The World is the New Classroom: Non-Credit Education Abroad

The IIE Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact piloted The World is the New Classroom: Non-Credit Education Abroad to begin to capture a growing segment of U.S. education abroad: American students who are pursuing non-credit education abroad (NCEA).

IIE’s Generation Study Abroad® network has elevated the conversation and leveraged resources to increase student participation in study abroad, but only about 10% of U.S. undergraduates study abroad for academic credit. The Open Doors® Report on International Education Exchange shows that in 2013/14:

  • 304,000 American students received academic credit for study abroad.
  • 19,000 of these students received academic credit for work and internships abroad.

In 2013/14, more than 22,000 students participated in non-credit work, internship, and volunteer abroad (WIVA) experiences, according to the Open Doors® report. But educators tell IIE that WIVA activities reflect only a portion of the full spectrum of NCEA that students pursue. This vast landscape of experiential learning has so far been underreported and not fully understood.

In The World is the New Classroom: Non-Credit Education Abroad, IIE captures a range of NCEA activities—from conducting research or field work to engaging in the performing arts. It is a new report that aims to address this growing segment of U.S. education abroad and provide tools for the higher education field to better understand how to define and track the non-credit activities their students are undertaking. This report provides information on American students’ diverse NCEA activities and destinations for the 2012/13 academic year, highlighting students’ strong interest in experiential learning outside of the traditional classroom model.

While there are real challenges to collecting robust data on non-credit education abroad, this is a phenomenon that should not be ignored. It is crucial for higher education institutions to actively seek information on what their students are already pursuing overseas so that they can be prepared to provide international experiences that meet the growing demand.