Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance
The Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance is a ground-breaking partnership aimed at helping colleges and organizations like ACM develop study abroad programs that are more affordable and that provide the best experience for liberal arts learning.
Funded by a $215,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, the Alliance is a three-year initiative involving the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), the ACM, and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College.
Throughout the initiative, ACM will use insights gained from the research in practical ways to strengthen learning outcomes for students on ACM programs. ACM and the Center on Inquiry will also place this project into a broader context of the long-term research into effective practices for liberal arts learning conducted by the Center, as well as the academic and personal growth of students during their college experience.
During the project’s three years, beginning in mid-2009, the Alliance will compile and analyze data that should yield valuable insights into the relationship between characteristics of study abroad programs, the learning outcomes students attain, and the costs of various types of programs. At the same time, the Alliance’s work will provide practical knowledge about program design changes that can strengthen liberal arts learning outcomes in study abroad programs.
A key component of the Alliance's work will be the Learning from Study Abroad (LSA) survey, an instrument developed by the Liberal Education and Study Abroad project, which also was funded by a grant from the Teagle Foundation.
The Alliance will administer the LSA to students at a large group of institutions. In addition, the ACM plans to administer the LSA to all students in its programs, and the Center of Inquiry will also ask students in its broader study to participate.
Details of the Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance are below. For more information about ACM's activities in the Alliance, contact ACM Vice President & Director of Off-Campus Study Programs Joan Gillespie.
Excerpts from the Project Proposal
The Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance is a three-year initiative to analyze the effects of study abroad on liberal arts learning goals and the costs associated with the various approaches to study abroad.
The Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) will oversee this Alliance, working in conjunction with project partners the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College. In addition to colleges from the GLCA and ACM consortia, the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) will assist this project by encouraging its member institutions to participate.
Specifically, this Alliance will provide valuable information on a number of interrelated questions:
- To what extent does a study abroad experience contribute to the learning goals of the liberal arts?
- Are there particular study abroad program attributes (e.g., home stay, length of program, language requirements, etc.) that have greater or lesser impact on the achievement of liberal arts learning goals?
- How do the learning outcomes derived from study abroad relate to the growing body of information on liberal arts learning from campus-based aspects of the educational experience?
- What are the actual costs of study abroad programs to a college or university, and how do these costs vary by program type?
- What changes in study-abroad program design can make them both more effective in accomplishing liberal arts learning goals and more cost efficient?
These questions will be answered through three separate but closely interrelated projects:
- The Learning from Study Abroad Project, in which GLCA will assess the impact of study abroad in achieving liberal arts learning through a before/after, web-based, instrument administered both to students studying abroad and to comparison groups who do not study overseas.
- The Expanded Contexts for Liberal Arts Learning Project, in which ACM will apply findings from the study abroad survey instrument to make practical changes in its own set of over a dozen off-campus programs of study. At the same time, the ACM, working with the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts will consider findings from the Learning from Study Abroad (LSA) instrument in the context of the Center’s empirical research on broader issues in the liberal arts. The ACM and the Center of Inquiry will work closely together in creating ways to apply the findings of the LSA.
- The Costs of Study Abroad Project, in which GLCA will work with a set of participating institutions to develop an exhaustive cost analysis of study abroad programs, with a particular emphasis on cost differentials among a broad range of program types.
We expect by the end of this three-year project to have created a rich data source and findings that can yield valuable insights into the relationship between characteristics of study abroad programs, the learning outcomes students attain, and the costs of various program types to institutions. At the same time, we will gain practical knowledge of program design changes that providers of study abroad programs – individual institutions as well as larger providers like the ACM – can implement in order to strengthen liberal arts learning outcomes in study abroad programs. In conjunction with ACM’s work with the Center of Inquiry, we will gain critical insights about the relationship between findings from our LSA instrument and other measures of liberal arts learning.
We expect the combined results of the “Learning from Study Abroad” “Expanded Contexts for Liberal Arts Learning,” and the “Costs of Study Abroad” Alliance projects to provide important insights, both in themselves and in conjunction with each other as our organizations work to provide more substantive understanding of the learning impact and costs of study abroad.
The synthesis of our work will help colleges and universities to develop or seek out study abroad programs that contribute most directly to the achievement of liberal arts learning outcomes – and that provide their students with opportunities to experience those study-abroad characteristics in cost-effective ways.
Each project of the Alliance will yield a report to the Teagle Foundation outlining the findings and implications of the research. We will also prepare an integrative white paper bringing together the findings of all three projects for distribution and posting on the Teagle web site. A particular focus of this Alliance will be the application of findings to institutional policies and practices regarding study abroad.
More information about the Alliance's three projects: