What is a Faculty-led Study Abroad Program?

A faculty-led study abroad program is one that:

  • is taught outside the United States
  • involves a Valpo faculty member as instructor and/or on-site coordinator
  • involves a group of students going to the same location for the same time period
  • allows students to earn Valpo credit taken for a grade, listed on their Valpo transcript, and included in their GPA – similar to on-campus courses
  • is supported by a particular college/academic department on campus in conjunction with OIP – Study Abroad

Many students at Valpo travel abroad through faculty-led programs. Generally these occur during the two-week Spring Break but may also occur during the Summer, or even as semester-long programs. These programs offer students the opportunity to earn credit toward their degree with the additional comfort and confidence that comes from knowing their faculty leader. Faculty leaders are a strong draw for those who aren’t experienced travelers. These programs can provide opportunities for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to study abroad, and for others, it can serve as a launching point for further international studies.

Getting Started

International Programs – Study Abroad appreciates your interest in developing a faculty-led study abroad program, and we look forward to assisting you with what will surely be a greatly rewarding opportunity for you and your students.

There is a lot of work involved in developing and conducting a successful faculty-led Study Abroad program. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. The International Programs – Study Abroad team is here to partner with you and make your program a reality. Below are some guidelines and resources for you to use as you develop your program. For those already done with development, you can skip to the proposal submission section.

As you are thinking about when you might want to lead your program abroad, keep in mind that the development process starts well in advance of actually going abroad. To learn more about things to consider and what is involved, schedule a meeting with Erin Kunert, Associate Director of Study Abroad Programs.

Further in this section you will also be able to learn about the program proposal process and timeline. The International Affairs Committee (IAC) reviews all program proposals. They take many aspects of the program into consideration, including location, cost, health and safety, and other logistical pieces. Approvals for academic credit will be given by the Provost’s office.

Being a Faculty Leader

Leading a faculty-led program abroad is a full-time commitment for the duration of the program. While it is similar in some ways to teaching a course here on campus, in other ways it is very different and much more demanding. It is not an experience for the faint of heart, but can be very rewarding professionally and, for most students, will be the one of the most memorable parts of their Valpo experience.

Faculty leaders wear many hats including instructor, logistical coordinator, advisor/counselor (both academic and personal), and at times, disciplinarian and crisis manager. It’s important that faculty leaders feel comfortable in these roles when considering leading a study abroad program.

Another important responsibility of a faculty leader is participating in program recruitment efforts. Faculty leaders are the biggest draw for students and for those willing to spend time speaking with students at the Study Abroad Fair, in classes, and any other ways, makes big a difference in enrollments.

Rest assured, for those up to the task of taking on these responsibilities, OIP Study Abroad is here to help. In addition to providing support through each step of the way, there is also a Faculty Leader Orientation to share information, discuss campus policy and procedures, and work through example scenarios so that faculty feel prepared to lead their group abroad.

Program Design Considerations

When thinking about designing a program, there is a lot to consider. There are many factors that differ from designing a course on-campus. This list will break down some of the things you’ll want to think about into some general categories. This list isn’t comprehensive, given that there are a variety of destinations, academic foci, learning objectives, and your preferences may change how you approach your design, but it’s a good place to start.

A course need not, but may, be modeled after a course you normally teach on campus. Adapting a syllabus you already have makes the process much easier, especially since the syllabus is already approved and you know the content well.

Take advantage of the location – A well-designed program will combine academic learning with cross-cultural experience and be designed to make extensive use of the physical, human, and cultural resources of the host environment. Field trips, site visits, and other cultural activities integrated into the course material should provide an in-depth view of the host country in order to enhance the classroom experience.

Your college will ultimately determine the number of credits awarded for your program. Credits awarded in an overseas setting are based on the same formula used for regular Valpo classes. Credit requirements can include guest lectures and documented, organized experiential activities that support the class work (e.g. excursions, field trips, museum visits, as well as organized language lab or computer lab activities). Time traveling to and from experiential activities is not included in this calculation, unless you are able to make a case for lectures on a chartered bus. But keep in mind that the concept of learning by osmosis (living in the overseas location for a period of time) is not a sufficient basis for awarding credit.

The academic rigor of the program must meet Valpo standards. This is an important consideration, and one that the OIP Study Abroad Office takes seriously. A common criticism levied against study abroad programs is that they lack academic rigor, and are nothing more than informative tours to international locations. We know that this is not the case, and together with faculty like you we work hard to deliver high quality, academically rigorous study abroad programs.

You will also want to consider the Study Abroad Learning Outcomes that have been designed for all study abroad programs on campus. The intention is to blend the general Study Abroad Learning Outcomes with the course’s learning outcomes to develop a challenging and impactful experience for students. Those outcomes are:

  1. Students will demonstrate cross-cultural understanding by increasing knowledge of and engaging with their host country.
  2. Students will develop cross-cultural communication skills so that they can communicate appropriately and effectively with diverse individuals and groups.
  3. Students will apply knowledge and critical thinking skills to engage in problem solving in global and cross-cultural contexts both generally and in their respective field of study.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to think reflectively about their own country and culture in relationship to others and develop a more global perspective.

Be specific in identifying the educational objectives of the program, but also consider how your program focus, and/or the location, can crossover into other disciplines. Cross-listing your program with another area on campus can greatly broaden the appeal of the program, and inter-disciplinary programs benefit from a wonderful mix of perspectives, opinions and insights. The more diverse your student group is, the more diverse the ensuing discussions will be.

