Internationalising the 98% of your students

Internationalising the 98% of your students

Only 2% of students are internationally mobile. Yet, as we all know, the global employment market is increasingly integrated and employers need graduates equipped with international skills and competences. To allow for the remaining 98% of students to gain the international experience and skills they need, institutions have to facilitate the transfer of these skills to their local students through internationalising their classrooms.

This blog post will discuss the alternatives at your disposal and how to go about doing this in practice.

Different international classrooms

Many European higher education institutions in non-English speaking countries are currently starting to offer some or all of their programmes in English, which has stirred much debate about both the quality of teaching and the weakening of local languages. However, making a classroom international is about much more than the language, which does not even need to be English. An international classroom can take the form of a classroom with an international orientation in the choice of international literature, case studies and methodology. The lectures can be delivered in the local language to local students. Nevertheless, in this case the local language may limit the usage of international literature and guest lecturers.

In general, an international classroom consists of a local lecturer and international and local students. To ensure that all students benefit from this international approach, it is important that the international and local students take part in the same classes. The classes may be delivered in the local or a second language.

Another option is setting up a virtual international classroom by for instance bringing together online students from different institutions worldwide. In this case, choosing a reliable and compatible software to facilitate the delivery of lectures is crucial, as is cooperating with international partners to develop and deliver the classes. To facilitate the learning and motivate the students, blended learning is a viable option to purely virtual learning.

Language, culture and learning

In practice, a decision has to be made on the language of instruction. Whether the local or a second language is used, for some of the students the language will be foreign so it is crucial to adjust the teaching methods (ie through the use of more visuals, increasing the level of interactivity, the number of Q&A sessions etc) in order to ensure that students from different backgrounds can follow and take part in the class. If a second language is chosen, it is important to ensure that lecturers have a sufficient command of the second language on a general and subject-specific level and they possess the ability to teach in the second language.

In addition, the culture and learning styles of the students’ country of origin can have an impact due to differences in education characteristics and expected classroom behavior. Each international classroom is hence unique and depends on the mix of nationalities in the classroom. It is important to actively take the different learning cultures into account and, even though the international classroom can have distinct local characteristics, seek to provide an open learning environment for all students, local and international alike. Home students, even if they might be open to international experiences, will most likely expect the teaching to be similar to what they are used to. These expectations should not be allowed to dominate the teaching.

Curriculum development

Developing and delivering lectures in an international classroom is very time-consuming. Making an international curriculum is more than simply translating already existing materials into a second language. The institution may choose to jointly develop curricula with partner institutions, which may be enriching for both parties through exchanging knowledge and benchmarking the quality of the curricula. Even though the Bologna process has made developing joint curricula easier, many obstacles still remain in the form of views on education and learning.

Establishing a truly international classroom that allows for effective learning and development of international skills can be a challenging endeavor. However, when done successfully, it is highly rewarding for the students, the lecturer and the institution as a whole.

The article is based on chapter 3 of the EAIE Professional Development Series “Implementing Internationalisation at Home”.