Scholarly article on topic 'A Case Study: Technology Education Internationalization'

A Case Study: Technology Education Internationalization Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Academic research paper on topic "A Case Study: Technology Education Internationalization"

DE GRUYTER 3rd International Engineering and Technology Education Conference Romania,

OPEN & November,

DOI 10 1515/colbu 2015 0004 7th Balkan Region Conference on Engineering and Business Education 1st - 4th,

. p - - 2015

A Case Study: Technology Education Internationalization

Lisa SOON

Central Queensland University, Brisbane, Australia

l.soon@cqu. edu. au

Galina V. KASHKAN

National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, Russia

gvk@tpu.ru

Olga V. MARUKHINA

National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, Russia marukhina@tpu. ru

Sergey V. AKSENOV

National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, Russia

gvk47@mail.ru

ABSTRACT

This paper investigates the internationalization of education, specifically technology education in National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). Through a conducted case study of a course in a Master of Information Technology (MIT) program development, it investigated the challenges that TPU faced and how they could overcome the challenges in internationalizing their programs and curricula. The research adopted a qualitative case study research method. It used survey, observation and documentations as the data collection techniques, as they are best suited for this research. Ten students were involved in a delivery of a course in a developed internationalized MIT program. The research team observed how the students learnt, whether there were challenges and difficulties in the delivery of course learning and how they were overcome. The results showed that the students were highly satisfied with the course developed and they believed they greatly benefited from the developed course.

Keywords: case study, higher education, internationalization, course development, teaching and learning challenges.

INTRODUCTION

There have been a variety of definitions for higher education. For the purposes of this research, higher education is defined as 'all types of studies, training or training for research at the post-secondary level, provided by universities or other educational

establishments that are approved as institutions of higher education by the competent State authorities' (UNESCO,1998). Globalization refers to the flow of technology, economy, knowledge, people, values and ideas across country borders which affect each country differently, due to its history, traditions, culture and priorities; and internationalization of higher education is a way a country responds to the globalization impacts (Knight, 2001; Delgado-Márquez, Bondar & Delgado-Márquez, 2012). In this paper, internationalization is not about 'Englishesation' or 'Englishization' whereby universities use English as the medium of instruction.

The trends of globalization and internationalization of university programs and their curricula have largely impacted on Russian higher education (hundreds of Russian universities) in the last 10-15 years. Meanwhile, the demand for engineering education increased substantially in Russian technical universities. To date, every second student in Russia considers technical education as the most prospective. One of such universities is National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University (or TPU), which was ranked in the top four leading universities by the end of year 2014 in Russia (Chernyh, 2015). It also has a place in QS Rating of Universities within the group of 501-550. It was a strategic approach to develop TPU into a research university to improve its competitiveness. Particularly, TPU aspires to become one of the world leaders in the area of resource-efficient technologies, which would help to improve humanities and economic developments globally following some scientific guidelines and directions. The examples are non-destructive testing and diagnostics in industrial and social fields, nanotechnologies and plasma-beam technologies of material creation with set properties, intellectual monitoring and control information-telecommunication systems , rational nature management and deep processing of natural resources and, traditional and nuclear energy as alternative technologies to energy generation.

It is a strategy for TPU to transform in order to produce more better-benefited graduates and post-graduates. To implement the strategy, the masters and other post-graduate programs were actively re-developed. The redevelopment is of high necessity, as it would attract not only post-graduate students from Russian universities but also from foreign universities. The stake of students undertaking master and post-graduate programs in year 2014 is over 25%, and this index is expected to increase significantly to year 2020. In year 2014, the amount of international students has grown by 23% from its traditional amount of students into over 3.5 thousands of international students. It is one of the best indices among Russian universities. Over 15% of the educational programs in TPU will soon be delivered in English language. Therefore, another strategy is also to attract more foreign teachers-researchers. Considering all of the above, it requires some different approaches and the changes to the forms of educational process. For examples, networking between universities around the world using mixed forms of learning in Russian and English languages, using Internet technologies and, if possible, implementing face to face classes with foreign specialists.

