Internationalising online programs/Recruiting International Students
International Student Recruitment through Corporate Relationships
Description of Activity
Although not the most typical way to recruit international students, developing a relationship with a corporation, particularly with a specific division (Learning and Development Center or operations unit), might be among one of the most effective ways for a reasonably expensive institution such as Penn State to recruit international learners into online programs.
Many corporations offer retention-providing benefits like tuition assistance and encourage their employees to continue their professional development through bachelor and graduate-level education. Given that many corporations have offices in different countries, they want to provide their employees with internationally-recognized professional development opportunities that not only benefit the employee but also have a long-lasting impact on the corporations ROI. And they are becoming increasingly more interested in quality online education programs because it's translates to less time out of the office, convenience for their employees and overall, a faster return on the investment (i.e. direct practical application of education to the job).
A good example of such a relationship is Penn State's distance education campus, the World Campus, and Saudi Aramco.
Corporate Need Because Aramco's plans included the outsourcing of supply chain resources, they needed to educate their Materials Supply division employees in not only the foundations of supply chain, but in the theory of how and why supply chains work. They recognized Penn State’s expertise in supply chain and wanted to collaborate with a learning institution ranked number one in supply chain education by respected industry leaders; however, ARAMCO was unable to send 50+ students from their Materials Supply division to Penn State for education and needed a way to get the education to them.
Solution Penn State offers the Graduate Certificate in Supply Chain Management through the World Campus and worked with ARAMCO to provide a customized solution for their employees. With the exception of a week of instruction at the start of each semester, the bulk of the program is conducted at a distance through Penn State's distance education campus, the World Campus. This innovative approach and direct solution to the customer’s needs allowed ARAMCO employees to get the education they needed to help the company make the transition to this new supply chain resourcing approach. The majority of the students are classified as international students; however, because the online tuition is the same as in-state tuition, it is more affordable for the international students and overall may lead to more enrollments.
Benefits of Activity
It is difficult to attract large numbers of individual international students to online programs. Many learners of traditional age prefer to study in residence and in many countries, students view online learning with skepticism. Some of the benefits of attracting international students through corporate partnership include:
- Potential for improving learning design, teaching flexibility, and student support to accommodate the needs of international students.
- Involvement with a well respected local partner can “open doors” in the region, improve perceptions of online learning locally, and lead to additional partnerships with suppliers and clients of the corporate partners.
- Faculty interaction with international students assist in internationalizing the curriculum that results in improved teaching and course development in other classes. (pkf)
- A corporate partnership reduces risk of working overseas.
There are a number of factors that we believe will help this project along:
- The overall project was closely aligned with the World Campus tuition rate, its mission and its goals.
- Penn State has an internationally recognized program in Supply Chain Management.
- Penn State World Campus has a reputation of quality programming and online delivery. Saudi Armco has a reputation for being highly selective when selecting international service partners.
- The relationship with Saudi Aramco allowed the following operational success factors to be acheived:
a) Saudi Aramco's employees have a high level competency in English eliminating any need to translate course content into another language. b) the corporation was prepared to fund their employees participation at existing Penn State tuition thus eliminating any financial barrier to participation. c) Saudi Aramco's high standing in Saudi society and connections with the Kingdom's ruling family facilitated students feeling comfortable with the educational opportunity and the overall development of the partnership. d) the companies physical plant provided a strong educational infrastructure From including connectivity for the students to participate on-line. e) Saudi Aramco assisted in pre-qualifying participants which streamlined the admission process.
- From a University perspective, strong faculty "buy-in" including a commitment to cultivating the relationship with Saudi Aramco and a willingness to customize course delivery was an essential success factor.
- Ultimately the program resulted from a convergence of a corporate need with a niche market curriculum that is specialty of Penn State's and limited competition and competency from regional institutions.
Organizational readiness extends from identifying, pursuing, closing the agreement with the partner and then delivering the online program.
- We have a dedicated client development office with whose staff has international experience.
- We understand our cost structure so we can negotiate creatively with confidence.
- We have good faculty depth in the Supply Chain Management program, so can extend the program’s reach.
- We have sufficient resources available to manage the corporate relationship and the program.
Exit & Risk Mitigation Strategies
The risks in this project were project relate to investment in the relationship and delivery of academic programming.
- Well developed, vetted, and formalized contract between partners.
- The University's willingness to be entrepenuerial and invest human and financial resources to develop the relationship (e.g., travel to Minnesota and Saudi Arabia) as part of the contracting process.
- The exit strategy is established by the contract and includes an "extreme event clause" that minimizes risk as well.
- Delivering existing materials with limited customization eliminated the cost of specialized development.