Alternatives to Student Outbound Mobility-Improving Students' Cultural Competency Skills Online to Improve Global Health Without Travel

Med Sci Educ. 2021 Jun 7;31(4):1441-1451. doi: 10.1007/s40670-021-01332-9. eCollection 2021 Aug.


Introduction: Student outbound mobility is a major element in internationalization of medical education and global health education. However, this approach is often criticized, as it is inherently inequitable. Internationalization at home is a newer concept that aims to provide students with international skills and experiences without exchange travel. We report detailed outcomes of an international online program during the COVID-19 pandemic, which aimed to include acquisition of cultural awareness and competency-similar to what the students would have obtained if they had travelled abroad.

Method: Sixty-eight students from 12 international universities participated in international small peer group collaborative work, and online networking. Perceived improvement of cultural competency using Likert scale and open-ended questions was used as a measure of success. Furthermore, students' definition of cultural competency in the different countries was obtained.

Results: Students improved their cultural competency skills. Data analysis supported statistically significant improvement of the above skills after the program, in comparison to the start of the program.

Discussion: Internationalization of medical education can be achieved at home-via structured online peer exchanges-and can provide students with intercultural skills and networking opportunities that are typically achieved via international in-person travel. The above represents a socially just and equitable way to reach all students and can result in improvement of their cultural competency, preparing them for their work in global health, and thereby resulting in improvement of global health.

Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s40670-021-01332-9.

Keywords: Cultural competency; Global health education; International collaboration; Internationalization; Internationalization at home; Internationalization of medical education; Medical students.