in which people could argue over different viewpoints.

On the other hand, studies mostly took place between similar cultures and profiles. Most of the interactions happened with undergraduate students from USA, and other interactions also were realized between similar Western cultures with a few exceptions from Eastern cultures. That is to say, such exchanges between similar cultures and profiles may not yield rich intercultural learning situations. This does not mean that participants were the same in every aspects, but they sometimes failed to create an optimized situation for challenging and fruitful intercultural discussions, which might have fostered a robust development of ICC.

Lack of in-depth analysis and of detailed reports

Most of the studies in the literature were designed around language learning or teaching. Thus, it is fair to say that not all studies concentrated on intercultural processes in details. This situation caused studies to report superficial results in terms of intercultural development. This may also be one of the reasons lying behind varied representations of ICC. For instance, Chun (2011) and Schenker (2012) reported varying levels of development; however, there was not much clear information about participants' ICC development although there was an attempt to track their intercultural development.

This lack of in-depth analysis of data or trying to measure many components at the same time produced a lack of detailed reports. There were studies in fact reporting intercultural sensitivity developed by individual participants as in Jin and Erben (2007) or in Hauck (2007); however, the majority of the literature offered superficial exchanges and analyses in terms of intercultural learning. On the other hand, it was visible that there were some participants in the studies who were not happy with the projects. For example, Lee (2011) and Lee and Markey (2014) reported the positive results for their technological interventions but the percentages they gave also included an uneasiness among some few other students. What made the reader suspicious was the lack of the report for this dissatisfaction. Similarly, in Lee (2012), 80% found blogs useful for intercultural learning but it is unknown what the rest felt about blog's integration and its contribution to intercultural learning. Additionally 30% lacked access to computer in the same study but it was not shown how exactly they went through the online intercultural exchange. This silent scream was frequently observed across the literature such as in Ducate and Lomicka (2008), and in Chun (2011) where some participants showed dissatisfaction with online assignments. These are all given to say that the literature may need more elaboration on all of the participants and their experiences in the future.

Necessity for training, guidance and good communication skills

Intercultural interaction through technology has multiple facets as it has been implied so far. Within this complexity, designing a basic online intercultural or cross-cultural telecollaborative environment might not be enough by itself to promote intercultural learning; therefore, the current literature has revealed that there was and will be a need for training participants for technology-based competences or for the required tools before any online exchange takes place (Chun, 2011; Hauck, 2007; Lee & Markey, 2014). However, providing participants with a basic training may not be enough because sometimes it is possible for researchers to realize that the training given is not sufficient for them to maximize the experience (Lee, 2009). Training before the intercultural experience also needs to be designed and implemented carefully by taking unique characteristics of the participating subjects.

Leaving participants alone with people from other cultures may not yield effective communication, which may necessitate a conscious guidance by interculturally competent persons (Angelova & Zhao, 2014; O'Dowd, 2007; Rooks, 2008; Schenker, 2012; Schuetze, 2008). In this sense, Lee (2009; 2011; 2012) suggested a more active, key and facilitating role for instructors. Additionally, O'Dowd (2005; 2007) defined certain roles for teachers to adopt during projects such as organizer, intercultural partner, model and coach, source and resource. O'Dowd (2005) also highlighted an adaptive role for teachers so that teachers should play a constant role in organizing and adapting their guidelines and activities depending on the emerging circumstances. Moreover, Menard-Warwick et al. (2013) and Ware and Kramsch (2005) highly valued the importance of tutor facilitation in their studies. However, there were some opposing voices to the high engagement of instructors in the projects. One argument came from Tudini (2007) who discussed that ICC could develop more in authentic environments than in the places designed and controlled online, so she defended a freer environment for people to interact interculturally. This suggests a moderate involvement of instructors or researchers in the process.

In addition to the key role of facilitators, Rooks (2008) offered a conscious pairing among different cultures because a small problem between them might cast away all the efforts invested for the promotion of intercultural learning. On the other hand, a preliminary trust establishment between teachers and students before a telecollaboration study was offered by Menard-Warwick (2009); in this way, facilitators might ensure exchanges go well and misunderstandings are to be prevented. In addition to guidance, there is also a strong need for everyone involved to have good communication skills in order to handle potential misunderstandings or breakdowns (Elola & Oskoz, 2008; Furcsa, 2009; Hauck, 2007; Lee, 2011).