To investigate the challenges that TPU could possibly face and how they could overcome the challenges or difficulties in internationalizing their programs and curricula, this research paper provides a case study related to a particularly selected course in the program

developments. The research adopted a qualitative case study research method. The case study investigated the technology education development for Master of Information Technology (MIT) program in TPU. In TPU, the majority of student learners' first language was Russian but not English. The research specifically examines a course 'Systems Analysis' as a small part of MIT program development by engaging an invited Australian university academic as a foreign researcher-teacher from Central Queensland University, Australia, to co-plan, co-develop, and co-execute the teaching delivery of a course (or subject). The research investigates whether there were challenges, how the challenges were overcome and whether the students achieved the planned course learning outcomes as an additional component to MIT program. Before the course could be conducted to test whether the redevelopment benefit the students, the course was collaboratively and actively planned, designed and developed involving both TPU staff and the foreign researcher-teacher. Many special careful considerations were given to the selection of students with English language abilities, skills to understand the lectures, abilities to complete their tutorials work, and needs for teacher-student consultation or extra help.

Ten students from the MIT program were selectively chosen by the TPU senior management to attend the course to obtain the best possible learning benefits. The researcher-teacher delivered the course. The students were assessed through different tutorial tasks and a final examination. This research uses qualitative case study research method. It used the data collection techniques such as survey, observation and documentations due to the techniques could much better examine the research context and contents. All classroom activities and discussions were monitored, collected and recorded. The related staff closely observed all aspects of the course. At the end of the course, the staff collected student opinions and feedback through a survey. It was found that most students achieved very well in regards to different learning outcomes though a few of them achieved moderately. The students reported that the skills they learned were very useful, they highly enjoyed the course and they greatly benefited from different skills learned in the course.

This paper is structured as follows. The next section will go through the related issues in the existing literature to identify a knowledge gap to be filled by this research about technology education internationalization. In the third section, it explains a selected research method that could better address the research aims and research questions. Section 4 explains the data collection process and analysis results. Section 5 discusses the research findings, implications and contributions from this research. Section 6 provides a conclusion of this research paper.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In this section, the related work in program internationalization, and all kinds of program development and subject development related to internationalization will be explored. Higher education internationalization is a broad area of research. Maringe, Foskett and Woodfield (2013) remarks that internationalization has been the most significant areas of change in higher education globally over the past few decades. Luijten-Lub, Wende and

Huisman (2005) maintain that internationalization refers to the increasing interconnectedness between different national education systems across borders and national authorities, and internationalization is perceived as a policy-making process. Song and Tai (2007) comment that higher education (HE) institutions that look into internationalization aim to be world class universities. In the modern days, universities compete within the global market of higher education.

In analyzing the dynamics in HE internationalization, Pricopie, Nicolescu, Reinhardt and Almasan (2009) discuss two major dynamics. They are: 1. the mobility of student, faculty and institutions, and 2. the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to influence the offer and demand of HE services in the global market. They also use the terms 'transnational education', 'cross-border learning', 'university extensions', 'joined universities', 'integrated programs', or 'borderless education' to describe the institutional mobility to offer study-abroad programs with offshore courses and programs (pp. 103105). These terms and the two dynamics discussed are different attributes that Maringe, Foskett and Woodfield (2013) analysed, further classified and supported in their emerging internationalization models. Some previous research (Choi, 2015; Maringe, Foskett & Woodfield, 2013; Jackson & Huddart, 2010; Mthembu, 2012; Teixeira & Coimbra, 2014; Olatokun & Utulu, 2012) reflects that many universities look into internationalizing their programs and curricula and upgrading their programs/subjects to meet the global standards.

The above-discussed research generally covers the 'motives, aims and purposes of HE internationalization', which brings along the tasks of internationalized curriculum (or program curriculum) development. Vajargah and Khoshnoodifar (2013) regard curriculum internationalization as a critical process of developing and changing the curriculum in order to infuse various international aspects into formal operational dimensions of curriculum. Altuwaijri (2007) adds that the program curriculum development processes will include needs identification, academic development and institutional development and the program should meet the highest international academic standard based on latest knowledge and field development. It is important that universities provide their students with constantly updated knowledge through continuing education such as online learning (Choi, 2015).

