World events have sparked new thinking about international education, education abroad, and virtual global learning. They have provided a tremendous opportunity to develop intentionally designed, virtual experiences that focus on learning outcomes, incorporate diverse perspectives, engage more stakeholders, and connect to institutional strategic plans in meaningful ways. It’s a win-win scenario for education abroad – if we approach the design and delivery of virtual global learning experiences in ways that add true value.
Virtual Global Learning & Education Abroad
It’s not one or the other. Virtual global learning is not a substitution for student mobility. Though if we view virtual programming as another tool in our toolkit, we have the opportunity to create innovative, rich programming for students while supporting education abroad professionals in extending their collaborations both on and off-campus. We can envision new program models that incorporate virtual learning in ways that maximize on the ground experiences and that engage even more students than we would ever be able to send abroad. This will require reaching out to both longstanding allies in academic and student affairs as well as potential new partners in areas like instructional design, centers for teaching excellence, and career services. The virtual platform also affords EA professionals the opportunity to more readily engage off-campus partners, such as community organizations, country-specific trade commissions, and start-ups, in unique global learning opportunities.
Institutional Scan & Considering the Options
Getting started can seem overwhelming, and maybe a bit uncomfortable as EA professionals extend their scope beyond traditional outbound mobility. But it doesn’t have to be. Virtual global learning happens along a continuum from full-on COIL arrangements to the incorporation of guest lecturers into existing courses, to experiential options like internships and consulting projects. Start by understanding the options and determining a virtual global learning baseline that is feasible and manageable given your institutional context – and build out from there to include more options, structures, and partners. Recognize that to develop thoughtful, sustainable virtual initiatives, the process shouldn’t be approached as a short term band-aid but rather as one element of a more comprehensive plan for campus internationalization.
Intentional Design of Virtual Global Learning Programming
Once you have identified opportunities to connect virtual global learning with your strategic plan(s), connected with on- and off-campus stakeholders, and have a sense of what virtual global learning could/should look like on your campus, the next step is figuring out how to best develop and implement these experiences. Start by determining the desired student learning outcomes and use them to drive your program design. Do your faculty want students to be exposed to international subject matter experts or varying cultural perspectives? Or have your conversations with career services and employers identified a need for students to have deeper, cross-cultural work experiences that encourage them to further develop soft skills like critical thinking and dealing with ambiguity? These goals should drive your virtual global learning program plan and design.
The Value Proposition: Positive Student Learning Outcomes
Is spending the time, effort, and resources to develop and incorporate virtual global learning experiences into your international education portfolio worth it? If done well, the answer is yes. While more research on the outcomes of virtual global learning is needed, initial data indicates there is value in this endeavor.* Students are learning – and gaining the skills they need to become successful intercultural leaders.** Education abroad professionals are enhancing their value to their institutions and expanding their own scope of expertise. And finally, given the virtual nature of these experiences, we are more readily able to incorporate diverse voices in a way that creates and enhances mutually beneficial relationships – and fosters a sense of the Global We.
CIS Abroad is committed to supporting our partners both in the U.S and abroad – and igniting each student’s potential for changing themselves and changing their world. For more information on how we can support you in your efforts to develop virtual global learning experiences and internationalize your campus, just get in touch to schedule an initial conversation with our Academic Affairs staff. And in the meantime, visit our Campus Internationalization page or download our Virtual Campus Internationalization brochure for ideas.
For more details, take a look at the initial Virtual Global Internship learning outcomes assessment report for CIS Abroad’s summer intern cohort.
To hear what CIS Abroad alumni have said about their virtual global learning experiences, in their own words, check out their blogs.