Beyond the classroom walls: Reimagining the education paradigm

“While technology is not the answer to all challenges, it certainly is one solution”

The need to deliver education online is growing in popularity around the world, and this growth is not set to slow down anytime soon, writes Stéphanie Durand, ‎Head of Enterprise, EMEA at Coursera.

Technology is undoubtedly playing a vital role in the attitude shift toward breaking down traditional barriers of access. This means learning is no longer solely available to a reduced group of people. Opportunities for convenience, cost-effectiveness, and personal enrichment are just some of the variables that have contributed to online learning’s monumental growth.

Education for all – a case in point

Education is no longer off limits to anyone. Take Hadi Althib, one of Coursera’s learners, who fled his home country of Syria to escape military service in 2016.

“Online courses are boundless”

Hadi, now 23 years old, arrived in Turkey with dreams of starting a new life. He had no possessions and no plan. He settled near the Syrian border and focused on finding work and a place to live. Nearly 18 months after his arrival, like thousands of refugees across the world, Hadi turned to the internet for help and started to complete online courses to push himself back into education.

In the midst of conflict and instability, harnessing technology to reach disadvantaged communities and bridge gaps in traditional education systems can pave the way for refugees or anyone seeking to rebuild their lives and communities. Stories such as Hadi’s are evidence that this is working.

Read More

MOOCs: Still Big News for International Learners

“We shouldn’t underestimate how important MOOCs can still be for global students”

 

Clarissa Shen, vice president of Udacity, recently declared MOOCs dead, “a failed product,” sparking yet another round of commentary in the blogosphere. While it is true that MOOCs have neither saved nor destroyed higher education as we know it (as was predicted early on), they are far from dead, writes Laurie Pickard, author of “Don’t pay for your MBA” and nopaymba.com.

The number of online courses continues to grow, and the number of students registering for and completing them continues to tick upward. More than 23 million people registered for a MOOC in 2016. 2017’s numbers haven’t yet been published, but data from the MOOC search engine Class Central suggests that more than 80 million people have taken at least one MOOC. Importantly, people around the world are still learning that MOOCs exist. For these new learners, MOOCs aren’t old news. They are still exciting, new, and full of potential.

I still remember my own excitement when I first learned that top-tier universities were offering free versions of their classes. I felt I needed a business education to further my career, but I wasn’t interested in getting into debt to fund an MBA.

Read More

A new Golden Age for Internationalisation. But can we get it right this time?

“The challenges this time round, in a much more competitive environment, are to learn from the mistakes made last time, and build sustainable financial models “

Who could have predicted, even just a year ago, that internationalisation would need to be back at the top of university agendas in the way that it was in many institutions throughout the 2000s? So asks Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Reading. 

Full-degree, on-shore, international students were the growth engine of UK universities in the 2000s.

If HEIs wanted to grow and prosper there were limited opportunities to do so at home: student numbers were highly regulated and growth capped; so by definition university income was also effectively capped. Surpluses were almost non-existent.

By the start of this decade, international was starting to look a little less attractive and its dominant position as our universities’ growth engine was waning.

“But we didn’t  predict the changes: Brexit and the potential losses it could incur; and the burgeoning debate around fees and growth among UK politicians”

 

Read More

How can UK boarding schools help smooth the transition to university for international students?

“One excellent example of specific support for international students is putting final year students in touch with alumni who are currently at the universities the student might be considering”

As parents know, selecting a university is about more than accessing the latest subject and university rankings. The challenge is even harder for parents who may be several thousand miles away, writes Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide.

Therefore, the responsibility for helping international students find the right university often relies on the diligence of boarding schools.

Some schools offer the same support for international students as they do for UK students, but it is hard not to think that they need more, recognising the lack of direct parental input.

As Caroline Nixon, General Secretary of BAISIS comments: “International students need greater support than UK pupils, not the same…parents don’t understand the process and are remote.”

“University websites make it quite difficult to find basic information, as the focus is on a detailed examination of facilities themselves”

Some schools argue that if their pupils are prepared properly, it is right that they lead the process, not the school or parents.

Read More

Student services: a one-stop shop but not one size fits all

“Increasingly we are faced with students whose emotional needs are complex. Working in isolation is not a healthy option; collaboration is hugely beneficial both for the student and the college”

In recent times, schools, colleges, and universities have had to accept and adapt to the demands of an increasingly consumer-driven education market, writes Mary Memarzia, director of student services at Bellerbys College. They are embracing, albeit at times uncomfortably, the language of the commercial world.

