South African Journal of Higher Education

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Dealing with diversity in a virtual learning community across two universities

P Rohleder, W Fish, A Ishmail, L Padfield, D Platen


The authors report on their experiences as participants in the Community, Self and Identity Project; a collaborative teaching and research project between the University of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch University. The project aimed to provide fourth year social work and psychology students the opportunity to become part of a shared ‘community of practice\', where students could work and learn together, and become co-creators of knowledge. It provided the participating students with the opportunity to engage in critical interactions with one another, across racial and class differences. One of the researchers and facilitator for the project, together with four of the participating students, describe their overall impressions of the project; the challenges faced in talking about differences; the effects of facilitation; and some of the group polarization that emerged. The authors conclude that the contact provided by the CSI project, may not have reduced prejudices, however an awareness was created of the importance of acknowledging silenced issues and reflection on one\'s own assumptions.
The article highlights the necessity for higher education institutions to create opportunities for students to engage in dialogue across differences.

J South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 21 (7) 2008: pp. 893-906
AJOL African Journals Online