Education Abroad: Oversight

The Provost would like to call to the attention of units across campus the following items addressing oversight of education abroad activities. Please note that, within these guidelines, colleges may develop their own management policies and procedures. They may also collaborate with Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE) in the management of programs abroad. In such cases, IAGE will co-sponsor a program with a college or department and can become the management unit. Departmental and College involvement in oversight of academic and operational issues is a standard feature of IAGE management processes. Colleges wishing to create their own processes for carrying out oversight should consult the attached IAGE Guidelines for Oversight of Education Abroad Programming for additional information.

  • Colleges (or IAGE) will be responsible for establishing systems to secure and record unit head approval of new programs and annual changes to budgets, planning documents, and itineraries.
  • College oversight of departmental study abroad programs, or collaborative oversight with IAGE, will be established and appropriate records kept. For class-work done abroad, colleges or IAGE will require
    students to properly complete course approval and credit recommendation forms, including college approval.
  • Colleges will work with IAGE in co-sponsored programs or will develop their own guidelines and procedures for assessment of education abroad programs. Assessment plans should respond to the wide variety of program types. For example, field site programs with close relations to a sponsoring unit on campus and a substantial number of yearly participants should be assessed in a more thorough and
    regular fashion than exchange programs having only one participant each year. Assessments should be holistic incorporating, at a minimum, academics, housing, health, and program administration. IAGE has developed assessment guidelines for programs it manages or co-sponsors. Consult the IAGE guidelines for suggestions on how other units might respond.
  • Colleges and IAGE will utilize on-line student evaluation methods for education abroad activities. Please note that on-line IAGE student evaluation instruments may be used by other units. Such use produces valuable comparative data for understanding particular programs.
  • Consult IAGE Guidelines Oversight of Education Abroad Programming for additional information.

IAGE Guidelines for Oversight of Education Abroad Programming

Education abroad constitutes a special field of educational activity within the University of Illinois. Program management must have an in-depth understanding of both the quality of education and the quality of supporting services and care our students receive abroad. Management must be able to respond to a wide variety of housing, health, safety, academic, and administrative issues. Regular and  comprehensive assessment is essential to carrying out these roles. Fees for carrying out assessments should be charged to students.

Any assessment must recognize the special qualities of education abroad. As a field, it typically combines classroom-based instruction with rich field site-based experiential learning. It often involves cooperation between two or more institutions as well as many individuals both at the field site and within the student’s home department, college, and, often, family. Given that our students are typically experiencing different cultural and academic norms, foods, and behaviors for the first time, it is particularly important that program management be efficient and proactive in shaping or monitoring the learning environments and challenges facing our students.

Linking experience to reflection is central to the goals of education abroad. Such reflection can take many forms (diaries, journals, class assignments) but students should be coached on how to reflect on both the new world they have entered and on their reactions to that world, their role within that world. Such modes of inquiry set education abroad apart from much of educational practice at the home campus. They also turn student life at the second culture field site into an ongoing experiment.

Such experimentation requires mediation. It is best facilitated by local staff who know our students, the field site, and the many settings and challenges it presents to our students. Ideally local staff facilitate the growth of our students’ mastery of the field site by presenting them with strategically situated opportunities for discovering and expanding new skills and insights. Given the great diversity of local settings around the world this means that programs take many forms, each of which must be recognized in assessment procedures.

Moreover, incorporating the possibilities of such learning environments into the on-campus curriculum and developing appropriate vehicles for accomplishing this, including independent research, field studies, and ethnographic inquiry, constitutes one of the growth points for linking education abroad and education-at-home. It is important that assessment methods recognize that education abroad is central to the university’s core mission and not something assessed separate from or at-a-distance to the home curriculum.

Specific assessment instruments and processes include:

For all programs:

  • Student assessments should be collected and analyzed in comparison with Illinois students on similar programs. Ideally such instruments include sections all students complete as well as sections pertaining to the specifics of a particular program.

For brief faculty led programs (e.g. 1-6 weeks):

  • Faculty sponsors should submit a detailed proposal including a syllabus outlining the goals of the program as well as a daily schedule of readings, activities and the locations at which activities will be carried out. This should be accompanied by a detailed travel plan including dates, accommodations local itineraries and local vendors.
  • Proposals need to be approved by Department Head, the College, and the Director of IAGE.
  • On completion, in addition to the common student assessment above, the faculty sponsor should submit a statement explaining how goals were met with suggestions for future iterations of this program as well as suggestions for other faculty attempting to lead similar programs.
  • As possible, faculty development seminars and workshops should be developed to facilitate the growth of faculty leadership.

For exchange, provider, and direct entry programs with comparatively few regular Illinois participants:

  • Regular staff should be appointed to work with students and staff abroad to monitor and facilitate, through orientations and other forms of intervention, our students’ education abroad. These staff should be in contact and available to students throughout their period abroad.
  • The same staff should work with host institutions abroad on an on-going basis in response to issues as they emerge.
  • Feedback should be collected from staff and faculty abroad on the performance of our students collectively and individually. Grade reports and transcripts should be only part of this feedback. Students performing poorly abroad should be called in for an exit interview when they return where the reasons for their poor performance are discussed.
  • Periodic staff visits to partner institutions abroad to talk with students, staff and faculty should be arranged.
  • Periodically the responsible administrative office should carry out an administrative review seeking input from academic departments within Illinois and evaluating the overall quality and responsiveness of the partner institution.

For field site programs with close relations to the University of Illinois (e.g. “Illinois Field Sites Abroad”):

  • All above methods should be employed.
  • Reports should be collected from Illinois faculty and staff who visit field sites.
  • Periodic local assessments should be carried out at Illinois Field Sites Abroad by the Resident Director or local staff responding to the needs of field site staff and local program development.
  • Resident Director Yearly Reports should be submitted including sections on facilitated learning, student engagement, academic programs, student support, and future directions, among others.
  • A Yearly Field site Planning Meeting should be conducted, based in part on the Resident Director Report, this meeting calls together key stake holders to set agendas and budgets for the coming year for each field site program.
  • Regular operational oversight by the Director of Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange working with Resident Directors, staff from sponsoring departments and IAGE should be carried out.
  • Field sites will be reviewed on a periodic basis (e.g. every five years). Review format will depend on the number of participating students and the relation between the field site and the University of Illinois. Each time a specific format will be developed. Typical formats might include:
    • An evaluation team composed of one or more Illinois faculty or staff will review materials collected above and request additional materials.
    • The team will be given a written charge by the Director of IAGE and sponsoring departments outlining its goals and methods.
    • The evaluation team will typically visit the site for a period of two to three days and will include interviews with students, staff, and faculty.
    • The team will then submit a report to the Director of IAGE and sponsoring departments outlining strengths, weaknesses, and points for future growth in the program.

It is important to keep the review process open-ended and dynamic. Different formats could be used depending on the specific needs of the University or the field site. For example, summative, formative, and empowerment-based assessments each produce a different set of outcomes.