Effects of online and direct contact on Chinese international students’ social capital in intercultural networks: testing moderation of direct contact and mediation of global competence

Abstract

Chinese international students often face daunting challenges of building intercultural networks and receiving support from outgroup members. To facilitate their social integration, this study proposed a research model investigating the relationships of online and direct intergroup contact to social capital in intercultural networks (social support resource networks built among culturally different students). We also examined whether the three dimensions of global competence (global knowledge, attitudes, and skills) can mediate these relationships and whether direct contact can moderate the relationships of online contact to global competence and social capital. Data were collected from 210 Chinese students in Belgium. The results revealed that direct contact was positively related to both bonding and bridging social capital, through the mediators of global skills and attitudes. Online contact was related to the predicted variables in a more complex way. The moderation analyses revealed direct contact as an important moderator that modified effects of online contact. Specifically, online contact was positively related to global skills and bonding social capital at low, rather than high, levels of direct contact. Besides, online contact was negatively related to global attitudes at low, rather than high, levels of direct contact.

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Funding

The study is funded by the Humanities and Social Sciences Project of the Ministry of Education of China (Grant Number 18YJC740063)

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Correspondence to Chun Cao.

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Cao, C., Meng, Q. Effects of online and direct contact on Chinese international students’ social capital in intercultural networks: testing moderation of direct contact and mediation of global competence. High Educ 80, 625–643 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-020-00501-w

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Keywords

  • Chinese international student
  • Direct contact
  • Online contact
  • Global competence
  • Social capital