International exchange (IE) is considered a valuable educational experience for students studying business degrees because it enables students to develop important learning outcomes such as global outlook, critical thinking, and understanding of equality and diversity in an international context (Jones and Killick, 2013). For these reasons it has been mandated by all accreditation agencies for business schools such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This paper reports on an analysis of learner data to understand which students participate in IE and what their learning outcomes are compared to students who do not participate. This learning analytics case-study presents analysis of students’ grades, demographics and entry characteristics for three cohorts of students (N=599) graduating from an undergraduate accounting degree at a large Hong Kong university. The effect of IE on academic performance was investigated by comparing students who did and did not participate in IE on their academic achievement as measured by Grade Point Average (GPA) across the period of study, which for these cohorts was four years. The results showed that of the 61 students who participated in an IE, around one-third (29.5%) were enrolled as international students, meaning that although they were studying in Hong Kong, they were not from there. The majority of students participating in IE experiences were local students who took the opportunity of an IE to experience studying abroad. In terms of academic achievement, students who participated in an IE had a significantly higher GPA on graduation compared to those who did not. However, IE students showed a consistently higher GPA across all four years of their studies, suggesting that participating in an IE did not necessarily result in enhanced learning outcomes as measured by GPA. These results suggest that high performing students self-select to participate in an IE and that the experience does not directly impact on their academic performance. Reasons for choosing whether to participate in an IE, as well as perceived benefits, were explored through interviews with current students to better understand students’ choices in this area. The findings also raised questions for the program team in respect to how to encourage a broader range of students to participate in IE and how to ensure an IE experience has a direct impact on students’ academic performance. This case-study illustrates the value of applying learning analytics to understanding students’ choices in respect to non-compulsory aspects of their studies, in this case IE, while at the same time shedding light on which students take up these opportunities and what the learning outcomes for them are. By gaining a better understanding of which students participate in an IE, it is possible to make informed decisions about whether the way IE is currently managed is appropriate and what changes might be needed for IE to function as intended in the curriculum. More broadly, it demonstrates how learning analytics approaches can be used to address questions about students’ extra-curricular experiences to determine their impact on learning.
Jones, E. & Killick, D. (2013). Graduate Attributes and the Internationalized Curriculum: Embedding a Global Outlook in Disciplinary Learning Outcomes. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(2), 165–182. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315312473655 [Accessed 11 March 2019)