Friday, April 06, 2018

International students #lilac18

The next presentation I will blog from LILAC is Towards a systematic approach to international students by Per Eriksson and Peter Ingelstrom from from Linkoping University, Sweden (a research university with a strong science and engineering focus). They have a new library and that has led them to rethink aspects of what they do as librarians. 31% of new students are international, the majority from other European countries, particularly France, Germany and Spain. The presenters gave an outline for their project: starting with taking the university’s course on learning and teaching (for staff) and focusing on international students as a project, then they used the data from the project in the academic writing course they took. As a side effect they were invited to the orientation programme for international students, so they could introduce students to the library.
The presenters held seminars with other library staff and presented findings from their study to teh library director’s council, and then an invitation to draw up a policy or guidelines for international students. They presented some comments from international students, illustrating the diversity of past experience, and the students perception of the library systems as complex. There were also comments about the different approach to learning (more constructivist) in the Swedish university.
The presenters are keen to make this durable, and not just a one off project. They decided to dive into the literature, but it mostly generated new questions. Firstly: what is an “international” student? For example, are some more “international” than other. What if a student has non-Swedish heritage but is counted as a “home” student. This can lead to the question: is it even relevant to categorise this as a group. Secondly: What does internationalisation mean to libraries? This is something discussed in my university, for example is it actually integrated into the whole curriculum. Is it it just to do institutional initiatives?
Thirdly: How can you develop from a single project to a systematic approach, integrated into the library service/system? They looked at the various activities targeted to international students (I think, those the library does and those done elsewhere in the institution). The presenters drew the conclusion that how you see the group will define where effort is put. Thus if the international student is framed as a “problem” you look at “fixing” the students. However, if you see international students as a permanent and significant group, then this could lead to seeing the library as the “problem”, with more internationalisation needed.
Thus they have created a model, underpinned by university strategies and policies (see poor photograph above). There are then the organisational conditions, such as resources, coordination, partnership, leadership commitment. Above this are competencies (language and cross-cultural communication training) and finally at the top user education, outreach, online guides and bilingual information. This top part is what tends to be discussed in the library literature, but it seems evident that it needs to be underpinned by all the other elements.
They finished with presenting a 3 level action plan: at level 1 tours, guides etc; Level 2 included more initiatives such as including in UX projects, reviewing library signs; Level 3 formulating a library internationalisation policy and measurable goals, developing staff language and cultural skills and employing international students as ambassadors.

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