The benefits of virtual learning abroad programs for higher education students: A phenomenological research study

Bronwyn A. Kosman, Daniela Castro de Jong, Catherine R. Knight-Agarwal, Lucy S. Chipchase, Naroa Etxebarria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Higher education institutions offer in-country learning abroad programs to provide healthcare students with the opportunity to gain the intercultural and global competencies they need to work in a globally interconnected world. During the Covid-19 pandemic, institutions offered virtual learning abroad programs as an alternative to the in-country programs, however, little is known about whether they provide comparable benefits to students. 

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate, and identify, the benefits gained by higher education healthcare students through their participation in a virtual learning abroad program. 

Design/Methods: This research implemented a qualitative approach, conducting semi-structured interviews with four higher education students enrolled in the final year of their healthcare studies. Data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. 

Results: The results revealed that virtual programs provide a range of benefits students can use in their future careers. They also provide students with a positive learning experience and an opportunity for personal growth. However, although the benefits students gain from virtual learning abroad programs are similar to those they gain from in-country programs, they are not identical. While virtual learning abroad programs are a viable alternative for in-country programs and offer many benefits, they fail to replicate the intercultural and global competencies that in-country programs offer to students. 

Conclusion: This study focusses on virtual learning abroad programs and whether the benefits healthcare students gain from them are comparable to the traditional in-country programs. Students gain personal and professional benefits from these programs without the risks and costs associated with international travel. However, the identified lack of increased global awareness has implications for how the benefits of virtual learning abroad programs should be promoted to students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106133
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Early online date19 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Intercultural competencies
  • Interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • Learning abroad
  • Student perceptions


Dive into the research topics of 'The benefits of virtual learning abroad programs for higher education students: A phenomenological research study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this