In this day and age, students tend to be quite comfortable with and may even prefer to use Internet-based technologies to communicate with one another. Extending the use of various forms of online communication (e.g., Facebook, Skype, teleconferencing, blogs) to student groups is a natural extension of the way students use technology for corresponding with their classmates and friends. The Internet has enormous potential for assisting in internationalization efforts among student psychology organizations through online collaboration and exchange of ideas and resources.
There continues to be a growing trend with the use of the Web to internationalize the psychology curriculum (Power & Velayo, 2006; Velayo, 2004). For instance, many psychology instructors use social media in their teaching in an effort to internationalize their courses (Velayo, 2011). Going virtual can contribute to going global. Student psychology organizations can provide the extra-curricular means to infuse a more international perspective about psychology in their communications with their members. Presumably, many of their members already have the necessary technological knowledge and skills to communicate via the Web. Students are therefore resources that may be tapped by these organizations to help extend their reach to other student groups around the world.
Benefits of an Internationalized Student Psychology Organization
Through Internet-based technologies, students from different locations are able to collaborate on projects and groups can interact across the globe toward a common goal. There are numerous student organizations that would benefit from the use of such collaborative technologies. Some of these organizations include: Psi Chi (The International Honor Society in Psychology), APAGS (American Psychological Association of Graduate Students), and the APSSC (Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus), as well as university psychology clubs and student groups that share common interests in psychology. The use of collaborative technologies allows for electronic files to be shared and even viewed almost instantly in correspondence. Besides convenience and efficiency, how else does the Internet enhance interorganizational communications? O’Brien (2007) pointed out that "Globally-distributed teamwork mediated by effective use of digital technologies can motivate and influence people to approach cross-cultural communication and cultural exchanges with greater sensitivity, understanding, and ethical awareness in order to bring about positive international and social relations” (p. 4). Students are able to examine the information exchanged from a number of contexts and viewpoints. Additionally, they derive more immediate feedback from each other and allow for decisions to be made efficiently and problems to be solved more effectively.
The Internet can provide a bridge between student organizations in different universities and countries, allowing them to communicate freely. Technology can act as "a foundation for global collaborations later on in life” (O’Brien, 2007, p. 5). "The use of the Internet in education, and the doors it opens [...] gives the student ‘global experience’ not only through the social factor but also in a technical way” (O’Brien, 2007, p. 5). For example, some of the more readily accessible instant messaging technologies (e.g., Skype, GoogleTalk, FaceTime, GoToMeeting) have textual, audio, and video capabilities that can be used for meetings with student leaders from around the world to share ideas, research, and new developments (Bekkering, 2006). Student groups can conveniently and easily share meetings, events and activities, announcements, and recognition for students in different countries for their leadership and scholarship. Moreover, students can participate and even present their work at meetings held online. Interactive sessions allow for questions and feedback at such events from anywhere in the world provided participants have Internet access.
Recommendations for Student Psychology Organizations
Many student psychology organizations and groups are affiliated with institutions of higher learning or are under the umbrella of professional psychology organizations. It is therefore imperative that specific goals associated with the use of such technologies be clearly defined in order to decide which specific technologies may be needed and determine how these may be best used by the organization. There are hardware, software, and bandwidth requirements associated with using the Internet. In order for crossnational communications to be efficient, the technologies used should be available to the students in the student organization all participating countries. Open-source communication platforms should not only be relatively easy to learn and use, but must also be compatible with the technologies in other countries. User knowledge and familiarity must be established. Examples of these kinds of platforms are in the form of social media —Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Skype, GoogleTalk, and YouTube. The technologies must be in place before addressing the issue of how communications may be made more effective when corresponding online.
In order for psychology organizations to successfully manage and use technology efficiently and effectively, a high level of organization and coordination is crucial. A centralized source of IT (Information Technology) personnel is needed to monitor how these technologies are being used and to routinely obtain feedback from its users on how they may be better implemented or whether there are other, more worthy technologies available. Motivated students who are familiar with the use of social media can effectively help facilitate and monitor the use of social media to reach out to members around the globe. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that students who serve as IT personnel may be limited in the duration of their involvement in the organization, such as when they graduate. It is therefore important to establishing a system of training and a set of protocols in the use of these technologies to assure a smooth transition between student IT personnel.
Psi Chi, for example, continues to expand with chapters in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Egypt, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and two more approved in Barbados and in Trinidad and Tobago. Psi Chi may encourage collaborations between its international chapters, by promoting submissions for inter-chapter grants on collaborative projects that utilize Web-based technologies. Having virtual meetings and conferences, informal meet-and-greet sessions, utilizing Facebook as a way for members to discuss relevant psychologyrelated issues or using Web-based online surveys to collect data from various regions of the world, are some examples by which the Web may be used to promote interchapter collaborations.
Anticipated Difficulties in Implementation
Access to Internet-based technologies may be limited in other countries, reducing their students’ ability to communicate internationally. Furthermore, language barriers could potentially serve as an issue for communication between cultures. In addition, cultural and sociopolitical views regarding technology may hinder individuals from accessing certain information or software on the Internet because of government regulations.
Assessing Internationalization Efforts
effectiveness of using Internet-based technology may be based on identifiable outcome measures. A strong indicator of success would be the development of international communication and conferences. Another positive outcome is an increase in the number of coordinated virtual presentations and publications that ensue from long-distance collaboration between students. Moreover, if collaborative use and production of wikis and Google documents between students in multiple cultures expands, it bodes well for the continued use of the technology to facilitate cross-cultural collaborations. Other indicators may include the following: an increase in international student attendance and involvement in international, national, regional, and in-state psychology conferences; more cross-national research collaborations between students; and greater number of student-authored research related to international and cross-cultural psychology.
Global Reach of Facebook
Cheredar (2012) pointed out that Facebook, the most popular social networking site, had over 825 million active users worldwide as of December 31, 2011, and can be accessed in more than 70 different languages. An average of 483 million people log on to Facebook every day (Cheredar, 2011). Of this number, 161 million come from the U.S., 46 million from India, and 37 million from Brazil. The percentage of Facebook users in various countries is astonishing: 80% of all Internet users in Chile, Turkey, and Venezuela, 60% of all Internet users in the U.S. and U.K., 20-30% of all Internet users in Brazil, Germany, and India, and 15% of all Internet users in Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Unsurprisingly, there is zero percent penetration in countries that restrict Facebook, such as in China. The global reach of Facebook, and many other Internetbased technologies, is tremendous. Its use by so many students and various academic, professional, and business organizations is indicative of the future of interorganizational communications in a world that is increasingly becoming more global and interconnected. Many student psychological organizations routinely use collaborative technologies to share ideas, collect data, hold virtual conferences, and more. The burning question is how can we best utilize these powerful communication tools to aid with internationalizing our student psychology organizations, and in turn, internationalize psychology. Let us begin to explore the ways.
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Cheredar, T. (2012). Facebook user data: 845M monthly users, 2.7B daily likes & comments. VentureBeat. Retrieved from HERE
O’Brien, A., Alfano, C., & Magnusson, E. (2007). Improving crosscultural communication through collaborative technologies. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 4744, 125-131, DOI: 10.1007/978-3- 540-77006-0_17.
Power, F., & Velayo, R. (2006, Winter). Hello world!: The case for internationalizing the psychology curriculum. International Psychology Reporter, 10, 10-11.
Velayo, R. (2004). Extending our reach: Focal points that help internationalize psychology. International Psychology Reporter, 8, 1-4.
Velayo, R. (2011, Winter). Internationalizing the teaching of psychology by using emerging social media. Eye on PsiChi, 15(2), 6-7.