There are many decisions to make in planning an academically rigorous and cross-culturally enriching travel-study course that also maximizes health and safety. Below are some of the key considerations as you get started in creating – or reviewing – your course.

Academic requirements

The Provost’s Office requires that all travel-study courses demonstrate that they have the approval of their academic unit’s curriculum committee. If you are not certain whether your course has been approved as a permanent offering, please contact the chair of the department sponsoring your course. Travel study courses must do the following:

  • Adhere to the credit hour rule.  Is there enough instructional time to justify the number of credits? Or is travel time without an academic component being counted as instructional time inappropriately?
  • Demonstrate academic rigor. Does the course correspond to the regular offerings from your School/College at the same level (e.g. 00X, 1XX etc.) in prerequisite requirements and academic expectations?
  • Have a well-developed syllabus. Does the syllabus outline a course that adheres to the credit hour rule, expectations for academic rigor, and show the instructor’s expertise in the subject matter?
  • Put academic purpose first. Is the academic purpose of the course the primary reason for it to be a travel study course? If the academic purpose is taking a back seat to the travel itself, then that could signal that this should not be approved for academic credit.

Questions from curriculum committees on this requirement should be directed to J. Dickinson, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Student Success.

Destination

  • Why is your destination the best one to meet your academic objectives?
  • What is the US Center for Disease Control’s advice for your destination? [The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. During the proposal process, you will more deeply assess medical risks through International SOS.]
  • What do the US Department of State’s travel advisory(ies) say for your destination(s)? [Locations with a Level 4 advisory will not be considered; if you are considering a Level 3 destination, contact the Director of the Office of International Education in advance.]
  • How realistic is it to get to and from this destination during the desired period – both in terms of the logistics of travel, and the impact of jet lag if any time zone changes?

Timing

  • Proposed departure and return dates. NOTE: Instruction/travel should not interfere with students’ other courses. Travel to/from locations may occur outside of designated terms; for-credit instruction must fall within a term. See UVM’s Academic Calendar: https://www.uvm.edu/registrar/academic-calendars
  • Summer term – Depending upon when in the summer, and the connection to their academic requirements, students may be balancing summer jobs, internships or other commitments that could dissuade their enrollment in a travel course in the middle of the summer
  • How many total days and/or weeks will the travel component be?
  • Time of year – What are the destination’s weather patterns and events (hurricanes, tropical storms, rainy season, etc.) which could impact activities, travel, etc.?
  • Destination holidays/peak seasons which may impact lodging availability, ease of travel, etc.?

Student eligibility

  • Academic prerequisites?  Open to only specific majors/minors?
  • Language proficiency? Technical skills? Class standing or GPA requirement?
  • Physical requirements? (For example, if a trekking course at high altitude: “must be able to hike 5 miles at a XX% incline at an altitude of XXXX feet (air is very thin)”

Student costs

  • Are there any meals not included in the program fee? What is approximate cost of airline tickets?
  • Are there any other costs not included in the program fee about which students need to be aware? For example, are students required to have a cell phone on which they can call out and receive calls in the destination?
  • Are there department/unit scholarships or grants available to assist students with program fees?
  • What ‘back-up’ financial resources should students have? (example: hotel costs if flight delays)

Logistics

  • How will you arrange for lodging, meals, ground transportation, instruction space?
  • What risks specifically are associated with in-country transportation options? How can those risks be mitigated?
    • In most cases, ground transportation should occur in daylight hours (in some destinations, ground transportation is not permitted outside of daylight hours)
  • What risks are inherent in the type of lodging selected? (different standards in fire safety? Proximity to U.S. consulates or other buildings which could be targets?)
  • How will you vet vendors/check references for the above? If homestays, how will families be vetted?
    • Homestays: At least two students should be assigned together.
  • How will you ascertain whether vendors are or are not able to meet UVM insurance requirements?
  • If a student with a physical disability applies for the program, what reasonable accommodations can be made in activities and methods of transportation? (UVM Student Accessibility Services is a helpful resource)
  • Will students depart from the same airport within the U.S. on the same flight? Or will there be a specified date/window of time during which students will be asked to meet at the destination/in country airport?
    • Syllabus and pre-departure communications should specify on what date, at what time and where the program begins. (That way, if students elect to do any independent travel before/after the program, it is clear that it is separate from the UVM program.)
  • What is the back-up plan if flights are delayed at the start of the program? The end?
  • Itinerary template
  • Sample itineraries- check back soon

 

Other health and safety issues

  • Does the location require a satellite phone for emergency communications?
  • What are the linguistic and destination/condition/in-country knowledge needed by the lead instructor and the co-instructor/TA in the event one person or the other is incapacitated?
  • What health/safety risks and mitigation strategies (or expectations) need to be shared with students pre-departure? Reminders in-country? What are consequences for those who do not attend pre-departure meetings?
  • What in-country/destination behavioral requirements should students should know in advance of paying their deposit to participate in the program? Buddy system? Requests to be away from the group/ communicating whereabouts when separate from the group? Alcohol?
  • How will you build the schedule to maximize students making choices consistent with health and safety?
    • Most frequently-cited veteran travel-study faculty plan for success is to have a full schedule with limited free time.
  • Disciplinary matters: Certain student behavior may put one or more participants at greater risk off campus/ abroad than on campus/ in the US. You therefore have the right to create reasonable policies to account for these risks. Put expectations in writing (syllabus, handbook) with consequences referenced “up to and including dismissal from the program, at your expense if it requires an early departure.”

Course enrollment

When determining how many students you would like to enroll in your course, consider:

  • What is the sponsoring academic unit's minimum enrollment for financial viability? Consult the sponsoring dean’s office. Does that number differ depending upon the type of student enrolled (graduate vs undergraduate)?
  • What is the maximum number of students that can be safely accommodated based on staffing, frequency of location changes, in-country transportation and activities?  For example, if in-country transport is needed, how many seats are available for all students and employees? If activities involve a higher level of risk, what is the proper group size to ensure appropriate supervision? What ratio of employee-to-student are you most comfortable with given what needs to be managed? (UVM guidelines = No fewer than 1 employee : 9 students)
  • What evidence do you have that there is sufficient interest in this topic/destination, given the likely costs? Depending on destination and itinerary, international programs can cost a student $2,000-$5,000 for flights and program fees; summer courses require tuition payments on top of that.