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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Internationalisation of HE through distance learning | University World News

"Distance learning presents a key pathway for internationalisation at home and could be particularly useful for emerging countries prepared to go beyond physical mobility to get the input of international students into their education programmes," says Hakan Ergin, holds a PhD in educational sciences from Bogazici University, Turkey and Bruno Morche, holds a PhD in sociology of higher education from Brazil and an MA in comparative education from the UCL Institute of Education in the United Kingdom.  

Over recent decades, the international dimension of higher education has become an essential part of the agenda of higher education institutions and governments all over the world. While countries compete with each other to host international students, supranational organisations, such as the OECD and UNESCO, compare the numbers of international students in several countries in order to shed light on the level of internationalisation of different higher education systems.

But it is worth asking whether the internationalisation of higher education should be solely dependent on the physical mobility of students across national borders. As stated by Hans de Wit, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College: 

"Internationalisation of higher education over the past decades is moving more from a focus on 'abroad' towards a focus on 'at home', placing less stress on physical mobility for a small group."

The general idea of ‘internationalisation at home’ is a relevant topic explored recently by commentaries on this website and in other publications.
Internationalisation has traditionally been embraced by higher education stakeholders for its academic, economic, social/cultural and political advantages. To access these benefits, universities, on the one hand, host international students at their own institutions and, on the other hand, send their own students to study abroad.

Nevertheless, physical mobility-oriented internationalisation cannot meet stakeholders’ expectations on its own, because it enables just a minority of students to internationalise...

Distance learning in Turkey and Brazil
The figures above reveal that physical mobility-oriented internationalisation does not ensure 'internationalisation for all' on its own. For this reason, strategies for internationalisation at home need to be employed to help more students experience an international curriculum, classmates and instructors. An interesting way of achieving this might be internationalisation via distance learning, which provides students with the relative independence of time and space.

Distance learning is now an integral part of mass higher education systems in emerging countries and could be an essential tool for internationalising their systems. It is estimated that at least 21 million students from emerging countries have studied through distance higher education in recent years and this number is growing very quickly...

In other emerging countries such as Brazil, distance education has been mostly used as a way to expand higher education internally to meet internal demand. Experiences of internationalisation through distance learning in Brazil are almost non-existent. The potential, however, is huge.
Brazil has approximately 1.5 million online students, most of whom are at private institutions. The total number of foreign students in the Brazilian higher education system is quite low. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Education, in 2016 only 15,796 out of the eight million students were from abroad. Those students represent less than 0.2% of the total student population...

It is important to note here that having international distance students can serve internationalisation of higher education in emerging countries in several ways:
  • Academically, local students and academics can get a chance to meet international students in online classes and exchange knowledge.
  • Economically, universities generate income from international distance students' tuition fees.
  • Socially or culturally, international students can learn about other emerging countries' culture and history.
  • And politically, those countries can gain soft power as their universities access people in different parts of the world over the internet.
What we observe here is the initial steps towards digital internationalisation of higher education. 

Source: University World News