Need for stimulating contexts

As well as providing training on tools and successful communication, a careful planning should also be considered before implementing an online intercultural project or study. Furcsa (2009) highlights the importance of careful planning and appropriate tasks if instructors aim to create opportunities for productive discussions. It therefore seems that the backbone of successful online intercultural interactions is a meticulous design (Hauck, 2007) or stimulating environments which are intended and organized for the unique characteristics of the participating subjects (Menard- Warwick, 2009).

Designing appropriate environments for a certain profile of people to interact online may not be an easy task to achieve; rather, there are certain steps to consider across the studies such as selection of appropriate technologies and materials, grouping or pairing people wisely, choosing discussion topics carefully, developing ways to handle problem, and perpetuating the communication. The highlighted aspect of topic choice was visible in the studies conducted by O'Dowd (2005), Schuetze (2008), and Zeiss and Isabelli-Garcia (2005). Additionally, Rooks (2008) supported the inclusion of more enjoyable topics to discuss rather than compulsory writings with restricted options. This flexibility of topics was also suggested by Menard-Warwick (2009) to respond to emergent opportunities for discussions.

With respect to the types of digital tools in the studies, Keranen and Bayyurt (2006) underscored the advantages offered by asynchronous communication such as flexibility and in-depth exchanges. Ware and Kramsch (2005) also supported the advantage of asynchronous communication by presenting some difficulties caused by synchronous communication. However, this does not mean that future researchers should give up using synchronous communication tools; rather, they should combine and diversify them to maximize and optimize the intercultural experiences of their unique subjects.

Technical and institutional challenges

As it was reported in research descriptives, most of the studies took around one semester to be completed. The reason for such a time period was generally given as the difficulty of arranging the projects between institutions from different countries for long time periods because each institution or university had different course requirements or even different time zones (Keranen & Bayyurt, 2006; O'Dowd, 2005; Lee & Markey, 2014). This short duration of studies was mentioned in some studies like Angelova and Zhao (2014), Jin and Erben (2007), Menard-Warwick et al. (2013), Rooks (2008), and Ware and Kramsch (2005) in an explicit way, but it is not difficult to sense the time limitation or constraint on the studies overall.

It is also known that there were some invisible subjects in the studies who were not quite happy with the online projects. One reason for this dissatisfaction was lack of technical insufficiency (Chun, 2011). For example, Rooks (2008) explained negative reaction of his participants with "logistic failures." Similarly, Liaw (2006) reported how students found it very frustrating when the system did not work properly. These all suggest another facet of online intercultural learning because placing subjects in an online environment is not sufficient to enable them to engage in a meaningful and productive exchange; sometimes they may simply get distracted by technical breakdowns or get demotivated by short duration of the exchanges.

Concluding remarks

This review on online intercultural learning is well positioned since it has revealed sufficient number of issues to be considered. In terms of research descriptives, it can well be said that studies favored certain contexts, participants and digital tools over others, and technology has attracted a modest but limited number of intercultural researchers. Before further studies are conducted, it is important to revise what this review has brought to light. Figure 4 summarizes all the studies conducted in this field and it does so by benefiting from the interpretative nature of qualitative synthesis.

The literature has showed its own advantages, weaknesses or challenges. Advantages were overall satisfaction with digital tools and intercultural experiences over the Internet or technology, increased knowledge of both own and other cultures, and varied levels of ICC development. As for weaknesses or challenges showed by the literature, most studies tended to report superficial findings without an in-depth analysis, and most of them aimed to measure different aspects of the exchanges at the same time rather than only focusing on intercultural issues, which has left us with scant reports on ICC development. Even though subjects had chances to collaborate, share or discuss, they generally had superficial exchanges, maybe due to their similar backgrounds or to the limited nature of online exchanges. Moreover, experiences of discontent participants were not too visible but still they were sensible, which seems still as a mystery to the literature.


