3 Reasons to Launch Virtual Programs
June 2, 2021
As we move into a post-pandemic world, some may be ready to log off Zoom forever. But digital exchanges aren’t simply a replacement when international travel isn’t possible, said virtual exchange experts during a recent Terra Dotta webinar. They are an opportunity to provide international experiences to a broader range of students and help them develop necessary skills for the 21st century.
“If your institution is thinking of entering the virtual global learning space just simply because we’re still in the midst of the pandemic and as a substitute for traditional mobility, you’re not going very far,” said GianMario Besana, Associate Provost for Global Engagement and Online Learning at DePaul University in Chicago.
Virtual exchange programs only expand opportunities for students at a time when they need new skills and perspectives for the global workforce.
Reason #1: Equity
While study abroad teams have been successful in persuading more diverse students to study abroad, white female students still make up the vast majority of study abroad students. Cost, family responsibilities or expectations and cultural concerns are among the hurdles holding many students back from studying abroad. Virtual programs help pave over some of those objections because they don’t include the cost of a plane ticket or require students to be away from family or work responsibilities for an extended period.
With virtual programs, institutions can engage students who never would have pictured themselves participating in a study abroad experience, said John Sunnygard, Associate Provost for Global Learning and International Affairs at Western Kentucky University. It’s “creating new opportunities for students to be thinking about international activity.”
Reason #2: Employment
Global and intercultural fluencies are among the top competencies associated with career readiness, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And, after a year of video conferencing, global virtual collaboration skills, specifically, may be more important than ever, Besana said. Even before the pandemic, he said, it wasn’t unusual for newly hired DePaul graduates to be plunged into a virtual business meeting with participants from around the world.
As students participate in these digital exchanges, they not only gain experience collaborating with people from other cultures, but they also learn how to do it virtually. It’s a skill they likely wouldn’t gain during a traditional study abroad trip.
“When you’re thinking about traditional mobility on one hand and virtual global learning experiences on the other hand, the narrative isn’t either or, which one is better, can I do this instead of,” Besana said. “It’s simply an ‘and.’ Think about both. Think about the difference in learning outcomes and then engage strategically in both because they serve different purposes.”
Reason #3: New Perspectives
When properly structured, students can become “truly immersed” with peers in other countries as they partner on virtual projects, Besana said. These peer connections often don’t happen in traditional programs, particularly during short-term, faculty-led trips. “Students really work for weeks and weeks and weeks with students of the peer institution,” he said of the digital exchanges. “They get to really experience a difference of perspective.”
Want to learn more about virtual programming? Check out Terra Dotta's new E-Book: In Theory and In Practice: How to Build Virtual Global Learning Programs that Make a Difference.
The Pandemic Rattled Study Abroad, Then Transformed it for the Better
May 19, 2021
At times during this pandemic, it felt like we were witnessing the end of international education opportunities for students and scholars on a global scale. But every cloud has a silver lining. Adapting to a new reality of travel bans and lockdowns, institutions have transformed programs and adopted technology in ways that have made international education more diverse, accessible, and inclusive than ever before.
In March 2020, global travel came to a standstill. Institutions had to scramble to quickly bring students and faculty back home from trips abroad. They had to confirm and monitor the location of every traveler, and then help them coordinate a quick and safe return home with next-to-no notice.
Simultaneously, institutions were helping international students return to their home countries amid ever-changing regulations and logistics. Even if they were safe on campus, many international students could no longer reside there—whether due to their campuses shutting down or immigration regulations—and they needed to return to their home countries unexpectedly.
Read more from Terra Dotta's CEO, Anthony Rotoli, on Harvard Business Publishing Education.
Expanding Global Opportunities in Education for Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
May 14, 2021
Global engagement is experiencing a renaissance on college campuses. While only 2% of undergraduate students (registration required) and 16% of those who earn a bachelor's degree have taken part in study abroad programs, according to the Institute of International Education or IIE, this is changing dramatically for the better. Why? When the pandemic forced study abroad programs to shut down, many institutions responded by envisioning new or expanded ways to offer internationalization opportunities without the physical travel component.