For constantly updated knowledge in internationalization, Phan, Siegel, Wright and Siegel (2009) comment that many universities work much more closely with industry and government. Knobela, Simoesa and Cruza (2013) observe that universities encourage faculty members to collaborate internationally, which is not only a trend, but is mandatory for any individual, research group or country to seek visibility on the science and technology scene. Odrakiewicz (2013) remarks that some better highly-regarded Polish MBA programs partner with foreign business schools, and the graduates receive a degree from both the Polish school offering the program and its foreign partner school. To further stress the knowledgeability in HE teachers in our uncertain world of changes, Kalantzis and Cope (2012) highlight the needs as: 1. to teach as action researchers; 2. become transformative leaders of change; 3. have capacities to work; 4. accept diversity; and 5. build capacities for innovation. In the new global HE changes context, Yang (2004) reminds that universities need to develop a new capacity to make selective and flexible

responses. Many country governments and universities adopt dissimilar strategic approaches in HE internationalization within different country contexts (Altuwaijri, 2007; Choi, 2015; Denise, 2014; Gray, Chang & Kennedy, 2010; Song & Tai, 2007; Taylor, 2004; Teixeira & Coimbra, 2014; Yang, 2004). Internationalization strategies are shaped at the program level by the different relationships these programs have to the market and society (Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders, 2010).

Participating of Russia to the Bologna process has resulted in a revolutionary modernization of the higher education system and has become a step towards integration with the global educational domain. Nowadays, the process of internationalization comes to the forefront when analyzed by the experts as one of the constituent parts of the mission of the Russian university. The aspects of the higher education system internationalization were studied in the work of the following Russian researchers: Agranovich (2010), Elkina (2010), Leontyeva (2012), Pleshakova (2015), Tatur and Medvedev (2012), and Chuchalin (2013). To more carefully investigate the aspects, these researchers further explore the cultural mission of the university education in Russia, the synergy of humanitarian and scientific developments, the integration of international and national education system, intercultural communication and meeting the educational standards laid out in Bologna Declaration. Changes in the higher education system in Russia, including the development of its internationalization process, started not long ago but since Russia's inclusion of the Bologna process in 2013. As a result, as shown by literature review, in Russia there is limited amount of practical research related to the study of internationalization issues of higher education. This research aims to fill this research gap.

RESEARCH METHOD

This research aims to specifically focus on investigating internationalization of technology education within the Russian HE internationalization context and exploring its related challenges and difficulties.

Case study research method was warranted most appropriate as: 1. Its research questions are mainly 'how' and 'why' questions; 2. The researchers have little or no control over behavioral events; and 3. The focus of study is a contemporary phenomenon within the research context (Yin, 2014). Further, case study research is most useful in investigating Russian technical education internationalization as a new research phenomenon (Yin, 2012), when considering case study research is methodologically viable in the study of extreme or critical cases (Miles & Huberman, 1994). For the purposes of this research, a case study was chosen for a technology education program development, i.e. the MIT program, in TPU. Case study data collection techniques 'survey', 'observation' and 'documentation' were adopted. The data collection techniques were used, as interviews that needs to take the interviewee time away from staff and students would prevent them from focusing on their usual role responsibilities in normal learning and teaching activities. Other considerations were survey with related usefully prepared questions would effectively collect the answers from the staff and students in the researched learning and teaching context in TPU. Furthermore, by observing the day-to-day operations and activities in learning and teaching, and collecting the related program administration

documentations will help minimize the interferences to all the learning and teaching members. With the researchers being a few TPU staff members in Russia and a researcher-teacher from Central Queensland University, Australia (CQU), who are usually located in two geographically distant countries with time zone differences, the three data collection techniques are most useful for the research purposes.

