Trends and Good Practices to Consider
Important "trends" and good practices in education abroad:
- Start with clear learning outcomes (see below), and revisit them often.
- Integrate the program/course into the UNL curriculum: offer something students need and want to study. Find a course number that meets ACE, college, or major/minor requirements.
- Incorporate experiential learning when possible (internships, service learning, or research).
- Build tourist experiences into the academic content on the program; build connections.
- Make sure there is an obvious tie to the selected location(s).
- Incorporate meaningful interactions with people/peers in host country (avoid creating an American “island” abroad).
- A longer program may have a larger impact, but a shorter program with significant reflection could be just as powerful.
- Avoid itinerant “study tours” that include primarily tourist activities. Staying in one place for a longer period allows students to feel like they are living abroad rather than just traveling.
- Identify a reliable on-site coordinator for logistics, support, emergency response, etc. in the host country.
- Use host families if possible, or other living arrangements that provide opportunities for authentic interaction.
- Work with the Alumni Association to identify local alum who can provide your students with enrichment opportunities.
Utilize the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad developed by The Forum on Education Abroad.
Guidelines for Developing Learning Outcomes for Education Abroad
Learning outcomes are basically a series of statements articulating what you want students to know and be able to do upon completion of your education abroad offering.
Learning outcomes should represent:
- what students will learn instead of what they will be taught
- what students will demonstrate, represent, or produce because of their learning
- learning that could be reasonably observed and measured at the time students complete their program
Articulating your learning outcomes helps you make better decisions about program activities and helps you sell the program to students. They also help shift your program from tourism to education.
Examples of learning outcomes:
At the end of the program, a student will be able to:
- describe and analyze Guyana's agricultural and mining activities.
- articulate Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of that strategy as implemented
- express a preliminary understanding of the different world-view of the local culture on a variety of religious, social and/or political issues
- demonstrate an improved competency in spoken Arabic
- order food in Mandarin
- demonstrate a level of facility communicating with people from other linguistic and/or cultural backgrounds
- articulate an understanding of what it means to be the other, to be a stranger in an unfamiliar land
- demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the cultural differences that exist between the cultural values of the student and the local culture
- articulate an awareness of the social, political and economic state of the local community
- discuss an international perspective on his/her discipline
Experiences, Activities, and Assignments
The majority of scheduled activities should tie directly to the learning outcomes, with a few "just for fun" activities scattered throughout the program. Consider incorporating the following into your itinerary:
- Guest lectures or seminars by local professors and experts;
- Site visits to relevant companies, organizations, schools, government agencies, etc.;
- Opportunities to interact with local students/peers (discussions, projects, fashion shows, meals, etc.);
- Job shadowing of alumni;
- Meetings and Q&A with local leaders, practitioners, researchers, artists, etc.;
- Guided tours of relevant museums and cultural/historical sites;
- Structured journaling assignments;
- Regularly-scheduled group discussions for reflection and processing;
- Welcome and/or farewell dinner with hosts;
- Service learning projects, alongside local partners; and
- Photography or video project;
Location is one of the most important factors to consider when planning and promoting an education abroad program.
- Which city, country, or region best fits your course theme and learning outcomes?
- Would you consider the location to be immediately appealing to students, or will you have to work to sell the idea to them? If so, how will you effectively sell it?
- Do you (or does UNL) have a relationship with host institutions in that country?
- What type of city/cities would best serve your program goals? A big city (modern or historical), a rural, developing area, or a combination?
- Large cities may pose more saftey concerns, whereas smaller or more remote towns may pose concerns with access to medical care.
- Is there access to public transportation? If not, is the lack of public transportation a significant barrier to meeting the needs of the program itinerary?
- How far is the location from Nebraska? Generally, long-distance flights will be considerably more expensive.
- Countries with U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings will not be approved for University of Nebraska students. For more information, read more about the University of Nebraska's Travel Warning policy.
The primary language spoken in the host country may pose logistical challenges for you and/or your students.
- How widely spoken is English in the host country?
- Do you speak the primary language of the host country? If so, how well? If not, how will you compensate for that? Do you have a co-leader or teaching assistant who can speak the language? Will you have an on-site coordinator or guide translating for you and the students?
- How many of your students do you anticipate will have some applicable language skills?
- Will students with no language skills be able to spend some free time exploring, or will the group need to stay together at all times?
- Will the students be offered a crash course in the language either prior to departure or on-site?
- Consider the dialect of the language as well, as dialects vary by region, country, and city.
Program Length & Timing
The length of the program and the timing during the year can be just as critical as the location in helping to make the program appealing to as many students as possible.
- How long does the group need to be abroad to achieve the learning outcomes? If language learning is a top priority, plan to stay abroad for at least four weeks.
- How long are you (the leader) willing and able to be abroad given your personal and professional obligations?
- How long are your students willing and able to be abroad?
- What is the best time in your students' academic career to go abroad? Consider the plan of study for students in the targeted major(s), plus their job/internship opportunities, family obligations, and other personal events.
- Longer programs are generally more cost-effective if you calculate costs per week, while shorter programs may have a lower total cost.
- What will the climate be like during the month(s) your group will be in the host country? Will it present any logistical or health concerns?
- If you are partnering with a host institution, will the students be on campus attending class, studying for exams, or away for a break?
While lodging may seem like a purely "logistical" consideration, the type of lodging offered can have a huge impact on the nature of the program, and the achievement of learning outcomes. There are many different factors to consider including the type of housing options available and the difference in the standard of living that we are used to in the U.S. in comparison to the host country or city.
- What type of accommodations are widely available in the host country?
- Are they in a safe neighborhood? What security measures are taken?
- What type of lodging will allow students to be reasonably comfortable? While lodging need not be luxurious, and students should expect to share rooms with their peers, lodging should allow students to get a good night's sleep and an occasional break from the challenges they're encountering.
- Does the group need a meeting room on site?
- Will the faculty leader(s) stay in the same building/complex? If not, why not, and how close will the faculty leader(s) be?
Types to consider:
- Hotels, Hostels, or Bed & Breakfasts: This type of accommodation is typically used for shorter, multi-city programs. In most cases, students will share a room with at least one other student (or two or three or more). Choices based on direct observation or recommendations from trusted on-site coordinators are preferable to web-based reviews. In many cases, breakfast is included, providing one prepaid meal per day.
- Residence halls: Benefits of this type of housing include (in most cases) lower cost, increased opportunities to get to know local students, and increased access to campus resources such as a cafeteria, computer lab and/or wifi, and laundry facilities.
- Host families: If host families can be arranged and carefully screened by a reliable on-site coordinator, living with a host family is a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the culture, learn about local food and customs, and practice the host language (if applicable).
- Apartments: Apartments, like host families, must be carefully screened and managed by a reliable on-site coordinator. Students will have more privacy and may save money by cooking some of their own food.
- Unique lodging options (temples, campgrounds, etc.): When host families and residence halls are not feasible, unique lodging options might offer students a particularly memorable, and perhaps more affordable, experience.