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Program Providers are companies or organizations that specialized in providing customized, faculty-led program support. They arrange the various components and details of a program. They work closely with you, as well as coordinate with the OIP Study Abroad Office to design a program that meets your objectives and preferences, while also conforming to Valpo’s and OIP’s regulations and guidelines.

There are many custom faculty-led program providers, and different companies have different approaches, areas of expertise, pricing models, and geographic limitations. Depending on your program, OIP can make recommendations to best suit your goals and objectives.

For first-time faculty leaders, and especially for faculty leaders without a program assistant, the use of a program provider is strongly encouraged. Such organizations allow faculty leaders to focus on the academic components of their program while they organize housing, classroom space, and any excursions or activities you may request.

While working with providers simplifies the program development process immensely, it does come at a cost. This is important to consider, as it may necessitate a larger group size, or a higher per student cost. But, the cost incurred from a provider easily pays for itself through the delivery of a seamless, high quality program.

Accommodation varies widely among faculty-led programs, with certain types lending themselves more to certain program models. Accommodation in hostels or hotels is most convenient for faculty-led programs, with double-occupancy rooms being the norm.

For programs that are longer, and focused on a specific city or area, certain long-stay student housing options may be a good option.

Programs that move around a lot can be more expensive, especially as hotels are the best housing option in this model, and can be pricier than options like hostels, or long-stay student residences.

If you are working with a program provider, the company can often provide housing or recommend a housing provider. This often proves to be simpler and more economical, and much easier, than you making arrangements on your own.

For security and risk management purposes, faculty members are encouraged to stay in the same housing provided for participants.

Programs are not required to provide meals. Including a few group meals, such as a welcome and farewell dinner can help build cohesiveness in your program. Also, keep in mind that a group meal can be a more convenient and timely solution, as opposed to releasing the students to do their own thing. This is an important consideration when planning excursions.

Breakfast isn’t always included in the cost of a hotel, but when evaluating hotel options, you may want to give preference to those that do include it. Not only does making use of lodging that includes some or all meals help to reduce the overall program cost, it also provides a daily meeting to check in with the students and prepare for the day’s schedule.

If you opt not to include some or all meals, or are unable to arrange this, be sure you know how/where students will get their meals. Accurate cost estimates for student expenses in this area will also be essential to help students plan. And, they will look to you for guidance on where to eat, especially when arriving in a new location.

Excursions and field trips are an integral part of a faculty-led program. These activities, coupled with your academic content, are the core substance of the program. They are the opportunity for first-person, experiential learning. The students will want to know what will take place during the program, and a well-written and detailed description of the excursions and activities will go a long way in getting students interested.

Costs for excursions will be budgeted into the program, so it will be important to do some research on transportation, lodging, and admissions costs related to excursions while you are working on the overall proposal. The more detail you provide early in the process, the faster things will go in the planning phase.

Excursions should be relevant to the purpose of the program, take advantage of the locale, and be realistic in terms of time, distance, and cost. And, consider the overall itinerary and travel schedule. You want to find a balance between including a lot, and not overwhelming yourself and the students.

You will also want to take into account whether alternate activities would be available if a participant has mobility challenges. You should also make sure there is information available to applicants up-front to let them know the physical requirements of the program and any excursions.

  • Entry requirements and visas are an important consideration, especially when looking to many non-traditional destinations. In addition to country-specific requirements, the citizenship of students can dictate the process necessary to enter, or sometimes even just to transit. While OIP Study Abroad can be a resource in this, the earlier you start and the more you communicate with OIP during the development process, the easier it will be to plan for visas and entry requirements.
  • Additionally, some countries require special permits for activities like field research, organized tours to certain locations, and/or filming. This is not a comprehensive list, and as the proposing faculty member, the responsibility for identifying the restrictions or requirements on these types of activities rests with you.

In an effort to help with recruitment efforts, and in order to maintain a diverse range of program options for students, OIP recommends you consider the following tips as you design your new program:

New programs should complement, rather than compete with, existing Valpo programs. You may want to consider working with a faculty member from another discipline to co-offer a program. These joint programs can provide a very unique and attractive experience to students.

Consider non-traditional destinations. Programs to Western Europe are great, but also consider locales such as South America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and even part of Eastern Europe. These destinations can offer a lot, and may (though not always) be more cost-effective than Western Europe.

To ensure better rates of participation and greater accessibility program costs should be kept as low as possible. Consider that for many programs, especially in the summer, students are incurring a lost-opportunity cost because they won’t be working while they are abroad.

Students need to enroll in a minimum of 6 credit hours during the summer in order to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Students can meet this requirement by pairing an on-campus course with a 3-credit study abroad program. But, those programs that offer students 6 credits are attractive by virtue of already meeting that minimum. Generally speaking, students find a 6-credit option to be the most cost-effective.

Carefully consider your program curriculum. Students participating in study abroad programs are usually looking to fulfill major/minor/general education requirements. The more you can align your course with these core requirements, the more students will be interested in signing up for your program.

Your program should be designed with student safety in mind and in such a way that you feel you will be able to adequately ensure the safety and security of your group of students. Traveling to countries on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Travel Warning List is only allowed with prior approval from the OIP Study Abroad Office and International Affairs Committee (IAC). An active DOS Travel Warning does not immediately rule out a destination, but it will be reviewed carefully by the Associate Director of Study Abroad Programs and the International Affairs Committee.

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