An Online Alternative to Traditional Study Abroad

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Are there alternative ways we can provide educational international experiences and global competencies to students who are unable to travel abroad? In this session presenters will share their findings from an evaluation of an alternative technology solution for gaining international experiences at the University of Central Florida.


Dr. Wendy Howard is the Program Director of the Pegasus Innovation Lab at the University of Central Florida, which is an incubator of experimental projects focused on digital learning innovations that can be developed and refined through rapid prototyping and then promoted throughout the university to maximize collective impact on student success at scale. With over twenty years of experience in both instructional design and teaching, her current research is focused on faculty development, collaborative online learning and internationalizing the curriculum through technology.

Extended Abstract

As we move further into the 21st Century, businesses continue to seek college graduates with global experience and intercultural competence, but the reality is that many students are unable to gain this experience through traveling abroad during their postsecondary education for a variety of reasons. Researchers at the University of Central Florida set out to determine if there is value in using Web conferencing technology to provide students with access to the same opportunities to tour and interact with international experts in the field as their counterparts who were able to travel.

This formative evaluation dissertation study was the first in a series of iterative studies aimed at developing a viable, sustainable, technology-based solution through design-based research (Reeves, 2006). Using the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Quality Framework, this formative evaluation focused on both the intended outcomes as well as the implementation of web conferencing technology that was used to allow participants back in the United States to participate live in study abroad activities in a graduate level global health management course in Brazil.

Researchers found that Web conferencing technology appears to be a viable alternative that provides its own set of benefits to students in higher education. While this formative evaluation revealed clear areas for improvement, including technical and procedural elements, the instructors and online participants did find value in the experience. Exploration of the evaluation questions under each of the five pillars of the OLC Quality Framework revealed both success factors and areas for improvement in each of the following categories: learning effectiveness, scale (commitment & cost), access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction. Student and instructor satisfaction was found to be statistically significant, leading the researchers to see this was a viable solution to traditional study abroad. This presentation will share findings and address how the recommendations from this study were incorporated into the next iterative study, which is currently in progress with an undergraduate communications course in Italy.


Reeves, T. C. (2006). Design research from a technology perspective. In J. Van den Akker, K. Gravemeijer, S. McKenney, & N. Nieveen (Eds.), Educational design research (pp. 52–66). London: Routledge.