The paper argues that the different dimensions of collaboration - intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary - contribute to mutual understanding and empathy. Their intersection fosters self-reflection and reveals shortcomings, blind spots, and prejudices about other cultures, disciplines, and social groups. The course aimed to overcome technology-driven design practices that tend to (re)produce stereotypes or social exclusions - often unconsciously. To make students aware of such problems, we introduced them to Feminist Science and Technology Studies, which show how dimensions such as age, class, and gender affect socio-technological participation. Moreover, we introduced user-centered and participatory design methods (contextual interviews, scenario-based design, design forecasting) that the teams had to adapt to pandemic conditions to conduct participatory research and propose design scenarios. The empirical course evaluation by the students indicates that the pedagogical concept, which we conceptualized as an extended version of a 'Third Space', allowed for intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary learning experiences and improved collective student and team performance, transcending culturally- and disciplinary-specific situatedness.

In our analysis, we reflect on the power of the different forms of collaborations and their contribution to teaching future researchers, designers, and engineers how to engage with another's point of view. We consider this ability a prerequisite for acting responsibly in a globalized digital world. Results from the study are contextualized in current debates on internationalization and digitalization in the educational sciences and translated into recommendations for practitioners.

Practitioner Notes

  1. In order to acquire global competencies - understood as the ability to work with people who define problems differently than oneself - students need opportunities for intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary collaborative learning.
  2. Intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary collaborations in educational settings foster mutual understanding and empathy. All three dimensions of collaboration contribute to reflecting on and questioning seemingly self-evident facts by revealing shortcomings, blind spots, or prejudices about other cultures, disciplines and social groups. They uncover knowledge about one’s own (disciplinary) culture and social belonging. Intersecting intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary collaborations reinforces these effects.
  3. The authors observed that intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary collaborations provide effective learning experiences when students from different cultural and disciplinary backgrounds work together on projects with people affected by specific issues. In such research-oriented and project-based courses, teachers need to create a space in which students can find appropriate ways of collaborating (e.g., considering and integrating diverse time frames and capacities, mindsets, as well as individual working approaches and routines).
  4. Intercultural, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary educational settings offer collaboration possibilities for people at various levels of study. Inexperienced students in the early stages should be integrated into supportive teams that include students from later semesters. All students should be accompanied by experienced teachers offering theoretical and practical advice.
  5. Digital technologies, platforms, and tools offer students opportunities for long-distance, intercultural collaborations and thus intercultural experiences without travelling. However, virtual-only university collaborations crossing continents are challenging with regard to structural and organizational differences in schedules, time zones, and performance evaluation that often require individual solutions. Consequently, teachers and students who aim to undertake such a rewarding endeavor have to spend extra time and work on experimenting with different media, tools, and teaching and learning practices to adjust those to the specific participants and contexts.