Bridging the Social, Academic, and Cultural Divide for International Students: Using Peer-to-Peer Support Strategies Online

Bridging the Social, Academic, and Cultural Divide for International Students: Using Peer-to-Peer Support Strategies Online

Kimberly Palermo-Kielb (Walden University, USA) and Christy Fraenza (Bridgepoint Education, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3120-3.ch005

Abstract

International learners face many unique challenges when studying in a U.S. based online program. These challenges include language barriers, social barriers, and psychological barriers. In this chapter, the authors propose the use of peer-to-peer support programs, combined with an increased focus on learning communities, to help these students succeed. The literature shows that isolation is a common experience for online learners, and in particular, international students. Researchers have also found that peer relationships and connections can improve this experience for students, which can lead to student satisfaction, success, and retention. Based in the sociocultural theory of Vygotsky, the purpose of this chapter is to share specific strategies with instructors, course designers, and larger institutions so they can create courses and a larger learning environment that are sensitive to the needs of diverse learners studying online.
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Background

According to the 2016 Open Doors report of The Institute of International Education (IIE) there are over one million international students attending colleges and universities based in the United States, and this enrollment increased by 7.1% in 2015/2016. The report also showed that 40% of these students are enrolled at the undergraduate level, and 36% of these students are attending graduate school (IIE, 2016). The three most common areas of study are engineering, business and management, and math and computer science. The majority of international students originate from China (31.5%), followed by India at 15.9% (IIE, 2016). International students choose U.S. based institutions mainly to advance their education, enhance their student experience, and to be a part of a quality education program (Erichsen & Bolliger, 2011).

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