Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Putting students’ international learning experiences to work: Designing a co-curricular programme that links student mobility to future employment (#164)

Wendy Green 1 , Jessica Gallagher 2 , Jan Gothard 3 , Trish Andrews 4 , Eva King 2
  1. UTAS, Launceston, TAS, Australia
  2. University of Queensland, Brisbane , Qld, Australia
  3. Murdoch University, Perth , WA, Australia
  4. Educational consultant , Brisbane , Qld , Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

During the past two decades, universities, employer groups and Australian government agencies have emphasised the need to develop graduates who have the skills and dispositions to work in an increasingly interconnected world. More recently, trade deals with several Asian countries have focused attention on this need (Henry, 2012). It is often assumed that study/internships abroad enable students to develop such skills. Yet, learning from international experiences does not occur ‘naturally’, simply by going abroad; rather, it emerges when students are supported to ‘reconstrue’ their experiences in transformative ways (Bennett & Salonen 2007: 46; also Gothard et al 2012). While some universities now offer programmes to enhance student outcomes from international study/internships, the focus is typically on personal, rather than professional development (Potts, 2015). This showcase reports on phase one of an OLT-funded project, which aims to provide mobile students with an accessible online learning programme that targets career planning. Following a review of the literature and industry surveys, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with two groups of informants: recent graduates who had undertaken international study/internships and are employed, and employers of recent graduates. The interviews, which were analysed thematically to draw out the potential professional benefits of international experience and the challenges of articulating and applying them in the workplace, were used to inform the development of the online programme. A subsequent round of short interviews with selected participants was filmed, edited and embedded in the learning programme to create more engaging, media-rich learning resources. Evaluation of the programme considered a) its perceived usefulness to the student participants and Dissemination Groups (DGs) of potential adopters and b) uptake in the three universities involved in the project. Participatory evaluation of the project included surveys of students, feedback from the DGs  and observations/ reflections of the project team.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This showcase addresses two conference themes: ‘educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals’, and ‘exploiting emerging technologies to enable employability’. Scant attention has been given to supporting university students’ learning through mobility. What programmes are offered tend to focus on personal development, rather than career planning (Potts, 2015). At the same time, research shows that employers typically underestimate the potential benefits of graduates’ international experiences in the workplace (Jones, 2013). Our research drew out the professional benefits of international experience for new graduates and their employers, in order to inform the development of a sustainable, institutionally-supported programme for enhancing the graduate outcomes from international study/internships. The programme, ‘Putting your international experience to work’ builds on the original learning resources developed as part of the OLT-funded project, ‘Bringing the learning home (Gothard et al, 2012). Our extension of this original learning resource provides targeted, just-in-time, accessible online learning support for the broadest number of mobile students and brings a much-needed focus on supporting the development of key employability skills and as students contemplate their transition to the workplace.

  1. Bennett, J. & Salonen, R. (2007). Intercultural communication and the new American campus. Change, 39 (2), 46-50.
  2. Gothard, J.,Downey, G., Gray, T.. (2012). Bringing the learning home: Programs to enhance study abroad outcomes in Australian universities: Final Report. Office for Learning and Teaching.
  3. Henry, K. (2012). Australia in the Asian century: White Paper. Commonwealth of Australia.
  4. Jones, E. (2013). Internationalization and employability: the role of intercultural experiences in the development of transferable skills. Public money and management, 33 (2), 95-104.
  5. Potts, D.L. (2014). Exploring the perceptions of the early career value of study abroad for bachelor degree graduates of Australian universities (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Michigan State University: East Lansing.