Off-Campus Study

Off-Campus Study as a High-Impact Practice

A single off-campus study program can bring together multiple high-impact practices. We call this the multiplier effect. In addition to experiences with diversity and engagement in global learning, off-campus study teaching and learning regularly includes the following practices:

  1. Common intellectual experiences. In some programs students take many of their courses together, but even when this is not the case the curricular components alone often unify them in their intellectual endeavors.
  2. Learning Communities. Most OCS programs naturally form learning communities. AAC&U advocates that such groups, while encouraging integration of learning across courses, involve students with topics and issues that matter beyond the classroom. On most off-campus study programs, students benefit from the interdisciplinary study of just such larger global issues.
  3. Writing-intensive courses. Not all programs are writing intensive, but many engage students in journaling and reflective writing that creates an ideal environment for recording and reflecting on their experiences.
  4. Collaborative assignments and projects. Team-based work is frequently an aspect of-off-campus study, made easier by the fact that the students are engaged in a common intellectual experience and are often part of a learning community.
  5. Undergraduate research. Many programs include research components, which range from scientific fieldwork to ethnographic research to cultural observations exercises or even academic research in otherwise inaccessible libraries and archives.
  6. Service-learning, community-based learning. Because students are typically eager to connect with the communities in which they live and study, many programs offer service-learning and community engagement components.
  7. Internships. Program-embedded internship opportunities are growing in importance. In addition to the professional experience they provide, they establish connections to the community and provide opportunities to practice cultural and language skills.
  8. Capstone courses and projects. Many programs lead to culminating projects that bring together different experiences, courses, and types of learning. Alternatively, at some institutions, students may continue their off-campus work once they return to campus where their work evolves into a senior thesis or capstone projects for their undergraduate studies.

(Adapted from Carpenter, Scott D., Kaufman, H., Torp, M. (2019) Integrating Worlds. How Off-Campus Study Can Transform Undergraduate Education. Sterlin, VA: Stylus, 5-6)