Editorial – Internationalisation of teaching and learning: Abroad and at home – Tracy Zou

Internationalisation is on the agenda of many higher education institutions around the world. A recent report entitled ‘Internationalisation of Higher Education’ commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education has concluded that ‘there is a clear trend towards more internationalisation of higher education, one that covers a broader range of activities and is more strategic in its approach.’ (p. 275). This report was based on a comprehensive study on the higher education systems of ten European countries and seven non-European countries.

With no exception, the University of Hong Kong is also putting internationalisation high on its agenda, which underpins its strategies of teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange, the three pillars of a university’s success. We hope, in some small way, that we can stimulate discussions among colleagues on internationalisation of teaching and learning by showing a range of relevant programmes and activities that have taken place within the University. This particular issue and the forthcoming issue of Teaching and Learning Connections are both dedicated to the theme of internationalisation of teaching and learning.

Among the five articles we collected within the University for this Issue, two reflect the topic of ‘internationalisations at home’, meaning that the international and intercultural aspects are integrated into the curriculum and that student learning does not depend on going abroad. Two other articles are about experiential learning abroad. Another one profiles an offshore master programme with classes held both within Hong Kong and overseas. We also include a special invited article by Prof. Chng Huang Hoon from the National University of Singapore, which emphasises ‘internationalisation at home’ as well as the development of global citizenship. Below shows briefly the focus of each article.

Internationalisation at home

The article by Prof. Chu Chun Hung features an international peer review platform that allows students from different countries to post their work and provide peer review on others’ submitted work. Staying at the home institution, students in the programme entered into a professional community and interacted with peers from different cultural backgrounds. The platform was initiated in dentistry and the successful model has also been adopted in education. Another feature article in the next issue will provide details about the project in education.

The article by Yum Tin Pui and Dr. Chen describes a cross-institutional project in Chinese medicine, another attempt to achieve internationalisation at home. It has built a problem-solving platform using Moodle to facilitate the collaborative problem-solving processes among Chinese medicine students from HKU and those from Mainland China. Students became aware of the different ways of tackling the same problem and learned from their peers through joining the discussion forum on the platform.

Experiential learning abroad

The article by Dr. Gary Harfitt depicted experiential learning overseas for student teachers. He highlights ‘once immersed in experiential projects on very different landscapes to HK our student teachers were able to reflect insightfully upon their own culture’. In his article, being immersed is seen as important because the unfamiliar and sometimes discomforting environment has enabled students to critically reflect on their own approaches.

The experiential learning abroad described in the article by Dr. Wong and Ms. Chow adds a twist of interdisciplinary collaborative work. In the Glocal Innovation Project, social sciences students were working with engineering students together in addressing the needs of the local communities in Vietnam. During the seven-week stay in Vietnam, students were able to discuss with local people, conduct a comprehensive study to understand their needs, and make solid contributions to the well-being of these people in the local community.

Offshore master programme

The interview with Prof. Tse Shek Kam features the offshore master programme in Chinese Language Education offered by HKU in collaboration with Nanyang Technology University. The programme design and delivery as well as the collaboration between the two parties were briefly discussed. Prof. Tse also shared with us the difficulties, challenges, and some practical suggestions. One key message highlighted in his response is that ‘being international actually means being multilingual, multicultural and perhaps multi-national’.

Special invited article

The special invited article contributed by Prof. Chng Huang Hoon (National University of Singapore) has critically examined the opportunities and challenges brought by the internationalisation of higher education to NUS. Similar to HKU’s vision of becoming Asia’s Global University, NUS’s vision statement positions itself to be ‘a leading global university centred in Asia, influencing the future’. According to Prof. Chng, developing global citizenship at home by making a full use of the diverse environment on campus and connecting various student experiences to the institutional vision are essential conditions to internationalisation.

Concluding remarks

It seems that different approaches may result in slightly different learning outcomes among students. Internationalisation at home through the collaborative platform (as described in the two articles in this issue) was certainly beneficial especially in terms of creating a sense of professional community that opens up a variety of approaches and philosophies relevant to the students’ disciplines. One advantage is that the ‘at home’ model is highly accessible and sustainable. Meanwhile, we are also convinced that the emersion and physical involvement in a different country may offer something else valuable. The experiential learning experiences abroad reported in the two articles in this issue not only challenged students mentally and intellectually but also allowed them to see and feel in person the actual influence they had in the local community through their professional work. Such impact on students may not be easily replaceable by other means of learning, such as through virtual learning environments. Therefore, one possible future direction may be to make connections between the virtual ‘home’ experiences and physical experiences as well as between all types of experiences and the development of cultural understanding and global citizenship as an institutional graduate attribute.

Would you like to share with us your opinion?
We are looking forward to hearing your opinions. Please email your views to us (tracyzou@hku.hk) or simply voice your opinion in the Poll through one click.

Would you like to contribute to future issues of Teaching and Learning Connections?
Please express your ideas through emails to tracyzou@hku.hk. I am happy to discuss with you and assist you in the publication process. If you have completed a Teaching Development Project or are undertaking one, you might also want to make use of Teaching and Learning Connections as a platform to share and disseminate your achievements. Please refer to the invitation to share your Teaching Development Projects: http://www.cetl.hku.hk/teaching-learning-cop/invitation-share-tdp/

Preview of the next issue
There are still many more possible approaches and strategies regarding internationalisation of teaching and learning that have not been discussed yet. That is why our fourth issue (January 2017) will also be dedicated to internationalisation of teaching and learning. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, internationalisation of the curriculum, internationalisation at home; integration of local and non-local students; student and staff mobility; study abroad; and teaching across cultures.

Stay tuned with us.

Alice Lee
Dr. Tracy Zou

Editor of ‘Teaching and Learning Connections’
Assistant Professor
Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning
The University of Hong Kong

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