Recommendations for future research and practice

This review offers a number of important recommendations for people who have an intention of utilizing technology in terms of intercultural learning. First of all, the overall picture of the literature (Figure 4) has pushed this study to bring up a number of major necessities. One of them is training of participants for technological tools and good communication skills so that they do not have communication breakdowns or can avoid potential misunderstandings without having any problem with the use of technology. Even if they know how to use technology and how to communicate, they still may face technical challenges at their own institutions, so this technical and communicational aspect is crucial to keep in mind before any project is conducted. Furthermore, there could be differences in time zone, academic calendar or course requirement between institutions, so people who plan to take action in this field should not neglect these technical and institutional challenges.

Training participants does not seem to be sufficient for a successful intercultural communication. A stimulating environment should also be designed meticulously to help participants to feel engaged and maintain their interaction with other cultures. While designing the environment, the diversification of the digital tools should be taken into account in parallel with the unique aspects of the participating subjects and contexts. It is also strongly recommended to utilize some new tools in line with the developing technologies; in this sense, video technologies seem to offer significant opportunities in terms of enriching intercultural contacts for future practices and research (Bray, 2010). Such designs also require interculturally competent facilitators who should be knowledgeable in both cultures and should be aware of theoretical background of intercultural issues.

Duration for future studies is also a key issue. So far technical and institutional challenges have forced researchers to keep their studies short but in the future this issue should be revisited by the researchers in order to present robust, detailed, and longitudinal findings to the literature. Although it is difficult to assess ICC thoroughly in a short time and in an online environment, the future researchers can adopt different and mixed data collection tools to increase the likelihood of robust outcomes. In this sense, models or inventories such as Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) developed by Bennett (1993) or Intercultural Development Inventory offered by Hammer, Bennett and Wiseman (2003) could be utilized for future research aims. Also innovative and in-depth qualitative analyses can be helpful to offer rich and thick descriptions of the experiences. Menard-Warwick (2009) actually presented an innovative linguistic analysis, so in the future more innovative studies in terms of data collection and analysis are expected. This is not to tell Byram's (1997) ICC model has failed to measure what it aimed to measure, but the aim is to bring fresh and in-depth insights into technology-based intercultural learning field. Future researchers therefore should be seeking for in-depth interpretations or intercultural representations gained through digital technologies with the help of theoretical models and tools.

Another prevalent shortcoming in the literature was repeating interactions between similar cultures and age or study groups, which sometimes resulted in poor exchanges. For future practices, it will be a lot better to see exchanges between different study contexts. Interactions between different profiles other than undergraduate students may also provide future research with fresh perspectives. Additionally, dominant aspect of language learning in the studies up to now may have caused researchers to limit themselves; however, future studies with an only intercultural focus and with participants who speak English as a lingua franca may yield more fruitful insights into intercultural issues.

Emrullah Yasin Ciftci

Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education, Ankara, Turkey //

(Submitted March 22, 2015 Revised June 20, 2015 Accepted August 10, 2015)


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O'Dowd, R. (2003). Understanding the "other side": Intercultural learning in a Spanish-English e-mail exchange. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 118-144.

* O'Dowd, R. (2005). Negotiating sociocultural and institutional contexts: The Case of Spanish-American telecollaboration. Language and Intercultural Communication, 5(1), 40-56.

+ O'Dowd, R. (2007). Evaluating the outcomes of online intercultural exchange. ELT Journal, 61(2), 144-152.

Perry, L. B., & Southwell, L. (2011). Developing intercultural understanding and skills: Models and approaches. Intercultural Education, 22(6), 453-466.

* Rooks, M. J. (2008). A Unique opportunity for communication: An Intercultural e-mail exchange between Japanese and Thai students. Computer-Assisted Language Learning -Electronic Journal (CALL-EJ), 10(1). Retrieved from

+ Schenker, T. (2012). Intercultural competence and cultural learning through telecollaboration. Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) Journal, 29(3), 449-470.

* Schuetze, U. (2008). Exchanging second language messages online: Developing an intercultural communicative competence? Foreign Language Annals, 41(4), 660-673.

Suri, H., & Clarke, D. (2009). Advancements in research synthesis methods: From a methodologically inclusive perspective. Review of Educational Research, 79(1), 395-430.

Talkington, B., L. Lengel, & M. Byram. (2004). Setting the context, highlighting the importance: Reflections on interculturality and pedagogy [Article]. Retrieved from

Thorne, S. L. (2003). Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 3867.