While global engagement is critical for developing the leadership and collaboration skills and perspectives needed to thrive post-graduation, not all demographic populations have historically had access to internationalization opportunities. Some colleges and universities already had limited virtual programming in place before the pandemic, and for others, offering other programs was a whole new approach. And while it may have been a short-term solution, this innovation mindset has helped institutions collectively expand and invest in greater study abroad access for the long term, including helping to realistically improve equity, diversity and inclusion in study abroad.
Read more from Terra Dotta's CEO, Anthony Rotoli, on Forbes.
Customer Spotlight: University of Florida
May 6, 2021
The University of Florida consistently ranks among the top public universities in the country and has over 6,000 international students and scholars!
With such a large international population, they had a software provider to support their operations, but this platform was growing in price and shrinking in functionality.
University of Florida wanted to offer a better experience for both incoming students and their administrators, so they made the move to Terra Dotta, allowing them to better serve international students, scholars, and exchange visitors.
Read more about how University of Florida uses Terra Dotta to optimize workflows, reduce data entry, and offer a better experience for both students and administrators in this case study: Transformation at University of Florida: Better Serving International Students, Scholars, and Exchange Visitors.
During COVID, Syracuse Finds Innovative Way to Use AlertTraveler
May 4, 2021
Syracuse University had just deployed AlertTraveler, Terra Dotta’s traveler safety and security solution, when the pandemic hit. Students went home, and the usefulness of AlertTraveler seemed, at first, to be muted at best.
Syracuse was still using the tool for its intended purpose. AlertTraveler sends students abroad real-time alerts about emergencies on the ground and lets staff quickly verify their safety and communicate with them. But it wasn’t at the scale initially expected. Only a handful of students have remained abroad—not the hundreds of students Syracuse expected to be serving through the app.
But, in the past year, COVID has triggered plenty of creativity and workarounds. And Syracuse’s staff found an innovative way to use AlertTraveler to meet its needs — tracking students who travel domestically.
At the start of the spring semester, as COVID rates were in flux in different parts of the country, Syracuse administrators barred students from leaving central New York state except for essential family reasons. Among a student population of about 22,850, many might be traveling at any given time. It also launched required weekly COVID testing of students to help fend off transmission of the virus on campus.
If students failed to comply with the weekly COVID tests, Syracuse limited their access to campus resources, including WIFI. “That was absolutely huge, and the best motivator we could come up with,” said Seth Tucker, Director of Global Safety and Student Services at Syracuse. The compliance rate shot up to nearly 100%.
But students who were traveling would sometimes find themselves facing loss of access to WIFI and other services because they were out of town and missed their scheduled COVID test appointment. That’s where AlertTraveler came in.
Syracuse worked with Terra Dotta to set up a system for students to use the app to select their reason for travel, where they’re going and their departure and return dates.
“The tool was fantastic because you can create reasons for travel on the fly,” he said. “We created a reason for travel — Essential Family Travel — and we asked them to select a reason for travel and to fill in their travel data.”
To about eight people across campus, including the Dean of Students, Tucker granted access only to the data from AlertTraveler so they could track who has registered their travel. Syracuse staff can then grant the traveling student an exemption from the weekly COVID test and ensure that their services, including the all-important WIFI, are not cut off.
“That particular use has been essential to allow us to address student travel this spring,” Tucker said.
Tucker is hopeful that Syracuse can start using AlertTraveler for its intended purpose more often. In spring 2021, Syracuse students were back in Florence to put their robust Covid plans to the test. “Happily, we have not had a single case thus far,” he said enthusiastically. In the summer, the university intends to operate in London, Madrid and Florence. And, by fall, Tucker hopes the study abroad program will have returned to more normal operations.
In addition to helping Syracuse staff sort out domestic travelers during COVID, Tucker sees another upside to his innovative use of AlertTraveler: It’s provided a chance to raise awareness of the app across campus. Now students who need to use it in the future are familiar with it and may be more inclined to use it when they study abroad.
“We’ve had this golden opportunity of having this mass exposure to the system,” Tucker said. “The question that I’m spending a lot of time thinking about now is how do I capitalize on the awareness and get people using it in the right way and the way we want.”
How to Engage with International Students and Scholars in a Virtual World
May 3, 2021
It is no secret that international students and scholars have had a difficult year. They have experienced isolation and separation from their support networks on campus and at home, all while reading scary headlines from their home countries and confusing policy changes that seemingly threatened their continued education in the United States.