However, the benefit of this shift has been a renewed focus on the whole student experience.

Creating and sustaining an effective interplay between academic provision and pastoral care lies at the heart of the matter; an effective student service provision is key to a truly student-centred institution. In the business of education, the students’ needs must come first.

A tall order

The responsibility of student services is to identify what those individual needs are and to put in place practical and relevant support. We can only do this if we make sure that the services provided are inclusive, equitable and tailor-made. The challenge is to have close oversight of the individual, whilst also keeping an eye on the context of international education. All members of the team have a vital part to play.

Read More

Documentation in times of crisis

“If documents are destroyed, what options does a student have? What happens when the infrastructure is unstable? If records are held online, but there’s no internet available, how is that information obtained?”

In the event of war, economic hardship or natural disasters, students are not always able to provide the standard educational documents, writes research & knowledge management evaluator at Educational Credential Evaluators Melissa Ganiere. So what can be done in times of turmoil to ensure that student qualifications are accessible?

At ECE, we recommend that institutions try to be flexible when dealing with exceptional cases. However, we understand that schools need to adhere to standards while simultaneously keeping the needs and best interests of the student in mind.

The final decision regarding what documents are acceptable is up to your institution. Some best practices have been adopted for documentation issues you might encounter during a crisis.  These may help you gain flexibility without damaging your credibility.

Our top five guidelines for dealing with unusual situations are:

Read More

International Education in New Zealand: New Applications for “№8 Wire”

“Policymakers are positioning international education within a fragile eco-system where sectors of the economy could collapse without the contributions of international students”

 

In 19th century New Zealand, №8 wire was the preferred wire gauge for sheep fencing, so farms often had plentiful supplies. It was said that one could just about fix anything with a handy piece of №8.

Over time, the idea of №8 wire came to represent the ingenuity, resilience and resourcefulness of New Zealanders and became a symbol of the nation’s ability to improvise and adapt. Today, New Zealand faces an array of more complex challenges.

As if with a piece of №8 wire in hand, Anthony Ogden, executive director of education abroad and exchanges at Michigan State University writes, the nation’s leaders have begun to reimagine international education as a viable strategy that can be repurposed to solve some of the country’s pressing challenges.

Although international education is generally discussed in relation to international student and scholar mobility, it is being framed in New Zealand as a dynamic industry in terms of export value, immigration, and as “supply chain management” to bolster the domestic workforce.

The nation’s policymakers are positioning international education within a fragile eco-system wherein certain sectors of the economy would potentially collapse without the economic and workforce contributions of international students.

Read More

Student scammers and how to stop them

“Students have always served as a favourite target for phishing scams – perhaps due to the combination of just setting out into the world while armed with a sizeable student loan in their bank accounts”

The rise in sophisticated cybercrime means a growing number of students are falling victim to malicious email scams, writes Agari field CTO, John Wilson. But are educational institutions doing all they can to protect their students from becoming targets? 

The beginning of a new academic year means millions of students are just starting their journey into higher education. It’s a time that should represent unlimited horizons and discovery for students and educators alike. Unfortunately, thanks to the growing number of cyber criminals around the world, the new academic year also means a fresh crop of unwary victims and the opportunity for a bumper payday in stolen funds.

Email phishing scams – where the criminal tricks their victim into giving up personal information through a fraudulent email – is a growing problem that even sophisticated businesses are struggling to defend against. These emails will usually impersonate a trusted identity, such as a well-known brand, public authority or even a personal contact, to trick their target into opening them.

“The more seasoned criminals will take pains to ensure their emails are indistinguishable from the real thing”

Read More

The challenges of providing high quality pastoral care in boarding schools

“The UK’s pastoral care of international students is widely regarded overseas as being one of the major strengths of the UK boarding school… however there are concerns that loopholes still do exist”

The UK’s boarding school system is world class, and attracts students from around the world, writes UK Education Guide director and co-founder, Pat Moores. But with concerns over the lack of agreed guardianship structures, could the reputation be under threat?

The UK’s pastoral care of international students is widely regarded overseas as being one of the major strengths of the UK boarding school system and one that schools and guardians work hard to maintain.

“UK schools are distinctive in the strength of their commitment to pastoral care – they care about this almost as much as they do about academic matters. We hear that it is this ‘holistic’ approach that is so appreciated by overseas families,” said Diana Stewart Brown, Head of Operations at Keystone Tutors Singapore.

However, there are concerns that certain loopholes still do exist and this then relies on the professionalism and conscientiousness of both schools and guardians to make sure, on a case by case basis, all the gaps are filled.