+ Tudini, V. (2007). Negotiation and intercultural learning in Italian native speaker chat rooms. The Modern Language Journal, 91(4), 577-601.

* Ware, P. D., & Kramsch, C. (2005). Toward an intercultural stance: Teaching German and English through telecollaboration. The Modern Language Journal, 89(2), 190-205.

* Zeiss, E., & Isabelli-Garcia, C. L. (2005). The role of asynchronous computer mediated communication on enhancing cultural awareness. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18(3), 151-169.

Note. "*" References marked with an asterisk and "+" symbol show these articles were analyzed for this review study.
Appendix A: Analysis table

Study               Subjects                  Study duration

O'Dowd (2005)       An advanced group of      Nine month
                      English learners
                    Students of Spanish

Ware & Kramsch      A learner of German       Three weeks
  (2005)            A learner of English

Zeiss & Isabelli-   US university students    Fall 2001
  Garcia (2005)       engaged in CMC with
                      Mexican university

Liaw (2006)         Freshmen at a Taiwanese   One semester
                      university University
                      students from U.S.

Keranen & Bayyurt   In-service English        Not specified in
  (2006)              teachers from Mexico      details
                    Turkish undergraduate

Hauck (2007)        Adult learners from UK    10 weeks
                    Students from Carnegie
                      Mellon University
                    French native speakers
                      enrolled in a MA
                      program at a
                      French university

Jin & Erben         American university       Eight weeks
  (2007)              level students
                      (Chinese learners)
                    Native speakers of

Liaw (2007)         Freshmen at a             One semester
                      university in Taiwan
                    American students

O'Dowd (2007)       German university         Three qualitative
                      students                  studies between
                    Two American, one           2001 and 2003
                      Irish partner classes

Tudini (2007)       Australian learners of    From April to
                      Italian                   June 2003
                    Native speakers of

Ducate &            German and French         Two semesters
  Lomicka (2008)      language students

Elola &             Spanish intermediate      Spring semester
  Oskoz (2008)        classes from an           of 2007
                      American university

Rooks (2008)        Japanese university       Six weeks
                    Thai university

Schuetze (2008)     Students from             Six weeks in
                      University of British     2004 and Six
                      Columbia and              weeks in 2005
                      University of Kiel

Furcsa (2009)       Pairs of American and     Spring semester
                      Hungarian                 of 2005

Lee (2009)          American undergraduate    Spring of 2008
                      students Spanish

Menard-Warwick      Undergraduate students    Eight weeks
  (2009)              at a Chilean
                    Graduate students at
                      a US university

Liaw & Bunn-Le      Freshman students         One semester
  Master (2010)       majoring in English
                      in Taiwan
                    Pre-service teacher
                      education trainees
                      in the U.S.

Chun (2011)         Students learning         10-week period
                      German at an American
                    Students studying
                      English at a German

Lee (2011)          American undergraduate    One semester
                      students enrolled at
                      a study abroad
                    Spanish local people

Lee (2012)          American study abroad     One semester
                    Native Spanish speakers

Schenker (2012)     American undergraduate    Six weeks
                    German high school

Canto, Jauregi,     University students       February-April
  & van den           forming three groups      2010
  Bergh (2013)      (1. Virtual worlds with
                      native student
                      teachers 2. Video-web
                      communication with
                      native student
                      3. Nonnative-
                      nonnative interaction
                      in the classroom)

Menard-Warwick,     Prospective teachers      Eight weeks
  Heredia-            studying English in
  Herrera, &          Chile
  Palmer (2013)     Graduate students from

Angelova & Zhao     U.S. in-service and       One semester
  (2014)              pre-service teachers
                    Chinese students
                      majoring in English

Lee & Markey        Advanced Spanish          One semester
  (2014)              speakers
                    Advanced English

Study               Technology used          Countries

O'Dowd (2005)       Online message boards    U.S.A.

Ware & Kramsch      Asynchronous online      Germany
  (2005)              discussion board,      U.S.A.

