The team have been in a partnership with the International Collaboration and Exchange Programme initiated by Columbia University since 2017. This is a voluntary preclinical international student networking and exchange program for medical and dental students aimed towards internationalisation of medical education and global health education. Currently, 20 major leading medical universities across four continents are partners in this programme.
Student outbound mobility is a significant element of this programme; however, as it was not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, we aimed to provide students with international skills and experiences without exchange travel.– Mandeep Gill Sagoo
The current study details outcomes of this newer international online approach, “Internationalisation of Higher Education at home”. Typically, the international exchange programmes are inherently inequitable to a large group of students, students with low socio-economic backgrounds and students with physical disabilities because of the nature of the programme; however, the online version expanded its remit to all for the acquisition of skills that can promote students’ competencies in international settings.
In this pilot study, 68 students from 12 international universities participated in international small peer group collaborative work and online networking to investigate if online exposure to international peers improves their intercultural competencies. This included learning about other countries, differences in their culture, customs, beliefs, and stereotypes. Students’ perceptions pre- and post-program were captured through Likert scale, multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions, and the data showed significant improvement in students’ cultural competency skills.
The researchers found that the internationalisation of medical education can indeed be achieved through structured online peer exchanges without exchange travel and thus can improve global health.
Cultural competency is a professional and personal requirement to value cultures, communities, identities, and disciplines. As it is a crucial element in improving public and global health and our learning and working environments, we would like to take this opportunity to identify and work in core concepts (for example, microaggressions and micro affirmations etc.) and produce thought-provoking reflexive materials and values-based simulations for cultural competency education and the value of inclusivity.– Mandeep Gill Sagoo
The relevance and potential learnings from this research are highly significant given the post-pandemic world we are currently navigating.