Who owns faculty-led courses?

I find this to be a fascinating question, and one worth reflecting on if you want to achieve successful faculty-led programs where the faculty and education abroad office get along smoothly. I also think the question becomes more relevant as the potential for tension between the two groups seems to be increasing. As the education abroad field matures and continues to professionalize, as more of us (in the EA field) earn Ph.D.’s, and as best practices in faculty-led courses expand, EA professionals believe, and rightly so, that there are better and worse ways to develop, lead, teach, and administer faculty-led courses.

And yet, faculty are used to “owning” their courses—choosing their own readings, writing their own syllabi, creating the exams, delivering the lectures. They typically do not like others interfering in what they teach and how they teach it. So, as more faculty become involved in teaching abroad, the potential for tension over ownership increases.

And yet, teaching a faculty-led course involves so much more than what is typically defined as academic content. There are providers to choose, logistics to organize, contracts to be signed, invoices to pay, budgets to develop, deadlines to set, applications to manage. The list goes on. In addition, there are important intercultural issues related to academic content that faculty may not consider, may not be versed in, or may not want to include. For example, how will a course address language issues in a country whose main language is not English? Does every course have an obligation to teach some language skills? Where does intercultural learning come in? Should a chemistry professor or a philosophy professor have to include intercultural experiences in their courses? Should they address culture shock? Then again, how can you teach abroad and leave them out? And who determines whether language skills and intercultural learning should take place in a faculty-led course?

Teaching abroad, unlike teaching on campus, is more of a collaboration among faculty, education abroad staff, and providers (and oftentimes registrar, business office, student affairs, disability services and others as well!). Ideally, each stakeholder has an area of expertise that is respected by others. But it doesn’t always play out that way.

Questions to ask yourself are: what are your/your institution’s limits on “ownership” by faculty? Where are the non-negotiable areas? Is it the need for two course leaders? An assurance of good risk management procedures? A need for written contracts? A requirement to pay all expenses in US dollars? In other words, where can you be flexible when faculty raise the “ownership” flag and where must you institute standardized policies?

Each institution will vary on these issues, but the key things to answer for yourself and your institution is where can you bend when it comes to allowing faculty to “own” their courses and which aspects does the education abroad office “own”?

1 Comment

  1. Shaun McElhatton

    Collaboration, as you suggest, seems the only rational way to go.


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