The research project was planned with all researchers involved in data collection processes, specifically from developing and delivering a chosen course (also known as a subject or unit). The course was developed with collaborative efforts involving all related academic staff from the two universities (TPU & CQU) for a new MIT (English) program in 2014/2015. Traditionally, the MIT program in TPU has had materials written in and been delivered in Russian. The new MIT (English) program was newly developed by aligning with the traditional program contents and learning outcomes, but written and delivered differently in English. The TPU academic members developed the entire MIT (English) program before and including 2013, where the researchers in TPU were able to closely observe, to be well-informed and to keep effective track records of the program development. In 2014, the researcher-teacher from CQU was invited to develop a course in the MIT program that would be useful for students in TPU. The TPU academics provided the CQU researcher-teacher with useful URL links of some redeveloped MIT (English) program with helpful website pages to understand the program aims, structure, courses, schedule, learning outcomes, etc. The CQU researcher-teacher planned and developed a course 'Systems Analysis' not already included in the program but believed would further enhance the program. The CQU researcher-teacher was also engaged to physically deliver the course in TPU over 3 weeks towards the end of 2014.

Ten students were registered and actively participated in the course to completion. For the 3-week course, it was closely observed. The course involved 9 1-hour-35-mins lectures, 6 1-hour-35-mins tutorials and laboratory sessions, 3 1-hour-55-mins student-teacher consultation periods, and a 2-hour examination. TPU MIT program normally cover teaching of all parts of all courses in Russian and only this 3 weeks' course part was taught in English as an approach to HE internationalization. All invited students were carefully selected as they were those in the current MIT students who were believed to have a good command of English either because they used English in their previous education programs or they went through education exchange program in other English speaking countries. Further, they fulfilled another criterion with skills mastery, capabilities and high academic achievements in other MIT program courses. All learning and teaching activities were closely observed and recorded. All useful aspects of the related course materials, administration and correspondence documentations were collected.

The CQU researcher-teacher delivered the course in lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions at TPU in three consecutive weeks i.e. between 20 Oct 2014 and 7 Nov 2014. There were also student-teacher consultation sessions where students could ask questions if they had any doubt about the course. Students could access and download course materials on a common learning & teaching website and correspond with the CQU researcher-teacher over emails or in person. At the end of the course, the ten student participants were invited to take part in a course survey. The survey aims to explore: 1. How the students feel

about the course; 2. The student backgrounds that they have to support them for the 3 weeks' course delivered in English within their MIT program; 3. Whether they could accept MIT program in English medium; 4. Why the students were selected for the course; 5. What previous education backgrounds and experiences each of them have before doing the MIT; 6. At what stage (which semester in the whole program and the duration of program) is each of them in their programs; 7. Was the course related to their TPU studies and enhance their knowledge and skills in their program; and 8. How the course will help and benefit the students.

All activities were carefully observed and recorded. All forms of collected data were eventually put together for concepts mapping to discover its messages and hidden meanings under careful examination. The analysis results were discussed with and/or sent to other researchers for data verifications, examinations, discussions and feedback as a form of cross-checking (Krefting, 1991) and member-checking (Anfara Jr., Brown & Mangione, 2002).

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS

Through the observation records, it showed that the students generally obtained highly positive learning experiences. 10 Students attended the classes. On most of the teaching days, there were at least 6 to 8 students who attended the classes regularly. Those students who skipped classes did not understand English well and sought help from other classmates to relay messages to them and teach them in their language afterwards.

During the course delivery period, particularly over their interactive lecture discussions, tutorial tasks, and computer laboratory work, the students talked with class members in their different languages and talked with the teacher (the CQU researcher/teacher; 'teacher' is used in this section to better explain things in the learning and teaching context) in English. The teacher communicated with all students in classes, in consultation office and via emails. In the tutorials, some students confidently typed out and recorded their tutorial answers electronically as MS Word files using laboratory computers. A few students used language translator on their laptops to understand their English tutorial questions before attempting to answer them in English using their translator assistance. It was amazing to see that Visio could show up in a Chinese and a German-like (not sure of what language script it was) versions when two students used non-English Visio versions on their own laptops. For any tutorial or laboratory tasks that any student could not complete during class times, all the students were allowed to complete it as homework for submission the very next day. They were strongly encouraged to submit all tasks as emails directly to the teacher for feedback. Every student would either have a timely email reply feedback or a direct classroom verbal feedback for a submitted task when attending the subsequent class. Some students sent emails about doubts in courses and received email replies with clarification and learning advice. Students who could not attend one or a few classes sought advice and laboratory tasks catch-up instructions over email correspondences. Most students performed very well in all submitted tutorial/computer laboratory tasks with only a few submitted tasks showing some mistakes.

