Internationalisation at home and Blended Intensive Programmes: 5 key insights

Internationalisation at home (IaH) and Blended Intensive Programs (BIPs), are they a good match?
Studenten praten tijdens het kijken naar een laptop

Sake Jager, Reinout Klamer and Dinand Warringa exchanged thoughts about this topic during an online panel discussion, which was organized by Nuffic Connects.

Sake Jager is project manager educational innovation at the University of Groningen, Reinout Klamer is Virtual Collaboration Coordinator at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Dinand Warringa is connected to Hogeschool Windesheim as Global Programs Coordinator and English lecturer.

Their conversation conceded several key insights, here are five:

1. Accessibility: the practice is unruly sometimes

In theory you could state that you can make internationalisation accessible to all students with COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) and BIP's. However in practice this can be different, the experts concluded. Warringa: 'Not everyone in your organization is up for it', in that respect there are major differences between programs and between staff. BIPs are subject to a number of conditions from Erasmus+, while COIL has a less clearly defined format. As a result, COIL is experienced as more accessible for lecturers to set up. In addition, the set-up of BIPs is often small-scale, according to Klamer. 'A smaller group of students usually participates per BIP.' BIPs are also generally optional, Jager adds: 'They are often not integrated in the curriculum.'

2. COIL can lower the threshold for BIPs (but it doesn't always work out that way)

If a program has experience with COIL, it is easier to set up a BIP. The international contacts that a program has gained with COIL can then be further expanded. Yet Jager notices that COIL does not always function as a steppingstone, because BIPs are often seen as a form of short-term mobility. Warringa also believes that experience with COIL could make it easier to set up BIPs, but that setting up a BIP in practice requires more time and effort.

3. You cannot do without (internal and external) stakeholders

Whether you work with COIL or set up a BIP, it is important to involve different stakeholders. The experts agree on that. This applies to international partners, but also to the colleagues you work with internally. It is good to look beyond the 'usual suspects'.

COIL projects are often set up by enthusiastic lecturers, the panel members note. How can you best support them as an organization (educationally)? What professionalization can you offer? And how do you ensure that the rest of the colleagues also support the project?

BIPs are often set up with the help of the international office. In addition to the administrative support that is offered there, the knowledge of the international office about finding the right partners is valuable.

4. Learning outcomes are a good starting point

The activities you come up with are never an aim in itself, emphasize Jager, Klamer and Warringa. It is about consciously thinking about what you want to teach the students, and the activities flow from that. It is valuable to give IaH and BIPs a permanent place in the curriculum, say the experts, but they also know from experience that there is a risk that you will limit the curriculum too much. 'You never know when a partner e-mails you with an opportunity' says Warringa, 'then you would like to have the opportunity to do something with it.' Warringa calls minors a good “place” in the curriculum to try out whether COIL and BIPs are suitable. At a later stage, it can always be decided to integrate such an activity into the standard curriculum.

5. BIPs are a good addition to internationalisation, but it is not IaH

BIPs are more inclusive than other forms of internationalisation, like regular mobility, but Klamer's experience is that in practice they often reach a lower number of students. IaH is about making a conscious choice and seeking alignment between learning objectives and activities, among other things, says Jager. The experts see that BIPs are reasoned from a different starting point: mobility is supplemented with a virtual component, but then often still separate from the curriculum. This shows that different stakeholders are involved in both forms. A conclusion: seek the connection and make use of each other's expertise on the curriculum and international cooperation. In that case BIPs are a valuable, increasing form of internationalisation, in addition to IaH.

The session was co-created with the cooperation of Eva Haug, education consultant for internationalisation of the curriculum and expert on COIL.

This article is a concise summary of a discussion between three experts and is therefore an opinion piece. The insights described are based on the opinions and experiences of the panel members.

In addition, both the panel discussion and this article have chosen to use COIL as terminology. In Dutch higher education, Virtual International Collaboration (VIS) is made possible by a subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.