Module 2: Using All the Tools in Your Institution's Toolbox

Module 2 describes specific practices and strategies that allow you to leverage existing processes, systems, and databases at your institution. It reviews identifying overseas learning, connecting to existing activities, modifying systems to meet data collection goals, and optimizing available technology.

This module is designed to provide you with an array of data collection strategies that could be implemented in tandem or independently using systems already in place at your institution. The strategies build on the foundation established in Module One and align with student 'touchpoints' to plan for successful collection of graduate learning overseas data.

A list of considerations following each subsection invite you to think critically about your current practices. Case studies are presented at the end of the module to provide a detailed example of how to implement a specific strategy.

Key questions for this module:

  • How do systems and databases identify what you want to measure on graduate learning overseas?
  • Who is collecting graduate learning overseas data at your institution?
  • How can existing processes and systems for undergraduate study abroad be modified to collect data on graduate learning overseas?
  • How can existing processes and systems be integrated to inform graduate learning overseas data collection for a central point of contact?

Key take-aways:

  • Take the time to define what you want to measure for graduate students learning overseas, variables, then ensure your systems can identify and collect each of these data points.
  • Institutional policies can support data collection efforts within the systems you use for counting graduate learning overseas.
  • Modify current processes and systems that work to support graduate learning overseas data collection.


How do systems and databases identify what you want to measure on graduate learning overseas? 

The first step is to define exactly what you want to measure and ensure that the definition aligns with the information in your system. Creating a glossary or data dictionary that outlines the criteria you intend to measure such as who is a graduate student (See Module 1 Subsection on Defining Student Mobility), what is considered international travel, and the types of activities that should be counted can serve as a useful resource in establishing what you are measuring (See example in University System of Georgia Case Study).

You will then need to ensure that your systems are structured to collect and identify each item you want to measure as you defined them.

  • IDENTIFY STUDENTS. Graduate students can sometimes be overlooked in systems. Many graduate students take on different roles and responsibilities related to their research and the research and teaching needs in their academic department. As a result, a graduate student may also be an employee at your institution. Establish policies that enable you to clearly distinguish these individuals in your data collection systems when they are travelling overseas in student status.
  • IDENTIFY OVERSEAS COURSES AT REGISTRATION. When creating course codes, apply a code, often referred to as an attribute or marker, to the course identification number to indicate that the course takes place entirely or partially overseas. Use supplementary codes to indicate other variables such as duration and activity type. (See University System of Georgia Case Study)


  • How do our systems account for overseas conference attendance in our learning overseas definition? Are there specific parameters? What about musicians and athletes traveling overseas on behalf of the university?
  • How do our systems account for graduate students leading a study abroad experience for undergraduate students in our learning overseas definition?
  • How are courses coded in my institution’s registration system? Do we have markers for learning overseas? Are the markers binary (yes/no) or record more nuance (optional, required, embedded, end of course, mid-semester)? What are the goals of these markers and what is the option that would best serve graduate learning overseas data collection needs?


Who is collecting graduate learning overseas data at your institution?

Don’t go it alone. If others at your institution are actively engaged in collecting data relevant to graduate learning overseas there is no reason to reinvent the wheel or replicate work. Leverage the research and evaluation activities and expertise at your institution to streamline processes and maximize your efforts. 

  • PARTNER WITH ESTABLISHED SURVEYS. Work with departments, schools, and colleges at your institution to include questions about international activities in required or regularly scheduled graduate student program, department, or college surveys. Align learning overseas questions across the institution, if possible. 
  • LEVERAGE INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE. Consult data experts on how best to set up your database to effectively extract the data later and answer the questions most important to your work. Consider how credit bearing and non-credit bearing activities might appear in a report and how you might use different report templates to meet different reporting and evaluation needs. (See Module 1 Subsection on Collecting Data)


  • What are my goals in collecting graduate learning overseas data? How do my goals align with or complement the goals and strategies of other schools and colleges at my institution?
  • What surveys does my institution regularly send to graduate students?
  • Which education abroad indicators are already integrated into existing surveys? Are they aligned across the institution?
  • Who has been involved in evaluating education abroad? How have data collection systems across the international education offices, graduate schools, and institutional research offices worked together?


How can existing processes and systems for students be modified to collect data on graduate learning overseas?

Institutions already have well established processes in place and large databases built to record most aspects of a students’ academic career. Taking time to reflect on existing processes and systems may reveal areas that can be modified to serve as data collection touchpoints for graduate students learning overseas.

  • REQUIRE REGISTRATION. Require graduate students to apply or register with the study abroad office via an existing application portal that outlines their planned activities, travel dates, and location(s) before their departure. If possible, link the application to a student travel registry or travel insurance enrollment system. (See Colorado State University Case Study)
  • TIE FUNDS TO REGISTRATION. Offer small grant funding or travel reimbursements to graduate students to use overseas. To apply for and receive the funding, require students to register their travel with the university, enroll in insurance, and submit an overseas learning application. 


  • What requirements does my institution have in place for registering graduate student travel? How effective are those requirements? How could we work with other departments or offices to improve efficacy?
  • Do we have policies in place to enforce registration, insurance, and reimbursement requirements before the overseas activity begins?
  • How does travel registration link to other data for research and evaluation efforts?
  • How have we worked with the risk management or financial aid offices? Are there opportunities to leverage other systems to improve efficiencies?


How can existing processes and systems be integrated to inform data collection at a central point?

Technology can make collecting and using data easier than ever before, but new updates and systems can also be overwhelming. Talk to IT experts to ensure you are getting the most out of the systems you use. Even simple steps to connect two offices can ensure graduate learning overseas data is visible in a central location. 

  • AUTOMATE TRIGGERS. Set up automated triggers (with support of IT) in campus systems or processes that notify the study abroad or institutional research offices about a student’s intent to go overseas. This could be post-travel (for example, when a student submits a travel reimbursement request) or pre-travel (when a student enrolls in international travel insurance program). (See Colorado State University Case Study)
  • INTEGRATE WORKFLOWS. Add study abroad or institutional research offices in the workflow of required travel authorizations or grant reports that provide funding for and detail international travel by graduate students.


  • What workflows involving travel exist at my institution? Is overseas learning integrated in this workflow? How can this integration be optimized to support more complete graduate learning overseas data collection?
  • How are automated triggers incorporated into the way we are alerted about students going overseas, particularly at the graduate level? Do we prevent students from completing a required process if our office is awaiting learning overseas data?
  • How recently have we involved our own IT department or software representatives to optimize automation for the purposes of graduate learning overseas data collection?

Looking for practical examples from an institution?

Check out Module 2 case studies below:

Colorado State University - Travel Registration & System Triggers

University System of Georgia - Course Registration Coding & Reports

Proceed to Module 3