Ikudu and Erasmus

Welcome to the iKudu Project

iKudu Blog

Welcome to the iKudu blog, which aims to amplify the diverse voices of the iKudu stakeholders. In this space, members of the iKudu team will regularly share their views on our project and related international education topics. 

The iKudu project is based on the fundamental belief that it is necessary to rethink internationalisation in an uncertain world. First, it is crucial to recognise and transform the power dynamics underlying international academic collaboration. Second, it is essential to develop pedagogies which allow every student to participate in international education, integrating technology where appropriate. 

However, while we agree on the fundamental tenets of our project and our principal goals, all our stakeholders contribute different perspectives. The iKudu project plan reflects the diverse insights of a team hailing from South Africa and Europe. In this blog, we aim to provide a space for intellectual discourse on our project and related international education topics, which allows for constructive, critical engagement

Cornelius Hagenmeier
iKudu Project Coordinator 

Revisiting Internationalisation at home through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

by ikudu Blogger | Jul 21, 2020

Jos Beelen
Written by: Jos Beelen, Professor of Global Learning at The Hague University of Applied Sciences 

During the current COVID-19 crisis with its limitations on mobility, policy makers in higher education stressed the importance of internationalisation at home. While this is a welcome boost for the concept, being forced to literally stay ‘at home’ was not exactly what we intended. However, stressing the newly perceived importance of internationalisation at home is often based on a misconception.


After all, for the great majority of students, the current crisis did not change anything with regard to study abroad. Even before this crisis, it was only a privileged minority who had the mindset and resources to study abroad.
What also remains unchanged is that internationalisation at home is usually framed as an alternative to student mobility. It comes into the picture as a second-best option for those unfortunate enough not able to study abroad. 
Long before the crisis, we realised that an internationalised home curriculum is the foundation of internationalisation for all students. Study abroad should be considered as an extra opportunity for the small minority who are able and willing to take it. 

This crisis has also shown that the concept of internationalisation at home is still poorly understood, even twenty years after its introduction. Many tend to overlook the local building blocks of an internationalised home curriculum that are ‘under their noses’. It includes internationally comparative research, studying cases and literature from different contexts, analysing global versus local developments, engaging with international and cultural organisations in the local environment, and the diversity of students and staff. In metropolitan cities with a diverse population, internationalisation at home could even be enacted without international students and without international partners.

Within the range of instruments that constitute an internationalised home curriculum, one has received the most attention in this crisis: online collaboration of students. Such activities are usually termed ‘virtual exchange’ or ‘virtual mobility’, indicating that they are imitations of traditional physical mobility rather than a form of internationalisation in its own right.
Online collaboration can bring great learning benefits, provided that it is educationally well designed. If not, the same thing can happen that we frequently see in physical international classrooms: bringing students from different countries together in a learning environment does not automatically spark collaborative learning.
Even when a successful practice for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) has been established, this does not mean that an entire curriculum is internationalised. Considering the high expectations that we have of international learning, it seems unlikely that a single COIL practice can realise our ambitions for students to develop critical thinking, intercultural competence, international teamwork skills and many more. This requires sustained effort across the entire curriculum.

THE IKUDU project not only aims to design online collaboration that is truly collaborative, it also aims to align COIL practices with other components in an internationalised curriculum.
The project is designed around two working groups operating in tandem. One of these focuses on the development of COIL practices by pairing up lecturers at South African and European universities and supporting them in establishing collaborative online learning environments.
The other working group revolves around the transformation of teaching and learning at home through internationalisation. It explores the meaning of an internationalised curriculum in the contexts of the participants. This exploration starts by challenging the assumption that internationalisation is a benefit per se. In South Africa, some people experience internationalisation as an imposed Northern concept that is not appropriate in the local context. Therefore, we need to ‘unpack’ this concept collaboratively and define its meaning in relation to other concepts such as Africanisation, decolonisation of the curriculum, 21st century skills, and global citizenship. We will also need to find out how international learning relates to local engagement and the role of the university in its local community, and what the role of indigenous knowledge is.
Exploring these concepts is aimed at making the ‘hidden’ curriculum in COIL practices visible. This hidden curriculum consists of mindsets, assumptions, and expectations that are so familiar to us that we have become unaware of them. In international collaboration, this can be a major stumbling block.
Together, the two working groups also look at stakeholders beyond lecturers and students, and their roles in embedding COIL practices at universities. This means that we are identifying the leaders of internationalisation and COIL who may be distributed across the university. These stakeholders are not only essential in supporting lecturers in the educational design and technology forming the basis of COIL. They also need to be involved in upscaling COIL to a learning opportunity that reaches all students, not just the small minority who chooses a COIL elective. Only then can we overcome the inequalities that have for the longest time been such a key feature of traditional, mobility-based internationalisation.

What motivates me for the IKUDU project, is that we are making the internationalisation at home curriculum and COIL ‘talk to each other’ across the two working groups. Together with Lynette Jacobs at the University of the Free State, I coordinate the working group that is working on internationalisation at home. The discussions are meaningful and sometimes even existentialist. When we are aiming for students to work collaboratively, then surely, we should do the same. Therefore, the process of the IKUDU project is collaborative between European and South African universities, but also between the two working groups. There is also the collaborative dimension within my own university. Reinout Klamer is a linking pin between the two working groups. My fellow professor, Ellen Sjoer, is zooming in on talent development through internationalised learning. Simone Hackett is looking at the project from the perspective of her study on COIL practices. We are also working with the emerging COIL hub within our university.
Another exciting aspect of the IKUDU project is that we have identified research opportunities that run alongside the project proper. 

It is too early to assess the effects of COVID-19 on international higher education or indeed on the IKUDU project. But it is clear that the focus, the people, and collaboration within this project will make all the difference.

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Chevon Slambee 
Chief Officer: Strategic Projects, Institutional Reporting, and Research Internationalisation
       T: +27 51 401 2501
          E: jacobscs@ufs.ac.za

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