Undergrads Gain Hands-On International HR Experience
New technology has allowed the Carlson School to expand its global educational reach. This past spring, undergraduate students participating in international business course Human Resources Management in Australia (IBUS 3021), used Skype and ITV technology to learn from and interact with students from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
Taught by MA-HRIR Program Director Stacy Dopener-Hove and Instructor Amy Falink in Minnesota, and HR Instructor Dr. Bernd Irmer in Australia, the course encouraged U.S. and Australian students to work together on assignments and projects.
"The goal was to introduce students to concepts of virtual teaming and cross-cultural communication, and learn how human resources can play out in a global context" says Doepner-Hove.
Doepner-Hove traveled to Australia in May with 30 students to finish and present their final projects with the Australian students. The students first spent a few days in Sydney where they visited organizations and learned more about comparative HR. They also attended lectures at the University of Technology Sydney.
They then made their way to Brisbane where they met with the classmates they had seen so much of, yet had never met in person.
The course was designed to deal with the extreme time difference: Carlson School students attended class in the evening, while the Australian students took class in the morning. During the online portion of the class, both groups agreed to have an IT person in each classroom to keep the technology problems to a minimum, though the extra help was not needed most of the time.
While technological problems were minimal, Falink knew the importance of being as clear as possible with instructions.
"I would suggest to anyone attempting this in the future to leave nothing to interpretation, plan everything," she says. "For instance, we had lesson plans down to the minute for each class."
Carlson School junior Charlie Maahs initially decided to participate in the class because it was in a convenient location, and seemed an interesting option for a required course, but soon realized all the class had to offer.
"I couldn't have asked for a more fun group of people and I made a lot of friends during my time in this class," Maahs says.
Studying international business with students in a different country helped Maahs realize there are differences in HR policies around the world.
"Contrasting the laws in the United States to laws in Australia, our two seemingly similar countries treat employees very differently," Maahs said.
For example, in Australia it is required by law that every full-time employee must receive a minimum of four weeks paid vacation, and many companies provide additional vacation time as an incentive.
"People work to live, and their laws reflect that," Maahs said.
Australian instructor Irmer chose to teach this collaborative course because of increasing globalization.
"It was a fantastic educational experience from my end," Irmer says. "It was great to see the student groups develop despite the challenges and deliver such great applied and practical presentations."
The Australian students also had positive experiences learning and working with the Carlson School students, and it gave them a new perspective on human resources. One student said, "I was surprised how much I learnt about Australian HR because I needed to know it to explain it to my U.S. counterparts. It also made me question why we do things the way we do them."
According to Maahs, the most difficult part of the course was working around the time difference. Also, because the students weren't physically present to explain confusing topics and ask questions, they needed to be specific with group members about everyone's expectations and deadlines.
But this only increased conversation between the Australian and University of Minnesota students, creating a stable relationship before the students met in person.
"Meeting them in person was completely different, and everyone was a lot more comfortable since we sort of knew them before we got there," Maahs says.