Zeiss & Isabelli-   CMC through              U.S.A.
  Garcia (2005)       text-based messages,   Mexico
                      Electronic bulletin

Liaw (2006)         A web-based              Taiwan
                      environment,           U.S.A.
                      E-referencing tools,
                      Online forums

Keranen & Bayyurt   Online discussion        Mexico
  (2006)              rooms, Blackboard      Turkey

Hauck (2007)        An Internet-mediated,    U.K.
                      audiographic           U.S.A.
                      conferencing           France
                      environment, Blogs

Jin & Erben         Instant Messenger        U.S.A.
  (2007)                                     China

Liaw (2007)         A web-based              Taiwan
                      environment,           U.S.A.
                    E-referencing tools,
                    Online forums

O'Dowd (2007)       Email,                   Germany
                    Online message board,    Ireland
                    Online content           U.S.A.
                    Video conferencing

Tudini (2007)       Chat rooms               Australia

Ducate &            Blogger                  U.S.A.
  Lomicka (2008)

Elola &             Web logs                 U.S.A.
  Oskoz (2008)                               Spain

Rooks (2008)        Email exchanges          Thailand

Schuetze (2008)     Email, WebCT             Canada

Furcsa (2009)       Email messages           Hungary

Lee (2009)          Moodle, Blogger,         Spain
                      Audacity, iMovie       U.S.A.

Menard-Warwick      MSN Messenger            Chile
  (2009)                                     U.S.A.

Liaw & Bunn-Le      A project website        Taiwan
  Master (2010)       called CANDLE          U.S.A.

Chun (2011)         Asynchronous forum       Germany
                      discussions,           U.S.A.
                    Synchronous text chats

Lee (2011)          Blogger, Blackboard,     Spain
                    (Face to face
                      interaction) *

Lee (2012)          Blackboard, Blogger      Spain
                    (Face to face
                      interaction) *

Schenker (2012)     Email exchanges          Germany

Canto, Jauregi,     Adobe-Connect,           The
  & van den           Second Life,           Netherlands
  Bergh (2013)        Open Sim (Classroom    Spain
                      interaction) *

Menard-Warwick,     Online chat groups,      Chile
  Heredia-            MSN Messenger,         U.S.A.
  Herrera, &          Moodle
  Palmer (2013)

Angelova & Zhao     Email functions of       U.S.A
  (2014)              Blackboard,            China
                    Chat rooms,
                    Skype (only one pair),
                    Discussion board
Lee & Markey        Twitter                  Spain
  (2014)            Blogger                  U.S.A.
                    iMovie Movie Maker

Appendix B: A Coding sample for major findings

Lee (2009)   (1) Students reacted positively to the inclusion of
               the online exchange project and (2) were satisfied
               with the outcomes.
             (3) the experience helped them to view cross-cultural
               learning from a different angle.
             (3) They reported that they would not have a deeper
               understanding of certain aspects of spanish culture
               if they did not have an opportunity to have a
               contact with spanish people.
             (4) Some found communication short and unyielding but
               not elaborated on the reasons.
             (5) Instructors played a key role in facilitating
               online exchanges.
             (6) Blogs and (7) podcasting were (8) useful in
               letting students to engage in exchanging ideas.
             (9) Blogs also fostered critical thinking and deeper
               understanding of the topic.
             (10) More than 70% found online tasks time consuming.
             (11) In studies like this, they build the
               environment, group the learners, and observe well
               but report less, so we do not see how deep
               intercultural learning was.

Lee (2009)   (1) Positive reaction
             (2) Satisfaction with the project
             (3) Development of cross-cultural
             (4) Superficial intercultural
             (5) Necessity for guidance
             (6) Blogs as a useful tool
             (7) Podcasting as a useful tool
             (8) Benefits of combining tools
             (9) Blogs for deeper
             (10) Time concern in online
             (11) Superficial reports

             (these codes were then color
               coded and clustered into major
              themes through a constant
               comparison among studies. This
               coding process was done only by
               the author under the supervision
               of an expert.)

Figure 3. Frequency distribution of country
context of participants

Spain             4
USA               18
Germany           5
Taiwan            3
China             2
Chile             2
Ireland           1
Italy             1
The Netherlands   1
Australia         1
Thailand          1
Japan             1
UK                1
Hungary           1
France            1

Canada            1
Turkey            1
Mexico            1

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Date:Apr 1, 2016
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