Expanding Educational Access Through Global Tech Programming

Education abroad professionals are actively engaged in piloting an array of new modalities to engage diverse students in international learning and engagement beyond student mobility. This third article will explore the impact of Global Tech on several institutions’ visionary approaches to expanding access to underrepresented students.

Podium Education’s Expert Series will appeal to those education abroad professionals who are especially eager to explore entrepreneurial strategies and savvy approaches to maximizing student learning and engagement in a new era.  

For quite some time now, strategic visions of international education have amplified diversity, equity, and inclusion to build accessible pathways for all students. We’ve raised funds for scholarships, revised curricula to incorporate diverse voices, and worked toward systemic change in institutional policies.

Then in 2020, the pandemic, new approaches (and trust!) in online learning, and the national focus on underrepresented student populations magnified conversations about international education. This strengthened our resolve 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. 

We are starting to see evidence that new and emerging modalities for international learning and engagement have real potential to expand access to more diverse and traditionally underrepresented student populations.  A survey conducted last year by Gateway International Group on the future of global education provided early evidence of revitalized DEI efforts.  At that point, the survey suggested that 65% of education abroad offices surveyed had already started to rebuild, rethink, and reimagine their focus on DEI.

What’s particularly exciting is that most of these education abroad offices had already started to embrace a new reality, that online learning and engagement is here to stay and will play a critical role in increasing access to international education for diverse and traditionally underrepresented students.

Several institutions have since made thought-provoking inroads into expanding access through new modalities. Of particular note, the University of South Florida (USF) and Arizona State University (ASU) have learned that Global Tech boosts overall enrollment and expands access to more diverse student populations.

We hear from students all too often about the barriers they face to studying abroad.  Whether limited time, money, social support, or credit hours, studying abroad can be a complex and often overly challenging puzzle for students to solve. They need guidance and support that is often unrealistic for advising staff who are facing new challenges as education abroad offices struggle and adapt today. 

To make programs accessible to the largest number of students, those institutions that have launched Global Tech programming have done so not necessarily as a replacement to education abroad, but as a way to expand student access. Offered as a course within standard university semesters and structures, Global Tech fits within on-campus course offerings but focuses on connecting students from around the world as they utilize newly-learned tech skills to tackle real-world challenges facing top companies. This unique combination results in greater career-readiness, intercultural communication savvy, critical thinking abilities, problem-solving acumen, and of course, in-demand tech skills.  Unlike mobility-based programming, Global Tech does not impact tuition rates, financial aid, time to graduation, or credit requirements.  In result, the arrival of Global Tech programming has begun to remove long-standing barriers to international learning and engagement. 

Institutional Insights 

Both the University of South Florida (USF) and Arizona State University (ASU) launched Global Tech programs in 2021, with collective results suggesting this new modality is redefining enrollment trends of traditionally underrepresented students.

Strong global opportunities at USF grew significantly in 2022 with the adoption of Global Tech programs.  As shown in Table I, 2018/19 indicates that underrepresented students studied abroad in comparable percentages to the total USF student populations on campus with a small +3% variance. The introduction of Global Tech experiential programs in 2021 shifted those numbers in noteworthy ways, with Global Tech increasing the variance of total campus populations to up to +11%:

Table I: University of South Florida Comparative View of Race & Ethnicity in International Education Modality

Interestingly, while we might explore enrollments of underrepresented student groups, students identifying as white also saw significant enrollments in USF’s Global Tech programming, suggesting that there is value in exploring complementary approaches to these enrollment trends.

ASU’s success in bringing global virtual programming to all of its students points to interesting impacts that cut across race and ethnicity. Global Tech programming is included in standard tuition; ASU reports in Table II this approach’s impact on Pell-eligible student engagement in global programming:

Table II: Arizona State University Virtual Global Programming: 2022 Pell Student Engagement

With over two thirds of Pell-eligible students engaging in virtual global spaces to enhance their career readiness, Global Tech–with 49% of Pell-student engagement at ASU–could become a nexus for ASU’s future of global programming that is open to all students.

Institutions like USF and ASU provide much to consider as new and emerging modalities such as Global Tech are further mainstreamed in international learning and engagement programming.  Such programming is no longer a COVID stop-gap but presents new and innovative ways to engage all students, not just the privileged few in meaningful international learning and engagement.  This necessary expansion to include such new ways of learning is showing success, as demonstrated at USF and ASU, and underscores the need to continue our collective efforts with exploring and testing new possibilities that ensure international learning is accessible and equitable for all students.  

Join in for the surprising return-on-investment for student career pathways in "Growing Career Readiness through Global Tech,” coming soon!

Source: Jennifer Malerich, Noah Rost. (June 2022). Next Generation Global Education: Online Global Learning. Remote: The Connected Faculty Summit.

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