While replacing in-person gatherings may be difficult to do, virtual engagement opportunities can build connections, providing a sense of welcoming to international students and scholars.
In the past year, administrators at Old Dominion University and Central Michigan University have found ways to not just connect with their international population, but also build community and relationships.
Find their advice to engaging virtually with international students and scholars in Terra Dotta's new E-Book: How To: Engage with International Students and Scholars in a Virtual World.
A Blueprint for Belonging at Albion College
April 27, 2021
The past year has been a transitional time for many in the field of higher education, in which each department has had to rethink its methods of delivery to best support students. In addition to a global pandemic, travel limitations, and a shift to online learning, 2020 was also a politically tense election year filled with much discourse surrounding race relations.
As we prepare for COVID-19 restrictions to loosen and a return to a new “normal,” it is imperative that we not only reflect on what the past year has taught us but also take action towards a more inclusive future.
Taking Action at Albion College
Albion College, a private liberal arts institution in Michigan, has initiated a campus-wide Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging campaign in response to the events of the past year. The College’s new Office of Belonging, led by Keena Williams, ‘09, launched the Blueprint for Belonging in August 2020. This initiative is a year-long evaluation process that will result in recommendations for each department on campus as the campus strives for a “richer, fuller, equal future.”
Albion College’s Center for International Education (CIE) is included in this evaluation and recommendation process. Director Cristen Casey is well-positioned to be spearheading these efforts in the CIE after working for more than 20 years at the University of Texas at Dallas. During her time at UT Dallas, she helped grow the international student population from 650 to 9000+, revealing her commitment to student and community engagement, all while reducing barriers to global opportunities.
Casey and Administrative Secretary Mary Jones were instrumental during the self-assessment period, as they worked to identify key areas for improvement. During the 2020-21 academic year, they led focus groups with student leaders, conducted anonymous student surveys, and requested feedback from faculty in key departments through the College’s self-assessment tool.
After their reflection and evaluation period, Albion’s Center for International Education identified ten goals in their Blueprint for Belonging. These goals have been divided into “Who We Are,” “What We Do,” and “How We Do It” and apply to both education abroad opportunities and the international population at Albion.
Who We Are
1. Develop CIE Staff Capacities for the Work.
2. Engage with Professional Networks (International Education) Engaged in the Work.
3. Collect data. Define the gaps. Prepare for solutions.
What We Do
4. Prioritize Global Program Access, Inclusion, Participation.
5. Prioritize International Student Belonging.
6. Prioritize Cultural Competence Education for All Students.
How We Do It
7. Diversify Albion's Portfolio of Global Program Opportunities.
8. Make Global Programs Affordable for All Students.
9. Expand Global Program Access to Underrepresented Students.
10. Expand International Student Access to Social Capital.
Under each goal in the Blueprint, they have outlined:
- The narrative
- An action plan with a timeline
- Who is affected
- Responsible parties and collaborators
- Assessment and reporting
- Resources necessary
- Potential barriers
It is their hope that through the implementation of these goals, they will “reduce barriers and become a gateway for those seeking global opportunities in our local community and abroad.”
When asked what advice she would share with others reflecting on their own office processes or policies in relation to DEI initiatives, Casey responded, “Listen hard to students and give them a seat at powerful tables. Be uncomfortable. Take responsibility. Then do the work.”
The Albion student body has responded positively to the college’s Blueprint for Belonging initiative, demanding transparency, accountability, and systemic change. Each department will make its blueprint available online in 2021, so the Albion community can collectively understand and measure progress.
As an institution, Albion College has made it clear where they stand: “We are committed to being a place that is boldly anti-racist and anti-ism, and to the ongoing work that demands of us. Moving forward, the Blueprint for Belonging will be an annual process, allowing us to continually reflect and build on our progress, recognizing that this work will always be evolving.”
Customer Spotlight: Clark University
April 26, 2021
At Clark University, international students make up approximately one-third of the entire student population. Previously performing international student program functions manually, Clark University needed an automated system to enhance international student service levels, and they got it with Terra Dotta.
The goal is that with Terra Dotta’s ISSS solution, student “melt” will be minimized. International students can be welcomed and onboarded through a comprehensive portal that immediately makes them feel connected to Clark and less likely to change their minds about attending.
