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Reflections of COVID and Lessons Learned in International Education

Written by: Tara L. Braun

Image source: NY Magazine

The world of international higher education is normally a changing canvas but throw a worldwide pandemic on top of it and you have a mosaic of concerns. Internationalization has been interrupted on many U.S. campuses in the form of study abroad program cancellations and international students needing to consider returning home and forfeiting internships or Optional Practical Training opportunities. While this crisis has caused many shifts in thinking (and stress), it also promotes a whole new range of opportunities for higher education leaders.

Regulatory Changes

Executive orders filed by many state governors sealed the fate of learning face to face and forced the decision to go to virtual learning and presented challenges within the international classroom. Even more recent presidential proclamations have presented further challenges for U.S. international education with the suspension entry of immigrants who present a risk to U.S. labor markets. On top of concerns around the shift to online learning, choosing to stay in the United States or return home, and ongoing support services, international students also had to be concerned about their visa status. The recent and now reversed modifications from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) deeply confused the focus of international students returning to campus. This ruling would have deeply affected the ability of students being on campus and taking online courses. The aftermath of this proclamation, and decision to reverse it, caused much grief to both institutions and students but also made the United States appear to be unwelcoming.

 Lessons Learned

Changes and executive orders due to COVID have caused a rapid review of current campus policies.  Institutions plan for crisis differently, but there are common international student concerns that have arisen from the COVID pandemic that I am sure some schools wish they would have began changing before the world stopped. With some international students deciding to stay on campus, navigating housing logistics was a concern. Most campuses established methods to assist students in identifying housing or made arrangements for them to stay closer to support offices. International students experienced financial anxiety with unexpected expenses for housing or temporary layoffs from on campus jobs. Many campuses, including Michigan State University, created an international student emergency fund to help in times of distress. Campuses who were not strong with online education, had to quickly transition to a virtual classroom. This posed issues with time zones, internet access, and quality of instruction that caused additional stress for students and professors. A leader in online education, Southern New Hampshire University, was committed to providing an engaged online learning experience by addressing equity in instruction with asynchronous classes.

 Looking Forward

Looking forward to the fall, how could institutions use some of these practices to improve the student experience? Topics of importance will be fostering community, addressing the digital student divide, supporting faculty, providing institutional support, managing expenses, and encouraging ongoing communication. At a time in which U.S higher education has shifted its focus from the dropping domestic enrollment to the international student population, recruiting these students will also become a concern. Planning for a time of no international travel will become essential to campuses who have large incoming international populations. Institutions will need to review maximizing existing collaborations, boost virtual recruitment efforts, and rally alumni and current student to recruit. Campuses will also need to plan for continued concerns around immigration regulations and how they can adjust their own campus policies to accommodate student needs. Institutional flexibility will be extremely important in the next coming months.

 Embrace the New Normal

As the global fight against COVID continues, it is a time for institutions to review their own policies and determine if it may be time for a new international education strategy. Adopting to a new normal could mean improvements in general messaging, branding and marketing, reviewing immigration campus processes and policies, international student recruitment goals, and reviewing international student scholarships methods. Now is the time to look at partnerships in a more comprehensive way of global engagement and be able to change and adapt to the changing world around us.


Tara Braun has fifteen years-experience in international higher education ranging from study abroad, international partnerships, recruiting, immigration, and student programming. She is an active member of NAFSA, has served in leadership roles at the NAFSA state level, advocacy groups, and presents at numerous conferences. Mrs. Braun holds a Master’s in Career and Technical Education, is a doctoral candidate at Central Michigan University, and serves as the PDSO and Associate Director of International Admissions and Immigration at Calvin University. Her dissertation work focuses on the re-acculturation experiences of Ghanaian students who studied in the United States. Tara can be reached at braun1t@cmich.edu.


The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.


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Filed under COVID-19, Education, evaluation, History, Human Interest, international education, international students, study abroad, Travel

A Quick Look at: Online Learning, Virtual Learning, E-Learning, Distance Learning, Blended Learning

Contributed by: ConexEd

As the COVID-19 global pandemic has forced schools, colleges and universities around the world to offer alternative methods to their traditional in-class instruction, we thought it would be helpful to share this informative piece that was created and posted by ConexEd.

 What is Online Learning?

  • Online learning always involves an internet connection and can include virtual face-to-face interactions (webinar, online lecture, virtual meeting)
  • Uses online tools for learning, such as online curriculum or virtual space or conferencing software.
  • Could be considered a mix of virtual learning and blended learning.

What is Virtual Learning?

  • Can be used inside or outside the physical building of the educational organization.
  • Uses the computer and an online program or software to enhance the learning experience.
  • Can be used in a self-pacing format (individualized) or live web conferencing between students and instructors.
  • Students have remote access to content and instructors.
  • Student can connect and interact with other students and their instructors online.

What is E-Learning?

  • E-Learning utilizes digital tools for teaching and learning, and the technology facilitates the learning process.
  • Can be used online or in a classroom setting.
  • Students take a course from a teacher but only interact with the teacher online.
  • Students have unlimited access to the content.
  • The course completion, program, or degree is distributed online.

What is Distance Learning?

  • Same structure as online learning.
  • Specific purpose is to attract students from all locations.
  • Can provide instruction to someone learning in a different time and place than that of the teacher and other students.

What is Blended Learning?

  • Blended learning is the combination of classroom and virtual learning.
  • Ideally integrates virtual learning in a way that individualizes and enhances instruction for students.

When planning online resources and incorporating learning online in the classroom, the objectives for content learning, the intended student outcomes, student needs, and student access to technology and their current digital literacy should be taken into consideration, at which point instructors can determine which approach fits their goals best.


ConexEd: https://www.conexed.com/are-online-learning-virtual-learning-e-learning-distance-learning-and-blended-learning-the-same/

Applied Educational Systems: Online Learning vs Distance Learning https://www.aeseducation.com/blog/online-learning-vs-distance-learning


Kickboard: What is Distance or Remote Learning:  https://www.kickboardforschools.com/blog/post/distance-remote-learning/what-is-distance-or-remote-learning/


The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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