Granting academic credit for a course taken at another institution is difficult enough when it occurs within a single nation. Transferring credit across national borders only complicates the situation. There are numerous cases in which students have taken courses overseas only to have them rejected by their home college or university. In the cases where they are accepted, they are often listed as electives, rather than counted in the disciplinary requirements for a degree.
Such situations act as a powerful deterrent to study abroad. As discussed earlier in this section, challenges for Japanese students and challenges for U.S. students include worry about how their home institutions will view the work they do overseas, how it will be regarded within their degree programs, and if it will delay their progress to graduation.
Assuring that the courses students take overseas will contribute to their degree programs must be a priority.
Strategic partnerships provide the matrix for providing such assurance. They establish the mutual understanding and respect needed not only to transfer courses but to place them directly into the requirements for degree programs. They also establish the dialogue required to understand courses and requirements unfamiliar in the other system, to navigate cultural and national differences in curricula, and to find homes for courses that are new to each other.
The following principles are key to this process, many of which are well illustrated in the University of Tsukuba’s Course Jukebox system, which is establishing course equivalencies with its key international partners:
- Provide information that will help your partner assess the programs in which their students are participating.
- What other Japanese or U.S. institutions accept courses from these programs for transfer credit
- Quality of the teaching faculty
- Quality of laboratories and other teaching resources
- Your grading scale and how to interpret it
- Standard number of contact hours per course
- Standard methods of assessing student learning
- Overall learning goals of each program
- Course and program assessment methods and results
- Work toward course articulations that specify where particular courses fit in each other’s curricula, particularly ones that visiting students are likely to take.
- Learning objectives
- Requirements for students
- Reading, laboratory, or other work required
- Hours spent in instruction each week
- Where the course fits within your curriculum
- Student assessment results
- Work with your own faculty to integrate study abroad into the pathways that fulfill degree requirements.
- Following the principles of curriculum integration discussed
- Support faculty in connecting with their counterparts at the partner institution, so they might better understand each other’s curricular goals, strengths, and potential for collaboration.
- Trips, virtual communications, joint symposia
- Co-teaching courses, both face-to-face and virtually
- Developing joint curricula and similar collaborations