Read more about how Clark University uses Terra Dotta to streamline compliance, enhance cross-campus reporting, prioritize student and faculty service, and strengthen international program infrastructure in this case study: Transforming ISSS Application and Enrollment with Terra Dotta.
"Our foundation with Terra Dotta has allowed us to be more agile and creative with our international programs. The system lets us provide expanded opportunities and possibilities for both students and faculty."
- Amy Daly, Associate Dean for International Programs
Gonzaga University: A Champion for International Students
April 8, 2021
A year ago, Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., was at a crossroads in serving international students. Spreadsheets and other manual tasks used to track data had become too cumbersome and time-consuming to maintain and keep updated.
So, its Center for Global Engagement turned to Terra Dotta to help in the process of automating many critical functions for International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). The result was a more streamlined process that allowed staff to focus less on the mundane details and more on providing an array of personal touches.
Read more about how Gonzaga University became a "Champion for International Students" from University Business.
How the Education Industry can make Global Experiences Accessible to Students
March 30, 2021
When higher ed institutions found themselves quickly coordinating students’ return from study abroad programs and sending international students home last March, they could not have possibly known what the following year would hold for global engagement opportunities. The abrupt shutdown of activities had many people disappointed and worried about students missing out on the types of valuable international education experiences that help shape our global leaders of tomorrow. And, as the pandemic has impacted every country differently, it became apparent that international travel wasn’t opening up again quickly.
Given the pandemic’s limits on traditional forms of global engagement, and even as travel starts to open back up, institutions have had to reimagine new approaches to delivering meaningful international education opportunities for their students. This has resulted in unforeseen benefits such as making international education more widely accessible to all populations of students, especially those experiencing physical or mental health conditions. These student populations often require interventions and accommodations to meet their needs that historically haven’t been built into the typical study abroad experiences.
Read more from Terra Dotta's CEO, Anthony Rotoli, on Forbes.
US University Still Sending Students on Study Abroad
March 25, 2021
Many people were looking forward to 2021, hoping to travel freely and without concern over health and safety. While widespread travel may not be the case just yet, a handful of universities are allowing for limited student travel.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) is just one of these universities. In a normal year, UTK would send a couple hundred students abroad per semester. This semester, their Center for Global Engagement was able to send dozens of students to a small number of destinations including Ireland, Poland and South Korea.
Anne Hulse, Interim Director of the Center for Global Engagement’s Programs Abroad Office said that many factors were at play when deciding whether or not they would allow students to travel. Terra Dotta’s Emily Robinson explains. Read the full blog from PIE News.
Do we need a new definition of education abroad?
March 17, 2021
This blog was written by Dr Anthony C Ogden, managing partner of Gateway International Group, a research and consulting firm. E-mail: email@example.com. This blog was originally posted by University World News.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable and potentially lasting impact on education abroad programming. Emerging developments point to the beginning of a new era, one that is challenging education abroad professionals to re-examine well-established practices, reframe priorities and pursue emerging opportunities.
Institutions and organisations around the world are eagerly exploring expanded uses of technology and online delivery to offer more responsive programming that meets the needs of a new generation of virtually engaged learners and to afford more diverse populations of learners the benefits of international learning and engagement.
Despite the accelerated changes in delivery, it is still a goal of many institutions around the world to graduate learners who have nuanced understandings of the international dimensions of their chosen disciplines and the intercultural competency skills needed to live and work successfully in a globally interconnected world.
And yet, the global shift to virtual and online programming suggests that the nature of education abroad programming as we have known it is shifting, and unlikely ever to return to what it once was. As such, is a new definition of education abroad needed, one which recognises and embraces international programming that is not necessarily structured around international travel?
Currently, education abroad is referenced around the world using numerous terms, including learning abroad, mobility, exchange, and so on. In the United States, for example, the term ‘junior year abroad’ was used for decades, but as education abroad enrolment patterns shifted, the term ‘study abroad’ emerged in professional discourse.
Even that term has gradually been replaced by the more encompassing term, ‘education abroad’ to reflect the expanding range of educational modalities beyond credit-bearing study abroad, including undergraduate research abroad, global service-learning, international internships, etc.
