Internationalised online education offers a valuable window for research into the cultural processes of globalisation. This paper reports preliminary findings of a doctoral project about cultural difference in an online MBA unit with an internationalised student group. The case study was conducted as a critical ethnography (Carspecken 1996) adapted to virtual settings (Hine 2000). The study was also informed by a critical realist frame (Bhaskar 2002) which recognises the ontological level of potentials that can shape events, in addition to the empirical (that which is observable) and the actual (that which occurred). Cultural difference has typically been associated with negative potentials in pedagogical settings, in particular, the risks/problems of exclusion, disadvantage, and cultural offence. In emerging discourses of internationalisation, however, cultural difference is often constructed as potentially beneficial, enriching the mutual exchange of new insights. In this case study, the negative potential of intercultural offence and the positive potential of cultural difference as a vicarious asset for the curriculum were influential in shaping how the texts/interaction were designed and conducted. This paper will report in summary a variety of ways in which processes of cultural differencing realised both negative and positive potentials in the case study unit
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