Posted on 25 Sep 2014 at 14:13 by Vicky Lewis
Like many other delegates at last week’s annual EAIE conference in Prague, I’ve come away with a swarm of ideas and observations buzzing round in my head. Among these, one particular theme stands out: motivation to engage.
For me, this includes:
The EAIE Marketing & Recruitment community’s opening session on ‘Gamifying international student recruitment’ highlighted the basic human motivations that need to be heeded in order to entice a person to progress from one level of a game to the next - or from one stage in an online purchase to the next.
There are positive motivations (such as accomplishment) and negative ones (such as avoidance). There are also extrinsic motivations (such as ownership) and intrinsic ones (such as empowerment). At every stage of the prospective student journey, it is worth thinking about the motivation needed to progress to the next stage.
This links to some observations about student decision-making and the way universities treat their prospective students. It was revealed in a report [link to PDF] by Study Portals and the British Council that 21% of the top 500 universities in the world did not reply at all to student enquiries. Hardly much incentive for enquirers to investigate further. And Megan Brenn-White urged universities to use their website to bring to life the benefits of choosing their particular institution (rather than just listing its features).
Meanwhile, Coventry University, winner of the 2014 EAIE Institutional Award for Innovation in Internationalisation, outlined how it developed for its domestic students a catalogue of international experiences to suit individual aspirations and means.
The link between all of these is an understanding of what motivates students to engage and, having captured their interest, to take the next step.
There is a parallel here when it comes to getting staff to engage in institutional internationalisation initiatives. Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman of Europe Microsoft Corporation, emphasised in the Opening Plenary how important it is to focus on employees’ strengths, rather than their weaknesses, if you want them to be motivated and inspired.
On a more pragmatic level, Coventry highlighted how technology has liberated the creativity of lecturers when developing discipline-specific intercultural learning opportunities between students at partner institutions.
Both Nottingham Trent University and Coventry noted a point in time at which their institution’s approach to internationalisation shifted from the commercially motivated and opportunistic towards a more values-driven attitude with the global employability of their graduates at the heart of it. The latter is a perspective which is much more likely to motivate academic staff to engage with and champion internationalisation.
Which brings us full-circle to issues of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – this time in academic staff. Douglas Proctor’s PhD research (at the University of Melbourne) highlighted the intrinsic and personal motivating factors for academic staff to get involved in international activities. Institutions’ efforts to ‘engage academics in internationalisation’ can sometimes misfire if their primary motivations (around personal research reputation, securing resources to focus on a project etc.) are neglected. In the same session, Vinitha Gengatharan from University of Toronto gave some examples of how internationalisation initiatives can be used as a trigger to engage academic staff more generally in institutional strategies.
These are only a few examples of how the ‘motivation to engage’ theme permeated the conference.
What I find encouraging is that so many institutions are starting to explore properly the values and drivers that motivate them to internationalise – and to take heed of what motivates their staff, students and prospective students to engage with them.