Strategies for Course Internationalization

Ensuring that courses and program activities include global perspectives is central to the development of an internationalized university. While only a small number of students can benefit from educational experiences abroad, internationalized curricula have the potential to affect all students. This tip sheet explains how instructors can design internationalized courses and offers examples of course internationalization strategies developed by Waterloo instructors from a variety of disciplines.

What is course internationalization?

Course internationalization is “a process by which international elements are infused into course content, international resources are used in course readings and assignments, and instructional methodologies appropriate to a culturally diverse student population are implemented" (Schuerholz-Lehr et al., 2007, p. 70).

How do I internationalize my course?

Depending on the extent and expected outcomes of course internationalization, instructors choose different approaches to internationalize their courses. These approaches range from simply adding international content to doing a fundamental course re-design for internationalization. However, three main approaches are used by faculty members to internationalize their courses (Bond, 2003, p. 5).

Approach to course internationalization Description
  • Easy to implement and requires no fundamental changes in course content or pedagogy
  • Examples: adding on a reading, a guest lecture or an assignment with an international or intercultural focus
Curricular infusion
  • Requires preparation and rethinking of the course design
  • Examples: including course goals that focus on the development of intercultural knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours; including readings and assignments that reflect diverse points of view that are discussed in class
  • Difficult to implement, especially in certain disciplines
  • Main goal: shift in cultural perspective and development of the ability to move among different cultures and worldviews

The following table presents strategies for comprehensive course internationalization that can permeate all aspects of the course design (adapted from Leask, 2005, pp. 119-129).

Components of the internationalized course design Internationalization strategies

Internationalized student learning outcomes

What international perspectives (knowledge, skills and attributes) should students develop in this course?

Internationalized learning outcomes communicate to students the importance of international learning. Whenever possible, international learning outcomes should address cognitive, affective, and behavioural domains of student learning. Below are examples of internationalized learning outcomes.

By the end of this course, students should be able to :

  1. Discuss the development of _______ in Canada and [insert other country]
  2. Evaluate and compare the impact of _______ on _______ around the world.
  3. Analyze international trends in _______

Internationalized content

What international content and/or contact will students need in order to develop international perspectives?

  • Including course readings and learning materials that explore course topics from various cultural perspectives
  • Incorporating articles from international journals in your field
  • Including reference to intercultural issues in professional practice
  • Using examples and case studies from different countries and cultures

Internationalized teaching and learning activities

What learning activities and tasks will assist learners to develop international perspectives and prepare for the

  • Including exercises or research assignments with international or intercultural components
  • Designing activities that bring together international and domestic students through group work and collaborative projects
  • Incorporating intercultural learning activities and simulations
  • Asking students to analyze media reports from international newspapers or interview international students or professionals who have worked internationally

Internationalized assessment methods

What assessment task(s) could students complete to demonstrate achievement of international perspectives?

  • Students self-evaluate their development of international perspectives
  • Students are asked to reflect on their own culture as well as engage with other cultures
  • Students are asked to present information to a real or simulated international/cross-cultural audience

Examples of course internationalization from Waterloo faculty members

Below are examples of course internationalization strategies designed by Waterloo faculty members who were awarded course internationalization grants.

Discipline Internationalization strategy Professor
Biology Creating digital videos of interviews with international researchers in the field of biogeochemistry Dr. Josh Neufeld
Music Creating multi-media presentations and collecting various artefacts to develop a South African source library available in digital format and in designated space at Conrad Grebel University College Dr. Carol Ann Weaver
Fine arts Acquiring visual resources in the areas of Latin American and Asian art for a course in Contemporary Art Dr. Jane Buyers
Centre for society, technology and values Hiring a graduate research assistant to develop an international course unit on small arms technology, transfer, and control Dr. Scott Campbell & Karl Griffiths-Fulton
Geography Developing an online tutorial on the use of South American geographic projections in the software ArcGIS and organizing video conference sessions between a German researcher and Waterloo geography students Dr. Alexander Brenning
Statistics Creating a data library with data sets from financial, economic, social and environmental applications for various countries to use in statistics courses Dr. Yulia Gel


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact. 

Selected resources

  • Bond, S. (2003). Engaging educators: Bringing the world into the classroom. Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE): Ottawa.
  • Leask, B. (2005). Internationalization of the curriculum: Teaching and learning. In
    J. Carroll and J. Ryan (Eds.), Teaching international students: Improving learning for all (pp. 119-129). London: Routledge.
  • Schuerholz-Lehr, S., Caws, C., Van Gyn, G. & Preece, A. (2007). Internationalizing the higher education curriculum: An emerging model for transforming faculty perspectives, Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 37 (1), 67-94.
teaching tips

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