Today, the Forum on Education Abroad defines education abroad in part as ‘enrolment in courses, experiential learning, internships, service-learning and other learning activities, which occurs outside the participant’s home country…’
Here, the definition is explicitly focused on programming outside one’s home country. The changes to education abroad programming brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the accelerated move to online and virtual learning suggest that what has long been understood as education abroad may be shifting once again.
In the recent book by Routledge, Education Abroad: Bridging scholarship and practice, Betty Leask and Wendy Green argue that international learning and engagement might be better conceptualised as a continuum, suggesting that institutions that expand their focus on international education travel to consider other possibilities along a continuum of internationalisation will be better positioned to respond to the shifting demands of this new era.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, education abroad professionals were mostly concerned with mobility-based programming that allowed students to earn credit abroad to fulfil home institution degree requirements.
Per Leask and Green, the future of international learning and engagement may be better understood along a continuum in which international programming is integrated across the curriculum. Arguably, three distinct categories of programming emerge:
- Mobility Education – primarily concerned with international education through degree and non-degree student mobility abroad and thus limited to an exclusive population of students who are able to participate.
- Access Education – concerned with programming that leverages both virtual learning and mobility education, thus enabling greater accessibility to international education for interested and motivated learners.
- Integrated Education, akin to ‘internationalization at home’– concerned with programming focused on providing equitable access to international learning and engagement for all learners by intentionally integrating international expectations into the curricula and life of the institution.
A continuum may indeed be more apt at illustrating a quickly expanding view of international learning and engagement that does not rely solely on international mobility but is complemented with newly mainstreamed ways to engage learners.
In other words, a continuum does not diminish international education travel or lessen its importance but rather adds to the repertoire of strategies and methodologies to enable international educators to consider new partnerships, embrace innovative technologies that promote intellectual and intercultural exchange, pilot emerging modalities and, most importantly, engage new populations of learners in international learning.
Recognizing the limits of traditional definitions
Looking forward, a new definition for education abroad may be needed, likely one that recognises that to achieve the full potential of international learning and engagement for all students will require more than one dominant methodology targeting the privileged few.
To be sure, some education abroad professionals will be reluctant to question the integrity of education abroad and its reliance on educational programming that “occurs outside the participant’s home country”.
However, as the pandemic lingers and we collectively begin to recognise the limitations of education abroad programming of yesteryear, we may become more eager to pursue an expanded definition that embraces a continuum that prioritises new strategies that encourage all learners, even those unable to travel abroad, to meaningfully explore the international dimensions of their chosen disciplines and develop intercultural competency skills needed for the future.
Customer Spotlight: Old Dominion University
March 10, 2021
Old Dominion University enrolls one of the largest students populations in Virginia, as well as a large number of international students and scholars. With a high volume of both students and scholars to track, their former software system didn't make the cut.
Without an effective system in place, they were left with time consuming tasks and a serious problem with data reconciliation, begging larger questions of liability and compliance. They needed a new software provider to manage their international student and scholar population, and they got it with Terra Dotta.
Read more about how they use Terra Dotta to save time, adapt to changing regulation, and maintain compliance in this case study: Ditching an Antiquated On-Premise Soluion for Terra Dotta's Adaptive, ISSS Cloud Solution.
Using Social Media to Advertise Study Abroad
March 3, 2021
When students go abroad, many will tout their experience online, but social media also offers the opportunity to engage with students who have yet to embark on their journey. As a method of ongoing communication, online posts offer a way to share information and offer a visual of the experience prospective students can have.
Here's some creative content ideas
Debunk the Barriers
[Situation] Some prospective students may think study abroad is not for them. They may not know of opportunities that pertain to their major or program, lack the language skills, believe it could delay graduation, or are worried about the cost.
[Idea] Create a series of posts that address common misconceptions when it comes to study abroad and offer appointment availability, so they know when and how to connect with an advisor and learn more.
Promote the Benefits
[Situation] There are many benefits to studying abroad, whether that’s expanding one’s cultural literacy, learning a language, or embarking on an experiential learning opportunity, but not everyone knows the benefits.
[Idea] Create some posts that share the benefits of study abroad, it could resonate with prospective students.
Share Success Stories
[Situation] Prospective students will want an idea of what their experience could be like, so give them an idea.
