How to internationalize your course

Why internationalize your course?

Adding an international component increases student interest and motivation, energizes you as a faculty member, and sends a message of inclusiveness and welcome to students from various backgrounds. PCC and Portland are already international communities. It is our responsibility as educators to prepare our students to communicate effectively, to understand deeply and to analyze critically their place in a complex interconnected world. Our students will inevitably benefit from acquiring greater intercultural competence, a deep, comparative knowledge of peoples and cultures, and a recognition of the impact of global issues on the lives of the members of our community.

What is an Internationalized course?

Course internationalization is “a process by which international elements are infused into course content, international resources are used in course readings and assignments, and instructional methodologies appropriate to a culturally diverse student population are implemented” (Schuerholz-Lehr et al., 2007, p. 70).

How to internationalize your course

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There is no single, straightforward process for internationalizing your course! To begin your process, here are some key questions to begin thinking about:

(Feel free to address them in any order that makes sense to you and your course.)

How is your discipline connected to a global issue?

Consider how you can:

  • Address the issues of your discipline from a global perspective.
  • Incorporate professional skills or practices from other countries/ cultures.
  • Focus on how knowledge is constructed differently from one culture
    to another.
Course Internationalization: three approaches to internationalize content

(adapted from the University of Waterloo)

  • Add-on: Easy to implement and requires no fundamental changes in course content or pedagogy. Examples: adding on a reading, a guest lecture or an assignment with an international or intercultural focus.
  • Infusion: Requires preparation and rethinking of the course design. Examples: including course goals that focus on the development of intercultural knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors; including readings and assignments that reflect diverse points of view that are discussed in class.
  • Transformation: Difficult to implement, especially in certain disciplines. Main goal: shift in cultural perspective and development of the ability to move among different cultures and worldviews.

What international-focused outcomes do you want your students to achieve by the end of the course?

Below are examples of internationalized learning outcomes.

  • To analyze how the behavior of individuals, groups, and nations affect others politically, economically, environmentally, artistically, spiritually, etc.
  • To argue the root causes of global problems, such as shrinking biodiversity, poverty, communal conflict, inadequate healthcare, water shortages, etc.
  • To think critically of societies in a comparative context and to how one’s own society fits in the context of others.
  • To explore the influence of global forces and the connections to local and national economies.
  • To understand aesthetically and interpret creatively the artistic and cultural expressions of other cultures.
  • To integrate knowledge about other cultures into a coherent and inclusive worldview.
  • To analyze individual and cultural differences.
  • To describe world geography and the global environment, conditions, issues and events.

By the end of the course and depending on the phase of internationalization of the course, students should be able to achieve one or a few of the above international outcomes.

How will you know if students achieve them?

What assessment task(s) could students complete to demonstrate achievement of international perspectives? There is no “one method” of assessment. Each instructor will choose their own assessment tools with regard to learning outcomes.


Some internationally-focused learning activities you can incorporate into the class, include the following examples:

  • Reading assignments that contain global content.
  • Research assignments that focus on global content, skills, practices, etc.
  • Problem-solving activities in an international or intercultural context.
  • Field trips to work sites of companies engaged in international trade.
  • Speakers from international backgrounds during class
  • The connection of native students with international ones, either on campus or at a sister college abroad (via pen pals, skype, etc.)
  • Journal writing/ other self-reflective writing on global topics
  • Simulations/ practice role-play activities involving an international context