Module 2: How to use digital technologies to support internationalization of the curriculum

Landing the Concept
Take Action
Test Yourself

Landing the Concept

This module will help you to understand the rationale behind internationalisation and how technology can help to internationalise the curriculum, for example by means of Collaborative Online International Learning opportunities, its different types and means to establish them. It also presents which are curriculum key points to be analysed when taking a decision about its internationalisation as well as the role of digital credentials as a mean for recognising developed learning competences.  

Higher education institutions traditionally focused on internationalisation as a way to improve the quality of teaching and research as well as to help institutions in other countries in their capacity development. Conceptually, internationalisation was for a long time mainly seen as concentrating on the cross-border mobility of individual students and scholars and not as a strategy that affected higher education institutions or systems. In the last 20 years a broadening of the range of activities associated with internationalisation has taken place – from an almost exclusive focus on individual mobility to more elaborate strategies encompassing curriculum development, research cooperation, staff development, and quality enhancement (van der Wende, 2010).

Institutional aims and strategies for internationalisation are closely connected to their institutional profiles. Research intensive universities are clearly driven by international collaboration and competition in research, and therefore focus more on attracting talented graduate students, whereas teaching-oriented institutions usually focus more on undergraduate students (van der Wende, 2010) But internationalisation can be seen in the context of cooperation and networking for mutual benefit and want to strengthen the institution regional profile. In this case, HEI strategies are focused on collaborative research, exchange of students and staff, joint study programs. Furthermore, internationalisation may also be undertaken as a revenue-generating approach considering higher education as an export industry and using the revenues to finance the domestic higher education sector (van der Wende, 2010).

Internationalised curricula can be described as curricula with an international orientation in content, aimed at preparing students for performing (professionally/socially) in an international and multicultural context, and designed for domestic students and/or foreign students (Van der Wende, 1996). Internationalisation of the curriculum focuses on the idea of developing an international and intercultural dimension into a programme of study, which includes curriculum content, delivery methods and other services aimed at supporting students’ educational journeys (Leask, 2009). 

The internationalisation of the curriculum is implemented through cross-border interactions that take place not only through the time spent abroad but through the participation in networks facilitated by technology and involving links to students and institutions abroad (Sweeney, 2014).

The virtual mobility of students based on the use of information and communication technologies in higher education contributes to widen global access to higher education, to lead to pedagogic innovation, to reduce costs and open up opportunities for enhanced access, exchange, and collaboration in terms of internationalisation. Moreover, it provides extended academic experience and develops students’ digital, linguistic, and intercultural competence (Helm, 2019).

At the time of deciding how to proceed with the Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC), first institutions should consider which of the knowledge areas within the formal curriculum can be better benefited from the inclusion of activities which learning goals also include an international or global dimension aimed at developing skills and attitudes which will enable mutual understanding in intercultural environments.

Secondly, the design of learning activities should meet at least three requirements as it has been established in the implementation of Online International Learning projects as virtual mobility at Coventry University: 

  • Students must engage in some sort of online communication and interaction with international peers on discipline content
  •  the collaborative activities must be informed by a number of internationalised learning outcomes and
  •  there must be a reflective component (e.g., essay, focus group) that helps students make explicit the learning resulting from engaging in such intercultural encounters (Villar-Onrubia, 2015).

Furthermore, the link between IoC and intercultural competence development is not always easily constructed without appropriate support, capacity-building or internationalising of educators themselves. Therefore, it is recommended to count on a supporting team with specialists in intercultural engagements and Technology enhance learning who will provide guidance and training to the personnel involved in the definition of internationalised learning outcomes, design of learning activities and establishing collaboration with partner universities.

Another aspect which needs attention when defining IoC is ensuring the recognition of acquired knowledge and skills and attitudes developed during the mobility experiences. The establishment of recognition agreements between HEIs and the implementation of awarding process for digital credentials are key to ensure when learners had completed their mobility and attained the specified learning outcomes for the different learning activities included in the mobility experience, all those competences will be officially recognised.

There are multiple types of collaboration for internationalising a curriculum: Let it be in form joint offers on which a consortium of institutions like the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) cooperates to offer a portfolio of courses which may lead to a full qualification. The relations between these institutions are managed by a contract and the qualification is typically issued by all institutions. Each of these institutions recognises all credits and the resulting qualification as if it was their own. In the case of ECIU is important to note their focus on competence development with micro-credentials at the core and its activities are based on a strong research-industry-education nexus. 

Other type can be joint degree programs (offered by two or more institutions) like the International Double Degree program organized by the University Carlos III de Madrid which is based on specific exchange agreements which ensures the recognition of all credits and awards dual qualification.  

Another example is the Collaborative Online International Learning initiative led by Coventry University which associates with universities around the world to implement virtual mobility experiences which are embedded in the formal curriculum.

We invite you to explore the following resources which will help you to get more details about the internationalisation of curriculum based on the experiences in this area:


Read the ECIU university White paper on micro-credentials “Paving the road for the micro-credentials movement” which provides an overview of the strategy followed by the European Consortium of Innovative Universities for the mutual recognition of micro-credentials.

Take Action!

  • Create a blog describing your reflections about how your institution can further foster the internationalisation of curriculum by creating new digital learning opportunities which will lead to the attaining digital credentials. 
  • With some colleagues of their institution, discuss about a proposal, ask for opinions about an idea, look for someone who has started an activity related to the module, etc. This discussion can be proposed with a face-to-face approach, in a virtual meeting, by using some web tool or service, etc. 
  • Share your idea / proposal / findings with others, find three strong / week points of the posed proposal, give feedback to a proposal from other partner, widen the idea of another partner, etc.

Test Yourself