Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Internationalisation in Higher Education

Yesterday Professor Glynis Cousin from the University of Wolverhampton, in the UK, led discussions around the internationalisation of higher education with staff from our university.
According to Professor Cousins, internationalisation is more about providing opportunities for overseas students to interact with Australian students, so that both groups develop cross cultural understanding and gain knowledge/experience that will advantage them after they graduate from the institution. Professor Cousins suggested that internationalisation is often thought of in terms of making the curriculum more internationally relevant, but this is not what her research suggest that international students actually want.
"International students want to learn and socialise with local students" Professor Cousins insisted. She indicated that including teamwork that included a diverse mix of international and domestic students was perhaps the most effective way of ensuring a sharing of skills, expertise and cultural understanding.

So where would you begin to achieve a high level of internationalisation in higher education in Australia? If Professor Cousins is correct, two immediate changes are required:
  1. Stop quarantining international students in learning situations where there are few, if any Australian students.
  2. Begin with your course/unit assessment and design problem-based assessment that requires at least some teamwork and where the context is global and student teams are allocated to include high levels of cultural diversity.
Internationalisation in education is desirable, both from a commercial marketing perspective and in producing students who are more globally and culturally aware. Graduating students who have had direct experience working and learning in a global community offers much, and has the potential to enhance the reputation and standing of the university.

4 comments:

VRBones said...

Another issue arising from the findings would be that international students want internal study, not external study or studying at an overseas Uni from home.

To make external courses more appealing to international students, a greater focus on peer interaction and connectedness would need to be in place rather than forums, emails and study guides through Blackboard.

Scot said...

Hi Tony,

While I'm sure there are international students who would wish to continue to work in their home country and gain an Australian qualification online, I think that they would be in a minority. Often these students feel isolated and intimidated by the online learning environment that is in and uses their second/third etc language.
Getting these students to post to a forum in English causes them much angst and they are more likely to send an email to their lecturer.

What kinds of peer interaction in external courses would you suggest?

Best,

Scot.

VRBones said...

To me, connectedness starts with presence. Online presence tools would be IM (MSN,AIM,ICQ, etc), IRC, Skype, TeamSpeak/Vent, "Who's online" sections of websites, etc. Ideally you would like to know who's studying the same section as you and who is also available for chat if you're looking for help or just someone to bounce ideas off. Presence wanes if you cannot tell what they are doing at the moment or their availability.

The need for peer interaction can spring up from many areas, but the spark may be dead by the time they have jumped through the hoops of getting to the forum. It's almost like you need a permanent elluminate session going to help facilitate immediate interactivity with others. Immediacy is also helped by applications such as Twitter, IM, IRC, Skype, etc... but they usually lack the context of the situation, so providing the background before getting a conversation going could still be a road block.

I keep thinking of peer interaction in an external course should be like a study group in the library. Most of the time you're not talking, but researching / writing, or completing the tasks of the course. You always know that others are there though, and more or less where they are up to. You can ask a couple of questions if you need to, but it has to be important enough to interrupt the other person from their study, and don't want to talk too long or too loud because you'll disrupt the whole group. Starting a chat is just a nudge away though.

I don't see it as organised tutorials. They would also need to be in place where there is more structure to the flow of the conversation, and an expectation of deeper conversation. Maybe a dedicated place to propose / conduct tutorial sessions like a Ning calendar for a skype chat?

That all said, if I were an exchange student I'd want to be at the Uni, in the reso college, with enough time to spare to really soak up the atmosphere and culture...

VRBones said...

A neat slideshare from Scott Wilson on presence.