The legal position according to Matthew Burgess from solicitors Veale Wasbrough Vizard is that the school never loses the overall ‘duty of care’ in the case of full time boarding pupils and in the case of day students the ‘duty of care’ rests more heavily on the guardian as the child is effectively being privately fostered and, if under 16, the family the child is living with has to be registered with social services as a foster family.

“As there is no legally defined guardian role, the provision of non-accredited services is open to interpretation”

There is a recognition that getting pastoral support right, from the very moment a child arrives in the UK, can set the tone for a child’s future happiness. Excellent continuity of communication between admissions teams, houseparents, parents and guardians is critical from day one; “the most successful handover of information from admissions to boarding staff is always achieved through conversation as well as information on file,” said Gareth Collier, principal of Cardiff Sixth Form College.

Regarding ongoing care, there seems to be some consensus from schools where challenges still exist.

“The biggest loophole is the approach that we have to school holidays. Houseparents are often the key pastoral lead in most schools but when the holidays come, and these hard working staff take a well-deserved break, [and] there is little school back up to provide often essential information to parents, students and guardians,” adds Gareth Collier.

“Strong partnerships between schools and guardians are essential to providing excellent care to each young person studying in the UK”

During holiday and exeat weekends when schools close, the role of the guardian therefore becomes even more critical. However, as Caroline Nixon, general secretary of BAISIS, pointed out: “currently neither EU nor non-EU students of any age legally have to have a guardian, although BAISIS believes it is best practice for those under 18”.

Additionally, ensuring high quality guardianship provision is a significant challenge as there is no legal framework as to what services a guardian must provide and their role also depends on the pastoral provision of each individual school.

“The guardian role can cover everything from arranging dental appointments, registering with a doctor to dealing with a child who is potentially about to be excluded from school,” said Julia Evans, Director of Cambridge Guardian Angels.

For this reason, BAISIS has recently created a template for an agreement between individual BAISIS schools and their students’ guardians which outlines the school’s expectations of a guardian’s responsibilities.

AEGIS, The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students, has also gone a long way to adding structure to the guardianship role. AEGIS accredits UK guardianship organisations through a rigorous inspection process and Yasemin Wigglesworth, executive officer at AEGIS, said: “more schools are now insisting that an international student has an AEGIS accredited guardian or close family member in the UK as a condition of admission.”

Currently there are approximately 27,000 International students in the UK aged 18 and under with parents living abroad, but only around 5,000 are in the care of AEGIS registered guardians. This is not to suggest that the care provided by non-AEGIS members is sub-standard but, as there is no legally defined guardian role, the provision of non-accredited services is open to interpretation by each provider and many of these students will not have a guardian at all.

As acknowledged, high quality pastoral care is something that sets UK education providers ahead of international competitors but, in the absence of legal frameworks, strong partnerships between schools and guardians are essential to both maintaining this competitive advantage and providing excellent care to each young person studying in the UK.

Meet the new boss, similar to the old boss: new agent regulations unveiled in Vietnam

“It will take a while before the ‘Wild West’ becomes less wild”

Vietnam is a country in flux and the international education sector is no exception. In fact, it is a case study of changes and reforms. Mark Ashwill, the MD of Capstone Vietnam, looks at the current regulatory system for education agencies and what consultants must do to succeed in this exciting market.

Here’s how a typical scenario plays out: the government will attempt to address a concern or deficiency through a policy change. If the desired result is not achieved, or there are negative consequences, the policy will be rescinded and replaced by another. Such is the case with certification requirements for education agents. This reflects Vietnamese flexibility and the never-ending search for workable solutions to vexing problems.

Out with the Old and In with the New – After an interlude

In August 2016, I wrote about a policy that was implemented in 2014 in response to a decision on the Regulation of Overseas Study of Vietnamese Citizens, issued by the prime minister of Vietnam in January 2013. Of particular interest to education consulting companies was chapter three, entitled Management of Overseas Study Services. This section stipulated that education agents would henceforth need to meet certain requirements related to staff qualifications, official certification, and financial capacity “to ensure the settlement of risk cases.”

The stated purpose of these regulations was to raise the standards of practice and improve the quality of service by regulating educational consulting companies on some level. In a December 2014 article, I noted that as with all new approaches, it will take a while before the ‘Wild West’ becomes less wild, less greedy and more responsive to the needs and demands of its clients and higher education partners. This type of certification is a step in the right direction.

Read More