Nicolle Merrill, writing from Portland, Oregon in the USA.
In my job, my daily tasks revolve around creating an engaging online community for international higher education. At GlobalCampus, I work with an amazing team of former international students located across continents and time zones to bring international opportunities, such as university placements and scholarships, to future students worldwide.
Traditionally, international students receive information about educational opportunities through education fairs, online searches, and agents. Often specifics about international school programs and available scholarships are scattered. Despite loads of money spent to improve websites and travel around the globe to target student markets, there are still millions of future international students without direct, free access to these opportunities.
As a former international student, I was surprised at the lack of centralized information on university programs and scholarships. Having benefited greatly from my international student experience, I’m now working from outside higher education to change international students’ access to this information. It’s fun (languages and cultures!); it’s exciting (technology!). And it’s also a ton of work.
Building any online community is an epic task, and with global aspirations, the task becomes even more challenging. While professionals in international higher education are now using Twitter and Facebook, many are still adjusting to the idea of a two-way information exchange and disruptive technologies, such as social networking sites. As I introduce staff to GlobalCampus, I face challenges that many in higher education are familiar with: resistance to change, uncertainty with new technology, inflexible organizational structures, and skepticism about third party service providers. I spend a large part of my day educating higher education professionals about the goals of a social enterprise; I talk about international student needs and help university staffs understand social networking technology. I also hear from future international students daily, whose ambitions, goals and talents inspire me.
Despite the challenges, I’m seeing fantastic results. University and college staffs are participating: promoting their programs, listing international scholarships, creating new scholarships, writing educational articles for newsletters and scouting students. Soon GlobalCampus will be inviting professors to endorse students, giving future international students the ability to have their recommendations online and accessible to university staff. International students are eagerly responding: completing their profiles, writing articles, responding to university staff and learning the norms and rules of a global online community.
As I read the higher education blogs, there is a lot of discussion about changes in institutional communications, international partnerships and technology. The discussion is healthy and warranted. I put those discussions into practice by asking higher education institutions and staff to embrace new outreach methods and technology, and participate in a global community designed for them. Though changing the landscape of international higher education is a lofty goal, I remain committed and optimistic. Future international students know that access to higher education opportunities is changing. They’re just waiting for international higher education to catch up.
Nicolle Merrill helps universities and colleges create online recruiting campaigns on GlobalCampus. She spends a ridiculous amount of time searching her RSS feeder for awesome articles to share on Twitter. She’s also obsessed with clever study abroad programs, loves #hashtags and lives on Skype.