Tech Tricks and Tools for International Educators

April 04, 2018

By Elizabeth Mills

Technology allows students to reach us from anywhere and access the information they need in a timely manner. Going digital by implementing customer relationship management software, student databases, data analytics, and other technology tools have changed many processes in international education.

Technology tools are exciting and seem promising. New apps, software, and websites are constantly being designed and developed. But which tools are the most helpful for managing the workload of busy international educators? How can you maximize efficiency by using features in software that you already have?

At Oregon State University, we have increased the number of students doing international internships. While it’s our mission to increase the numbers of students going abroad, the challenge is that staff won’t increase at the same rate as enrollment. So we need to find ways to do more with the resources that we have. One way to do that is through technology. If we can find a way to streamline processes, we can save time.

For example, there is a lot of functionality in the suite of Google products that can be utilized for free. We use Google Sheets to create online appointment grids, track data from student appointments, and collect information to easily organize and share. Combining the functionality of Google Forms to collect data in easy-to-design questionnaires and pre-advising worksheets that feeds data into Google Sheets make for more streamlined and easy analysis.

One “under the radar” tech tool is Symbaloo. Symbaloo offers a platform to create a comprehensive dashboard for resources that are presented as clickable tiles. You can create a page for your top study abroad locations with visa information; health and safety links; and student blogs. You can also create a page for international students with SEVIS information, local housing guides, and community resources.

In terms of products that you likely already have but may be underutilizing, Microsoft Outlook or other e-mail clients let you implement many shortcuts, including customized signatures. I use this feature to build custom signatures with the text of my most commonly sent e-mails. For example, I have e-mail signatures saved for sending acceptance materials, next steps in the application process, etc. You can even use QuickParts to build shortcuts for items you use often, such as office hours and materials to bring to your appointment.

I’m always curious what other offices are doing and eager to learn from colleagues who have figured out hacks to make their workload easier. Join me and my co-presenters Erin Hillis and Kathleen DeGuzman on Wednesday, May 30, at 1:00 p.m. at the NAFSA 2018 Annual Conference & Expo in Philadelphia for our Career Center session, “Practical Technology Innovations for the International Education Office.” We’ll share tricks we have used and advice on how to choose the right technology to meet your goals.

A great way to start the technology discussion on your campus in advance of NAFSA 2018 is to purchase the on-demand NAFSA e-Learning Seminar, Practical Technology Innovations for the International Education Office, which includes helpful resources and discussion questions.


Elizabeth MillsElizabeth B. Mills is the manager of international internships within the Office of Global Opportunities at Oregon State University.


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