ACADEMIC STANDARDS AND STUDY ABROAD AT KSU, ADMINISTERED BY THE KSU INTERNATIONAL CENTER
The following standards are for the guidance of faculty and their department chairs in proposing study abroad courses. Once approved by the department chair and dean, such proposals are submitted to the KSU International Center. The minimum standards here defined will ordinarily be enforced by the Director of the International Center. Requests for an exception to these standards should be made to the director in writing. If the request is denied, the director will explain why in writing. Appeals are to the appropriate university-wide Policies and Curriculum Committee and to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Study abroad programs provide students with extraordinary opportunities for experiential learning and personal growth. Much of this learning and growth takes place outside the classroom. Site visits, weekend excursions, and home-stays are vital components of many study abroad programs. Even "hanging out" in a foreign city can be an important part of the life-changing experience many of our students have on study abroad programs.
All involved in study abroad recognize the value of this informal, experiential learning. At the same time, to quote a past Vice Chancellor of the University System, "We cannot give students academic credit for walking around the streets in Paris."
The issue is one of striking an appropriate balance. Easing of requirements for formal classroom contact hours is doubtlessly appropriate. Innovative assessment methods that encourage informal learning are valuable. But there must be limits. Study abroad courses must maintain sufficient academic rigor to justify the issuance of KSU credits. The aim of the standards defined below is to provide a framework that will guide faculty proposing study abroad courses in striking that balance.
Classroom Contact Hours:
For an on-campus three credit course, 37.5 hours of formal classroom contact hours are required. For a study abroad course contact hours should be no less than 50% of the hours required in the equivalent course on campus. The "missing" classroom hours should be accounted for via scheduled site visits, field trips and weekend excursions. In this regard, Kennesaw subscribes to the standards of the School for International Training (SIT): Every two hours spent on site visits, field trips, and excursions may be counted as one hour of classroom contact.
We encourage students to study abroad so that they may experience a different culture first hand. Faculty are therefore encouraged to adjust their syllabi when teaching abroad. It is counterproductive to force students to spend most of their time abroad reading long assignments or writing extensive papers. Reading assignments before departure are very useful. Faculty should note, however, that pre-departure assignments for May programs should take into account that students have spring semester coursework to complete. Post-travel assignments like journals and papers that encourage students to reflect on their international experience are also very effective. Time spent on site visits and excursions can substitute for some standard assignments, but such assignments must not disappear altogether. The weight of formal assignments should be no less than 50% of the expectations for an equivalent course in the same discipline on campus.
Innovative assessment strategies, particularly ones that encourage and assess experiential learning, are appropriate on study abroad programs. "Participation" grades are typically weighted more heavily than in a comparable campus course. But these strategies must not be so informal that students have little sense of how they are performing or of how to improve their performance. The type of written work expected may well shift from formal exams to less formal papers and journals. The study abroad course should require at least 50% as much written work as the equivalent course in the same discipline on campus.
Graduate Courses Distinct from Undergraduate Courses:
Study abroad courses represent a special educational situation in which it is sometimes useful to commingle graduate and undergraduate students. Plainly students at the two different levels can benefit from many of the same travel and cultural immersion experiences. But there must be clear and distinct differences in academic assignments and expectations that reflect the higher level of sophistication expected of graduate students.
Program Length and Credit Hours:
Study abroad programs represent a big investment for students in terms of money and time. One way to encourage such an investment is to offer the maximum number of credit hours in a short, relatively inexpensive program. Our May and summer programs, which range from two to five weeks, all fit this description. Such programs have made study abroad accessible for busy, over-committed students at KSU. They are vital to broadening participation in study abroad. But again, there must be limits on how many credits can be awarded for a brief period of study if KSU is to retain academic credibility.
The following list assumes a course, or courses, in which some work is assigned prior to departure and some after students have returned from abroad; but it also assumes that the vast majority of the credit earning experience occurs during the period of foreign study/travel. Given these circumstances, the minimum program length to offer a specified number of credits are as follows:
- 3 semester hours - two weeks
- 6 semester hours - four weeks
- 9 semester hours - six weeks
- 12 semester hours - eight weeks