Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


Globalization leads to an intensification of worldwide social relations linking distant localities(Giddens, 1990), which will result in greater cultural diversity in educational settings. This article isbased on the premise that this diversity can be leveraged into enhanced learning capabilities, which,following Ashby’s law of requisite variety (1956), every system needs that is confronted with growingcomplexity and dynamism in its environment. However, whereas globalization enables closer contactsamong different cultures; it does not inform us how to employ cultural differences. The challenge posedby globalization is therefore how to actually combine the varied ideas, knowledge, and skills of differentcultures in such a way that diversity can indeed be seen as a constant source of critical inquiry, learning,and innovation? Furthermore, how can higher education institutions leverage diversity most productivelyand, in that way, help shape globalization?This article reports on how the Department of Information Management of the University of Amsterdamprepares itself for the effects globalization has and will have on higher education. This department has along record of experimentation with education design and the organization of learning processes, bothrelating to regular bachelor and master programs as well as to postgraduate lifelong learning andcontinuing education initiatives. Out of these experimentations and innovations the learning by sharingframework has evolved that is based upon a social learning theory. The purpose of this article is to showhow diversity can be leveraged through learning by sharing.The article is organized as follows. First, the mutual relationship between globalization and diversity isexplored. Then, five categories of globalization implications for higher education are distinguished,which are all further detailed and explained. Next, the learning by sharing framework is presented as onebottom up response of one department that is increasingly facing the challenge of globa lization andleveraging diversity. Furthermore, three recent education initiatives of the Department of InformationManagement are discussed, showing how the five categories of globalization effects on higher educationcan be exploited in concrete educational settings. They also indicate that leveraging diversity is alearning process in itself. The lessons that can be derived from the three education initiatives aretherefore explicitly discussed in the final section.