The majority students completed the course demonstrating confidence in their skills and told the teacher they enjoyed the course. During the course, the students told the teacher the course contents actually complemented the contents they learnt in their other courses within the program. In particular, two students, who showed great interests by attending all classes without any record of absence, showed excellence in all assessments and course learning outcomes, particularly evident through their final examination with highest marks in their class. They also demonstrated very impressive computer laboratory work and tutorial tasks with very good grasps of concepts. Two other students who did not achieve in the course so well were mainly due to their low English proficiencies. For one, even though his English proficiency initially hindered or slowed down his performance, due to he frequently checked with the teacher and sought help, he followed the course through well. The other one who was mostly absent in nearly all the classes, could only work out tasks with help from classmates, bypassing the teacher, for rough work submissions. Nonetheless, even though the two of them passed the course with borderline results, the former showed a higher total course mark than the latter.

All students were observed to be different and had different learning experiences in this course. In the 3 weeks, all related TPU staff provided the best possible help and support to the teacher, so that the course went through smoothly and completed successfully. It was such a pleasant experience for the teacher to work with all staff and interact with the ten students. At the end of the course, just right after the final examination completion, the students requested the teacher for taking a group photograph with them. When they were asked whether they enjoyed the course and what they liked most in this course, they answered "very much" and "everything!"

For the purpose of this course, all students, a TPU staff member and the teacher accessed a common Google drive to share all learning and teaching materials. The documentations from various class communication sources including google drive showed that all students retrieved their classroom materials regularly as advised. The students also checked their emails timely and responded to the teacher promptly about their tasks, class work and activities. The records of email correspondences reflected that there were active classroom communications electronically, in addition to those face-to-face interaction/communications in classroom or in consultation periods. The documentations analysis reflected that there were frequent class communications, regular provisions of answers to students and active student-teacher interaction. There was no record of student complaint in any aspect of the course.

In the student survey feedback, students commonly revealed that 1. It is an excellent opportunity to expand the knowledge in the subject area; 2. They were able to practice their communications in English; and 3. They were able to gain international experience and obtain the most recent and relevant knowledge and skills in order to become a competitive specialist in the future.

Below is a student survey feedback further summarized and prepared to reflect the students' background, learning experiences or opinions having attended their 3 weeks' course.

• The previous education backgrounds and experiences each of them have before doing the MIT. The students came with a background in Bachelor degree of: Applied mathematics (62%) and, Computer science and engineering (38%)

• The stage the MIT/bachelor program (which semester in the whole program and the duration of program) each of them is in. All students were 1st year students in their MIT program.

• The relatedness of 3 the weeks' course to their TPU studies and how the 3 weeks' course will enhance their knowledge and skills in the MIT program.

1. 85% of students commented that the course significantly expands the students' knowledge in system analysis and software design. The course was related to and shared a lot in common characteristics with other courses in their TPU master's program.

2. 65% of students agreed that it was highly appreciated that the course was taught in English by a lecturer from a foreign university. It helped to improve their knowledge of English and enabled them to receive new information. The course was very well-correlated with the TPU program of study. It strengthened their knowledge and skills gained at TPU.

3. 88% of students reflected that it was a very interesting course with the following interesting topics: the development of requirements, structural analysis of the software, and the development of use case diagrams. The course contents and topics were very well-correlated with the studies at TPU.

• How the 3 weeks' course helped the students.

1. 100% of students reported that they gained useful knowledge in system analysis and software design.

2. 65% of students considered the 3-week course as an English language immersion program where they had good times of communication with an interesting English-speaking teacher.

3. 97% of students revealed they enjoyed their communication with the professor of the leading foreign university with a great opportunity to ask the questions they had and obtained interesting answers overall.

4. 60% of students revealed they gained new knowledge in project management.

