Publication Date

1999

Abstract

This Capstone paper focuses on the use of electronic mail (e-mail) in the cross-cultural context of communication between international applicants and admissions staff at college and university-based intensive English language programs (IEPs) in the U.S. Viewing the e-mail exchanges between these two groups as a unique intersection of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and cross-cultural interaction, the central question of the inquiry is framed as follows: How does the use of electronic mail technology between applicants and admissions officers affect the admissions process at university-based intensive English language programs? In order to address the primary research question, data is presented and analyzed from a study conducted among two directly impacted constituencies: international students of English at the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP) at Boston University, and admissions staff from IEPs across the country. Both the student and staff groups completed written questionnaires which revealed demographic data about the individuals and the institutions, details about methods of communication employed during the admissions process, and information around perceived levels of "satisfaction" with the admissions process. The study results guide the author to the conclusion that "success" or "failure" of the e-mail communication between the international applicants and the admissions staff is largely a function of three salient factors in the exchange: speed, access and tone. Practical recommendations include the need for a deeper understanding of how international applicants experience CMC with admissions staff, a commitment to a multi-faceted admissions process, and the development of institutional policies that make the most of on-line technologies. This study is highly relevant for U.S.-based educators working with all types of inbound international populations. Many concepts can also be helpful for individuals working more generally in simultaneously cross-cultural and computer-mediated contexts.

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