. . . they are the rule nowadays. This blog is a great example. It was last Monday when my colleague Hiromichi was writing from Japan about the cultural challenges and differences he faces on his daily activities. And this week you are reading a Spanish guy writing these lines from his favorite café in Amsterdam. Just in case you do not believe me, I am attaching a picture of the wonderful view I have from the café (sorry about the quality, I just took it with my mobile).
I am one of the more than 50,000 expats that live in the area, shaping a community of more than 150 different nationalities. In case you did not know, Blackboard’s International Headquarters are located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. At the moment, we have more than 10 different nationalities populating our international headquarters. Dutch, German, Spanish, French, North American, Swedish, British, Venezuelan are just a few examples that come now to my mind. As you can see, international people are not an exception at Blackboard, they are actually the rule.
Not many people would argue against the fact that corporations and institutions compete nowadays in a global, boundary-less market. Better infrastructure, more information and especially new technologies are some of the elements that are facilitating this sort of globalization. But this international phenomenon is not just a corporate thing. The education world is also experiencing this trend.
There are many reasons why students decide to study abroad. Self-accomplishment, extended perspective on world’s problems, career enhancement, research and proficiency in other languages are probably some of the most common motivations among students. I have the pleasure of working with different institutions around the globe because of my job at Blackboard. My feeling is that this mix of international cultures is not something that just happens in some specific programs or at some exclusive business schools anymore. As an example, according to Open Doors 2006, there was an increase of 8% of U.S. students going abroad over the previous year’s report. The United States is not alone in this trend. Mobility programs in higher education like the Erasmus program in Europe have helped the growing number of European foreign students over the last seven years. It is also true that some factors such as difficult political or economic situations can definitely impact the number of students going abroad and their preferred destinations.
Preparing an institution for this new global era is not an easy task. There are so many challenges I can think of, that I will not even bother about writing them down here. However, I am a firm believer that technology is here to help us throughout this process.
So, how are you making use of technologies to support this globalization phenomenon? What are the main challenges that you have faced or you see coming in the next years? Mmm, wait. Don’t answer yet . . . Instead, why don’t you try to join us in our BbWorld Europe ’08 conference and share your best practices with hundreds of members from international institutions.
Just in case you did not know, the BbWorld Europe ’08 conference will be held this year in Manchester, UK, between the 12 and 14th of May. It is going to be a wonderful event and a great opportunity to learn new ways of enhancing students’ experiences.
I look forward to seeing you in Manchester, and, yes, if I get to see you there I will give you the details of my secret café in Amsterdam – where I took that picture of such a beautiful view.