With both the Pandemic shutting down global travel and increasing awareness of program costs, universities are looking for alternatives to sending students abroad for cultural experiences. Recently, some alternative approaches have surfaced that are very successful. For example, after Value Learning organized and carried out the first Online Australian Indonesian Youth Exchange Program, they found most participants doubled their IES Self- Awareness scores and also reported ongoing relationships and other changes typically found only in international experiences. 

The Global Leadership Lab (GLLab), established in 2008 at San Jose State University, California, was designed to accelerate and research global leadership development, including developing their cross-cultural competence. After adopting an assessment center approach, to help design our modules we picked the brains of global experts who were also master teachers. We also incorporated research findings on best practices from several disciplines and leveraged our diverse student body to approximate an international experience in a domestic setting — what some call a glocal classroom.   

We ran a pre-post test using the IES with 145 undergraduate students spread among three different sections of a 15-week semester course. At the end of the course, there were significantly higher scores for each IES dimension (Self-Awareness, Exploration, World Orientation, Relationship Development, Positive Regard, and Emotional Resilience), as well as the overall IES score. Their personal growth was also confirmed in pre/post survey data and Personal Development Plan reports submitted at the end of the semester.

Not surprisingly, the pre-test revealed that students with prior study abroad experience entered the course with significantly higher results on two IES dimensions – World Orientation and Relationship Development. At the end of the semester, we were delighted to discover that students without study abroad experience had caught up to the Time 1 results of the study abroad students. The GLLab was able to replicate this aspect of the study abroad advantage for students without global travel. 

Cultural immersion in another country admittedly offers numerous benefits for open-minded students. The study abroad advantage was still obvious in higher Time 2 scores of study abroad students, as a result of their ongoing growth in the GLLab. But not all students have the time or money for study abroad, and not all international experiences automatically result in guaranteed increases in intercultural competence and global.

A carefully designed glocal classroom experience can provide a consistent, controlled setting in which students demonstrate increases in intercultural competence and global skills. The GLLab approach is a proven alternative when study abroad is not possible or to be used in conjunction with study abroad programs, either before or afterwards.  And the IES is a valid and reliable pre-post instrument, especially combined with qualitative data, when you want to measure whether or not your intercultural competence programs are effective.