University of Applied Sciences Munich (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 1271-1280
ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2017.0421
Conference name: 10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2017
Location: Seville, Spain
Access to higher education for refugees is currently a pivotal challenge for universities in host countries. Up to now few research findings exist that could help to tackle this multifaceted challenge. Against this backdrop the following paper presents a research project which addresses this research gap. The research project “SUCCESS – Study opportunities and success for refugee students” is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research and implemented as a joint venture of three German universities and the non-governmental organization Kiron Open Higher Education. It aims at assessing the impact of different instruments which are supposed to foster study success of refugee students in higher education: online self-assessment, competence diagnostics before and during the study course as well as various accompanying support services.

Kiron Open Higher Education is combining a structured online curriculum consisting of selected Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered worldwide and different support services to integrate refugees into higher education. Kiron students are supposed to transfer to a partner university after having gained a certain amount of recognizable credit points by successfully completing adequate MOOCs in their study tracks. Besides, students can participate in different support services, such as mentoring services and a buddy program. Mentoring is connecting students with both academic experts who support them with their online studies and professional experts from related fields of work. The buddy program brings together refugee students and local students from the same area of studies. These support services are offered as it is well established in research that in general support services are a key success factor in online learning and that MOOCs in particular suffer from a high drop-out rate. The impact of the support services offered is one of the research foci of the project SUCCESS and will be at the center of this paper.

In detail, the paper presents an analysis model to measure the impact of student support services. For this purpose a mixed methods approach of quantitative online surveys and qualitative interviews is being applied. The introduced analysis model integrates different impact variables on both individual and institutional level and their interrelations significant to both study success and integration into society as final means. Moreover, this paper presents first findings on the characteristics of the heterogeneity of refugee students at Kiron and their need for support arising from their specific life conditions.

Conclusions drawn from this research are supposed to help higher education institutions effectively reshape existing and create new support services for refugee students as well as to inform stakeholders about useful tools for the integration of refugees in society and higher education. Moreover, findings are supposed to enrich research and discourse on digital higher education both in general and regarding its potentials to serve disadvantaged groups. Last but not least – which is specific for SUCCESS - research results will be processed and communicated to all Kiron students involved in order to serve as a tool for optimizing their individual educational career.
Higher Education, Study Success, MOOC, Refugee, Student Support, Access to Higher Education.