Digital articulation: a new HE internationalisation model

The world of international higher education has long offered students a range of degree options and online and on-campus undergraduate and graduate courses. However, the recent unprecedented disruptions in education have posed a significant challenge for universities in terms of reaching and accommodating a wider range of students.

Before the disruptions, multinational collaboration programmes were mostly delivered through face-to-face instruction and on-campus. But with advancements in technology and lessons learned from the pandemic, universities are now able to offer more flexible programme delivery options.

This enables students to complete part of their programme online from their home country before arriving on campus, thereby offering a more accessible solution for students who might not have otherwise enrolled in a full, in-person programme.

The hybrid delivery method is made possible through digital articulation and opens up new opportunities for institutions to attract a diverse range of students.

Digital articulation is the newly emerged concept of joint curriculum delivery between partner universities. It aims to reflect the dynamics of the current situation in the world of education, which has been propelled not only by digitalisation but also the recent developments due to the pandemic.

This innovative approach involves a hybrid form of delivery, where students can take part of their curriculum entirely online at one academic institution and then articulate to on-campus studies at a partner institution, in a different country. This new model offers several benefits, such as access to education, expanded flexibility, cost savings, the potential for immigration and enhanced employability, both for students and the partner universities involved.

Digital articulation makes it possible for institutions to specialise and focus on what they do best. Some institutions are better equipped to deliver online courses, while others excel in delivering on-campus instruction. By working together through digital articulation, partner universities can offer a more comprehensive and well-rounded curriculum to students.

This is beneficial not only for the institutions involved, but also for the students who have access to a broader range of courses and resources. The institutions can also save on resources and infrastructure costs by leveraging each other’s strengths, which can then be redirected to improving student learning outcomes.

Digital articulation provides students with greater flexibility and a more personalised learning experience. Online courses allow students to study at their own pace and on their own schedule, and by articulating, students are enabled to take courses from multiple institutions, giving them access to a broader range of courses and the opportunity to study with some of the best professors and researchers in their field.

Affordable internationalisation

Furthermore, the cost savings associated with digital articulation can make higher education more accessible for students from diverse backgrounds. Provided that students who take online courses tend to pay lower tuition and fees than students who take on-campus courses, a hybrid arrangement ensures affordability. This can help bridge the gap between education and economic mobility, as more students are able to access higher education without incurring high costs.

The on-campus part of the curriculum that takes place in attractive geographies also has added benefits for students, including potential immigration. By studying in a new location, students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and build relationships with individuals from different backgrounds. Moreover, students may have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their field of study and network with potential employers in the destination country.

This can lead to internships, job opportunities and even immigration opportunities. It opens up the possibility of taking courses from universities across the world, thereby allowing students to broaden their perspectives and exposure to different cultures, languages and pedagogical approaches.

The International University of Applied Sciences (IU) has pioneered and implemented such a programme, referred to as the IU Study Abroad Alliance. Students complete the first stage of their studies online at IU, and then articulate abroad to a wide array of partners.

IU works with an exclusive number of institutions globally to develop digital articulation partnerships and expand the options for students who complete their studies in a desired geography. A few notable partners are the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Canada and the University of California Los Angeles or UCLA Extension in the United States.

Both prominent partners facilitate the potential for digital articulation of students and elevate this model to a new dimension, where students are additionally offered the possibility of undertaking a variety of professional specialisation certificate programmes after completing two years of their undergraduate degree online.

With such a digital articulation arrangement, the students greatly benefit from achieving an undergraduate degree as well as a specialisation certificate from a partner, while being eligible for post-study work permits, among a variety of other benefits.

Digital innovation

The emergence of new feasible methods of curriculum delivery have opened the doors for institutions to attract students who might not otherwise enrol in their full, in-person programmes. Undergraduate and graduate students can complete one, two or all three years of their programme online before coming to campus to finish their programme at a partner institution in a key geography.

Pioneering innovative hybrid articulation pathways is made possible through digital articulation, which allows students to begin university programmes while still studying in their home country.

In conclusion, digital articulation is an innovative concept that is having a positive impact on higher education. By offering students greater flexibility, a more personalised learning experience, cost savings and access to a wider range of courses and universities, it is helping to make higher education more accessible and relevant for students from diverse backgrounds.

As more universities adopt this new model, we can expect to see further improvements in curriculum delivery that will benefit students, institutions and society as a whole.

Professor Dr Peter Egorov is Academic Director International Affairs, IU International University of Applied Sciences, Germany.