Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

March 24, 2014

Diverse global engagement strategies: from branch campuses to online degrees

International branch campuses receive a lot of attention, however, they form a small proportion university internationalization strategies. More recently, online learning is showing promising potential for global engagement.

A recent report shows that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is shaping its internationalisation future around its prior initiative like OpenCourseWare and now edX. It forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated "into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials, and even badges" with the possibility that "the credentialing entity may be different from the institution that offers the course". The report adds that the "digital education revolution has the potential to alter the way MIT interacts not only with its on-campus students, but with an entire globe of learners".

I recently chaired a session entitled "Global engagement strategies: What works, what doesn't" at the annual conference of Asia Pacific Association of International Education (APAIE) in Seoul. The expert panel presented diverse institutional perspectives in achieving the goals of their internationalization strategies:
  • Doris Sohmen‐Pao, Executive Vice President, Yale‐NUS College, Singapore
  • Robert Coelen, Vice President, Stenden University, Netherlands
  • Downing A. Thomas, Associate Provost, The University of Iowa, US
  • Joe Chicharo, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Wollongong, Australia
Interestingly, three of the four panelists have some form of international branch campus engagement. Some of the key "lessons learned" shared by the panelists included:
- Long-term commitment that embodies internationalization as a core value is critical. Endeavors with myopic vision and intentions of quick bucks are doomed to fail.
- Attracting and retaining the "right" people that align with the value of internationalization. It takes entrepreneurial spirit and staying power to execute these complex strategies.
- Large scale projects require local academic partner that brings experience and mitigates risks of failure, however, finding the right fit partner is a challenge.
- Articulating institutional priority in terms of market and type of students is critical. Engagement strategies that try to be everything to everyone do not work.

In this context, institutions need to recognize the diversity of models and assess, prepare and adapt their global engagement strategies in line with the emerging opportunities and challenges.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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March 01, 2014

Global reach of MOOCs: A comparison of HarvardX and MITx

MOOCs are a learning innovation with technology as it's backbone. Any technological innovation goes through a phase of irrational exuberance to mature reality (Remember, the dot-com bust and now dot-com revival). MOOCs are going through similar evolutionary pangs. Learning innovations face quite a complex set of barriers due to the sheer sociopolitical and traditional nature of the education ecosystem and hence the future of MOOCs even more uncertain. However, I am optimistic about the access, outreach and continuing education potential of MOOCs. Consider the recent data released by HarvardX and MITx which provides insights about its global reach:

- World map of certificate attainment: 17.5% certificate attainment rate of student from Spain for HarvardX
- World map of gender composition: 28% of registrants from Oman for MITx were female; higher than Germany (25%)
- World map of education composition: 85% of registrants of MITx from France held a Bachelor's degree or higher as compared to 56% for Poland
- World map of age composition: Median age of registrants for HarvardX from Egypt is 23 years as compared to 31 years for Italy
- World map of enrollment: 5,100+ students enrolled from Ghana for HarvardX
Above comparative chart shows "worldwide certificate attainment" of students registering for HarvardX and MITx. While there is critique of MOOCs as having low completion rate, the metric is "misleading" for MOOCs. They are open access models with no barriers to entry and hence cannot be measured by the same metric as a traditional university with admissions and upfront cost as the self selection mechanism. Despite the lack of irrelevancy of completion rate to MOOCs, the chart shows high interest for certificate completion coming from countries like Greece (1,500+ certificate earners) and Spain (1,600+ certificate earners). This indicates that there is interest from 'glocal' students and as the blend of technology and learning innovation matures, along with the acceptance in the marketplace by employers, there will be a higher traction for MOOCs in international markets.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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