Sep 11, 2021

To prepare students to become productive global citizens, Philippine Universities had been sending students to study abroad. With the ongoing worldwide health crisis, however, such a practice had become close to impossible, making the exploration of internationalization of education from home an imperative recourse.

Marina Casals, International Center Director of Universitat Rovira I Virgili (URV) in Spain, spoke on International Virtual Mobility at a recent ANTENA online conference. She shared options that Philippine higher education institutions (HEIs) could consider in the implementation of internationalization given current constraints to mobility.

The internationalization of the curriculum, for one, already entails several strategies such as integrating different cultural perspectives, and using international case studies and examples. But she suggests a more comprehensive approach to internationalization that requires institutional commitment and action.

“From our curriculum, to our leadership, our services, it is in everything. It shapes the institution. It touches the values. It needs to be embraced by everyone in our institution,” she noted.

For their own Internationalization at Home (IaH) program, URV starts with transforming the mindset of administrative and academic staff. It focuses on training, empowering and engaging staff with a comprehensive internationalization course in their own language. Trainers are also from the same institution.

Another element focuses on mentoring international students through interaction with local students.

But the highlight was the concept of Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) or Virtual Exchange, a strategy some local HEIs have already initiated. Ms. Casals explained that COIL was a teaching and learning paradigm based on experiential collaborative learning. Co-developed and co-taught, the approach aims to help graduates develop skills for intercultural and online interactions.

For universities, COIL brings advantages in terms of greater sustainability, flexibility, and increased collaborations with other institutions.

A COIL training module can begin with two teachers from two different institutions of two different countries or cultural contexts. Together, they define the learning outcomes of the course, methodology, technology, comparative and collaborative activities and length of interaction. The next phase involves the students working together as an international team under the teacher’s supervision. The last is the reflection phase, featuring a conscious intercultural reflection led by the teacher, evaluation and closing session. Students reflect on the intercultural learning and overall experience.

Ms. Casals concluded the virtual event by challenging participants to consider their own IaH strategies. Would COIL work for their institutions? Were there tools and trainings for academic and administrative staff to develop their intercultural competence and awareness? How were the HEIs preparing their students for the wider world?

She stressed that there were many advantages to internationalization like the rich intercultural experiential learning, and developing a greater understanding of cultural differences.

“You develop this understanding of how you and your culture are perceived. It leads everyone to learn about themselves, about others and about the world in different ways,” she said.

The online conference was attended by officials from the ANTENA partner institutions from the Philippines which include the Ateneo de Manila University, Benguet State University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle University, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Saint Louis University, University of the Philippines, University of San Carlos and Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, and the Commission on Higher Education. ANTENA is a capacity building cooperation project co-funded by the Erasmus + program of the European Commission.