Faculty-led Short-term Course? or Travel Seminar?

I had started this post thinking I’d write a quick and simple introduction to a few definitions of common terms used in faculty-led programming. Ah, but then I realized we’re in an academic field, where definitions are never quick and simple. They can be complex; terms can be loaded; they may reveal a particular viewpoint; and they sometimes generate controversy.

In fact, in the introduction to the first edition in 2009 of the Forum on Education Abroad’s Education Abroad Glossary, the editors acknowledge as much:

“The terminology of the field of education abroad is as diverse as its practices, resulting in a degree of semantic ambiguity that at times borders on anarchy. Several terms may be used for the same concept, or the same term may have several meanings. Education abroad professionals have had no agreed-upon set of definitions upon which to base their work.”

So, what’s a practitioner to do when all she wanted was to bring some clarity to her job? The Forum aimed to bring order to the chaos of terms and definitions in the Glossary. But, what happens when you corral words and definitions is that they get determined at a certain point in time.  And then they quickly go out of date.

There are three definitions in the Forum’s Glossary that bear directly on faculty-led programs. The first two seem straightforward enough (faculty-led program and short-term)–primarily descriptive. However, the definition of the term “travel seminar” seems to set it apart from a faculty-led short-term program. It defines a particular type of short-term program–one where you study and travel at the same time. Hmmmm. So, what is a short-term program that doesn’t travel? Or one where you don’t study? Or that isn’t organized around a unifying topic? Or where the students don’t receive instruction in each location?

Is it useful to distinguish between a travel seminar and a short-term program?

And why wouldn’t we just call a short-term study abroad program, a short-term study abroad program?  And leave it at that?

What do you think? I’m interested in your thoughts.

Faculty-Led Program (or Faculty-Directed Program) – A study abroad program directed by a faculty member (or members) from the home campus who accompanies students abroad. Usually, though not always, brief in duration.

Short-term — Lasting eight weeks or less; may include summer, January, or other terms of eight weeks or less.

Travel Seminar (preferable to the roughly synonymous Study Tour or Study Travel Program) – A program in which students travel to many different cities or countries and receive instruction in each location, often regarding a designated, unifying topic. Examples include shipboard education programs or European cultural studies tours. This is a distinct program type and differs from field trips or excursions within other program types/subtypes.

–from the Forum on Education Abroad’s Glossary


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