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Top 5 ways to internationalize your curriculum

A recent survey of more than 300 employers shows only 1 in 4 believe colleges or universities are doing a good job of preparing students for the challenges of a global economy. Two-thirds of the survey group said colleges should place a greater emphasis on teaching students the ability to understand the global context of situations and decisions, while 71 percent said students need to develop teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings ("Raising the Bar," Hart Research Associates, January 2010).

International understanding is important for the stability and future of the United States. Through international education, students can gain exposure to the knowledge needed to be globally aware and to succeed in a globally engaged society. Colleges and universities must consider their role in helping to build a citizenry of more internationally informed, connected, concerned and responsible individuals. One way that colleges and universities can address these issues is by promoting study abroad opportunities through curricular integration of internationalization initiatives.

1) Add a course or set of courses for students to take abroad into your university’s general education requirements. Reason: International understanding is important for college graduates. As indicated by many studies, including the recent Hart survey, exposure to diverse environments is a critical outcome desired by future employers. Adding a course or set of courses in the general education requirements also clearly demonstrates institutional commitment to international education.

How CEA can help: CEA Global Education can provide assistance in reviewing required general education curriculum or competency areas. CEA’s academic team also can provide specific recommendations for current CEA courses that match your existing curriculum or work with your faculty to develop appropriate courses that will align with your universities’ general education or major-specific requirements.

2) Add education abroad graduation requirements in key majors. Reason: There are several majors for which international exposure is critical for success (i.e., business, language, global studies or area studies, etc).

How CEA can help: CEA offers robust curriculum for a wide variety of academic disciplines and can partner with your university to identify certain destinations that lend well to the requirements of particular majors and/or tailor curriculum to meet the needs of your major requirements. CEA offers standard curriculum or can develop customized faculty-led and group program options to help fulfill any such requirements.

3) Develop and offer freshmen programs abroad. Reason: Use education abroad as a tool to differentiate your institution in student outreach and recruitment. First-year students interested in study abroad are often independent, adventurous and open for a challenge. Freshmen are likely to have more freedom in course selection before being locked into their major of study, and have yet to establish their routines on campus that may get in the way of studying abroad later in their college career. As a university sending students abroad during their first year, you will build a pipeline of internationally minded students early in their college career. Preliminary research findings suggest that participants in freshmen abroad programs are more likely to go abroad again later in their college career.

How CEA can help: CEA offers specially designed early-college models, including freshmen semester abroad programs at multiple Global Campus locations. These programs are strategically designed for first-year college students and offer freshmen a safe and structured opportunity to challenge themselves and enjoy a semester abroad during their first year of college.

4) Identify experiential learning opportunities that can be fulfilled by participating in specifically designed service-learning, volunteer and/or internship programs abroad. Reason: Research shows greater learning when students actively engage in their own learning process. Experiential learning offers students opportunities to better understand the meaning of their experience through direct involvement in active learning. More emphasis is placed on student skill development and involves critical higher-order thinking skills in this model of learning.

How CEA can help: CEA programs offer universities the chance to structure service learning or volunteer opportunities within faculty-led or group programs; or you may choose from our existing internship offerings that offer students practical experience toward their degree and future career.

5) Internationalize your faculty experience base. Reason: Faculty members are key to internationalizing curriculum. By providing your faculty with opportunities to travel and teach abroad, they will gain a better understanding of and bring ideas about how to internationalize their teaching back home to their campuses.

How CEA can help: CEA can support faculty-led program development at any of our Global Campus, Global Alliance or Global Partner locations in 16 countries around the world. CEA Global Education’s academic team will assist U.S. faculty on the curricular planning of their courses by providing specific suggestions and making arrangements for related lectures, resources, site visits, and more.

Dr. Paige Sindt is the Director of Custom Programs at CEA Global Education.

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