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THEME: International students

Newsletter August 2020: Including international students online and face to face

In this month’s newsletter, the focus is on how to include the international students online and face to face. In the connected articles, you can read about, how the faculties help the students through focus on social connections and adapting to a new learning culture. Furthermore, you can read about how SDU International helps the students.

Surveys are showing that whilst fewer students who had planned to study abroad will do so this semester, they may still be interested in attending online courses (QS Survey, 2020). Students who choose to study abroad for all or part of their degree programme often do so out of curiosity about new cultural, social and academic opportunities – they want to learn and grow through this opportunity. Whilst international students are often resilient and self-directed learners who choose to step outside their comfort zone and experience a different learning and cultural environment, the reality shock can affect motivation (Killick, 2017). Whilst it is important that all students feel included, with a sense of belonging being identified as a crucial factor in well-being and motivation to learn, inclusion is especially important for international students (Leask and Carroll, 2013). 

If your course includes international students, attending SDU either face to face or online as exchange or full-time students, then consider these pedagogic suggestions when planning, teaching and assessing online or  blended courses like the ‘fremmøderul’ (in-class and online) approach. And even if your class only recruits home students, these inclusive strategies can make all courses more accessible and inclusive – our students are diverse and it’s a good idea to challenge our conceptions of a usual or  ‘implied’ student (Ulriksen, 2009). 

1. Course learning outcomes and assessment 

Prepare all students for an international learning environment. If your course only includes a minority of international students, it can be particularly challenging for them to feel included. The host students may feel uncomfortable interacting through English all of the time, which can have a significant impact on how included international students feel in their group. The course learning outcomes have a significant role to play here – by including comparative cultural, social, economic, political etc. perspectives in the course learning outcomes and assessment, an international focus is made explicit throughout the course curriculum.

2. Buddying, mixed groups

Facilitate student buddying between home students and international students – this is especially important for exchange students who may be less familiar with how to access resources, work in groups and may be reluctant to ask for help. 

Set up mixed study groups, which include international and home students. Unless handled sensitively,  ‘fremmøderul’ could create two distinct groups within a class. Build bridges between students by setting tasks which include peer feedback both within a study group and between study groups. 

Offer online Q and A meetings and/or a discussion board for all students to share and address their queries about studying online.  Encourage students to respond but also be sure to check in and share your responses, being present during online courses sends a positive signal to students that you are there for them.

3. Learning activities

Different perspectives
Include learning activities which require home and international students to engage with each other’s perspectives – for example, discuss or compare or critique different local or national or cultural or ethnic or linguistic or religious or disciplinary etc. perspectives. 

This can be a highly effective way to get students to share but remember not to always spotlight and single out the solo or few international student/s in a group as they want to feel part of the group. Instead, set a task where all group members adopt a different perspective to their own on an issue or a problem. For example, each group could be tasked with finding out how the issue may be looked at through the lenses of mature people from a culture or nationality that are not shared by any of the group members. This would require all students to research nuances in perspectives and in turn to challenge stereotypes.

Think, Pair, Share 
Wait time is crucial for all listeners to reflect on and compose a considered response, teachers too often answer their own questions! Students working in unfamiliar contexts and through an additional language especially benefit from longer wait time. Incorporate Think Pair Share (TPS) – first share a question on a slide for the students to reflect on individually and then discuss in their breakout rooms or face to face groups. Let them know you will ask a random selection of groups to feedback to the whole group. If working online, groups could also feedback through the Chat, Whiteboard or Polleverywhere. TPS can take about 15/20 minutes so remember to plan for it in your session and resist answering the question! By using this approach, students experience a safe place to discuss and review their responses before sharing them with the whole class.

4. Contextual accessibility

Be aware of contextually specific examples, illustrations and case studies which may be inaccessible or hard to access by international students. Of course, one reason for studying abroad is to ‘get under the skin’ of the host culture but international students will benefit from a glossary of contextual terminology and acronyms, and comparisons with more well-known international examples. 

5. References

With increasing international awareness of the need to decolonise university curricula (Bhambra et al., 2018), consider how well your course’s recommended readings introduce students to studies and research beyond the dominant western ‘knowledge geographies’ (Tange and Millar, 2016)? Are students credited for referring to references from their own or other cultural contexts, including ones written in different languages? All students could be encouraged to source international references, providing a translated abstract for key references where necessary. 

If you would like to know more about ways to include international and all our diverse students in online and face to face teaching, learning and assessment, we offer a range of relevant courses:

And you are welcome to contact Donna Hurford for a consultation.

Themed article: How the faculties help new international students

Rune Mastrup Lauridsen speaks about the role of the faculties when it comes to welcoming new international students to SDU. Among other things, he believes that on social connections and adapting to a new learning culture is especially important

Read the Article

Themed article: SDU International

When an international student starts at SDU, one of the most important things is that all the formalities regarding their stay in Denmark are taken care of. The purpose of SDU Internatiol is therefore to help them with just that.

Read the article

Editing was completed: 28.08.2020