5. 81% of students remarked that when giving the course, the lecturer demonstrated interesting examples and offered practical tasks execution which helped to improve their skills at every stage of the system design.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS

The three-week course reflected the relevance of the Systems Analysis course in the MIT program and the interests of the students in pursuit of this course. However, their learning experiences differed based on their different levels of English language mastery and the actual difficulties and challenges encountered within the course. While some did not have or did not have much problems in their learning processes, some experienced learning difficulties in classroom activities, tasks and work in following through the course like the

peers. A student who was shy and absented from most classes struggled to pass the course with the course-mates to help in all learning activities outside the classroom. One who attended class with lower English proficiency ironed out his language difficulties by seeking frequent help and advice about tutorial work and laboratory tasks directly from the teachers and other students who attend the classes together.

The analysis results indicate that the students' previous English study programs, exchange program in English-speaking countries or individual English exposure background directly benefited them and impacted on their learning performance. As all the course students were different with different English proficiency levels, while some could enjoy the course simply without or without much English difficulties, some struggled through with means of language translator assistance or with frequent help from the course-mates and/or teacher. Having enrolled in a Russian MIT program but having to attend a course in an English-speaking classroom could indeed be a great challenge for those who have not mastered English well (i.e. listen, speak, read and write).

In the process to internationalize the curriculum and implement the English-speaking classes, TPU could consider giving effective help to all the commencing students on the internationalized MIT programs by providing the students with induction classes with basic, medium and advanced academic English language skill trainings. During the program, students could be further supported by providing them with on-going English language assistance, study advice and consultation workshops. It would greatly help if one or more English advisors are appointed to help the students with low English proficiencies and clear signs of struggling in their learning.

In essence, the three-week internationalized course Systems Analysis in TPU presented a case about how the ten selected MIT students faced challenges and overcame their different degrees of difficulties when going through an internationalized course. The results of the investigation suggest that there may be future internationalized program students who may also have English language deficiencies or academic learning difficulties. Hence, to help the students overcome the presented different challenges and learning difficulties in the learning processes is critical since they will directly impact on their performances. In hindsight, there need to be measures to overcome the students' learning difficulties and mitigate the presented challenges to the internationalized program students. Some useful approaches recommended for TPU include the considerations to provide students, especially the commencing students in the internationalized programs, with induction English language training at various levels to increase their English language proficiencies to help them meet their study requirements. There should be frequent consultation workshops to help these students in the internationalized programs. TPU could hire study advisor to understand the student learning difficulties and problems in order to more effective solve their learning problems to improve their work on an ongoing program-wide basis.

CONCLUSION

This research provides an insight into Russian higher education internationalization through a case study investigating students' learning experiences. The case study was based on a selected group of ten students going through a course offered by a foreign university teacher delivering it in English-speaking classroom, as a new research phenomenon (Yin, 2012). The findings reflected some students' difficulties in listening, speaking, reading and writing in English and their challenges to seek assistance and support to complete the course when dealing with the three-week course in an internationalized MIT program.

There are some recommendations for teachers to understand why some students skip lectures conducted in English and the needs for working out strategies to help such students. One of the reasons is their imperfect English skills. For example, these students often read English texts much better than listening to it. Therefore, the teachers may recommend to their students to read their study materials ahead at home before classes. In this case, students will be interested to attend classes with their questions ready with them. Such practice is very useful for international students who study courses in Russian as a foreign language to an international student. As for internationalization in the higher education, it is important to understand that the training process usually happens and needs to happen in English. In a university like TPU where the training is carried out in two languages i.e. Russian and English, it is critical to help all students manage their studies. It is because for some international students in TPU, both Russian and English languages are not native. In this case, the invitation of professors with native English from other universities is very important. The mixed language study is useful not only for the students, but also for the Russian teachers.

Currently, the research results are restricted to how TPU internationalized their programs. To strengthen the validities of the research results, more case studies should be anticipated to further investigate how other Russian universities internationalizes their programs and how their students faced and overcome challenges and difficulties encountered. To generalize the research outcomes, many more case studies in higher education internationalization in more foreign universities should also be anticipated to further investigate how various foreign universities internationalizes their programs and what/how the challenges or difficulties encountered were overcome

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The paper is a publication resulting from a project executed under support of a grant of the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund №15-16-70002a(p),17.1499.C2015.

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