[Idea] Reach out to your study abroad alumni and ask them to talk about their experience: What did they learn? What did they like most? Do they recommend studying abroad? More than likely, the answer will be yes. Make sure to share a variety of stories from a variety of places and programs, so prospective students can see a number of options.
Day in the Life
[Situation] Even with success stories, prospective students may be curious about what a day in the life is like.
[Idea] Utilize students currently on study abroad programs. Ask them to do a Social Media takeover where they highlight what a typical day is for them. When students normally post during study abroad, it’s photos of popular sites or places, but the day-to-day life in study abroad can have just as much charm, if not more.
Looking for social media recruitment strategies? Learn more in Terra Dotta’s E-Book: Student Engagement: Using Social Media to Recruit for International Education Opportunities.
How Case Western Reserve University Uses Social Media and Terra Dotta to Recruit in a Virtual World
February 17, 2021
With the widespread use of virtual delivery for day-today campus operations, international opportunities must be marketed appropriately and effectively. No longer can flyers be posted on campus for passing eyes to see, nor can in-person information sessions be hosted. Marketing global opportunities has taken a virtual turn. At Case Western ReserveUniversity (CWRU), they have embraced the virtual switch, ramped up their social media, and even saved some money by not printing their marketing materials.
One way in which CWRU has utilized social media and their Terra Dotta site is through a photo contest with the intention of highlighting global experiences and encouraging other students to pursue international opportunities. Students submit photos, their name, major, location of study, and a comment about the photo.
The photo contest has several different categories—each with their own prize.
- Overall Winner: $75
- The World is Your Classroom: $75
- Cultural Experience: $50
- Spartans Abroad: $50
- Scenery: $50
- Facebook’s Most Likes: $50
CWRU’s Center for International Affairs can easily access these photos later on for marketing purposes with all of the information populated into their Terra Dotta platform. Autumn Beechler Stebing, Assistant Director of Education Abroad, said, “If I need to find a mechanical engineering student who studied abroad, I can easily search Terra Dotta and find what I need. The photo contest really helps us advertise just how many education abroad opportunities we offer.”
Aside from the photo contest, they have a variety of posts for their weekly content:
“Fun Fact Fridays” are the most popular day of the week on social media for study abroad marketing, but the most shared posts of the week for both study abroad and ISS are “Welcome Here Wednesdays.” These posts showcase a video created by another member of the CWRU campus community to promote the #YouAreWelcomeHereCWRU campaign. Business Systems Analyst, Alec Jokubaitis, was the individual to spearhead this campaign. As a spin off the hashtag #YouAreWelcomeHere, the posts in the campaign both show and value different walks of life at the university. Whether it’s international students on campus or departmental staff, the idea is to show that Case Western Reserve University is a welcoming space for everyone.
On Fridays, CWRU’S Center for International Affairs also hosts forums. Right now these are information sessions on Zoom and Facebook Live. By hosting the forum on Facebook, students who have liked their page will receive a notification that they are live, which is just another notification method to reach students. And with their Facebook’s Most Likes Photo Contest category, more than 1,000 people have liked the page!
The Friday Forum sessions cover locations in which students can study like Oceania and Europe, but more of them are on specific majors and identities of students, like how to study abroad as a pre-med, an alumni panel with the engineering peer advisors or diverse students. With an individualized approach, students will know that there is an opportunity for them.
Recruiting for the Return of Global Opportunities
Although 2020 has limited international experiences, Beechler Stebing predicts that the return of study abroad will be strong.
“First-year students still want to study abroad. Students who did not embark on their journeys this year may still be able to fit a global opportunity in their academic plans. Now is the perfect time to market to prospective students.”
While using social media as their main marketing platform is new to CWRU’s Center for International Affairs, in just six months of actively focusing on social media marketing efforts, they have seen around a 37% increase in followers across all social media. As they continue to prepare for upcoming global opportunities, they are currently using the advising application in their Terra Dotta site to gain accurate data on where students have heard about study abroad opportunities. With this set of data, they can advise future marketing communication strategies and fully prepare for the return of education abroad.
Looking for social media recruitment strategies? Learn more in Terra Dotta’s E-Book: Student Engagement: Using Social Media to Recruit for International Education Opportunities.