Learning/Volunteer Abroad (LVA) Programs at the University of Ottawa: An Examination of the Preparation and Training Students Receive Prior to Departure

Title: Learning/Volunteer Abroad (LVA) Programs at the University of Ottawa: An Examination of the Preparation and Training Students Receive Prior to Departure
Authors: Oberhammer, Jennifer
Date: 2016
Abstract: Learning/volunteer abroad (LVA) programs offer important opportunities for students to develop cross-cultural skills and global competence. Universities recognize the value of international experiential learning programs in terms of skills development and career preparation as one component in their internationalization policies and priorities. Scholarly studies on international education and LVA programs have examined university internationalization priorities in promoting international experiential learning. Other scholarly contributions to the field of LVA have documented the nature of students’ experiences, learning outcomes, critical analysis of impacts, and motivations, among other important research areas. Within the LVA scholarship, there are frequent references to the importance of pre-departure training and preparation of students. Many of the references to the value of pre-departure training move beyond practical information (such as staying safe and staying healthy while abroad) to more critical discussions of cross-cultural learning opportunities, ethical considerations, and impacts. Despite these references to the importance of pre-departure training, there are few studies documenting the nature and content of pre-departure training for students participating in international experiences through an academic institution. As a result, there is no clear sense of the range of pre-departure training programs, what information students are receiving as part of their pre-departure training or the impact of training on the outcomes of the students’ learning. This thesis aimed to fill this gap by examining the preparation and training provided to students prior to their international experiences. Through the utilization of a case study approach based on the University of Ottawa’s LVA programs’ pre-departure training, this research specifically analysed the content that is currently employed during pre-departure training and how it ranged across LVA programs. The findings demonstrate that, while all LVA programs provided pre-departure training and covered similar content themes, there was also a range in the content provided across the LVA programs’ pre-departure training. Specifically, the greatest diversity in content was found in the depth of discussion provided to students regarding cross-cultural understanding, ethics, experiential learning, and reflection. Analysis of the identified differences across LVA programs suggest there are likely implications for students’ learning generated from their experience abroad. When students are not prepared to critically understand the complexities associated with living, studying, and/or working cross-culturally and how to reflect upon and generate knowledge from their experiences overseas, learn/volunteer programs may have limited or even negative impacts on cross-cultural understanding and global competence.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/35267
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -