Student Outcomes Associated with Short-term and Semester Study Abroad Programs


  • Jeffrey Scott Coker N.C. State University
  • Evan Heiser Elon University
  • Laura Taylor Elon University



Experiential, Study abroad, High impact practices, Duration, Education abroad


This five-year study of graduating seniors at Elon University (n=1,858) compared student outcomes measured by the National Survey of Student Engagement across five study abroad groups:  no study abroad, semester, short-term (3-week), two short-terms, and semester plus short-term.  Both short-term and semester programs were positively associated with how students rate their overall educational experience and whether they would attend the same institution again. However, students who participated in semester programs reported better outcomes in numerous categories: contributing to class discussion, including diverse perspectives in discussions and assignments, synthesis of ideas, less rote memorization of course material, empathy,acquiring a broad general education,critical thinking,and working effectively with others.  There was less compelling evidence of better outcomes from a second short-term program or one taken in addition to a semester program.  Overall, short-term programs clearly have value, but semester programs are associated with significantly better outcomes overall.


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Author Biographies

Jeffrey Scott Coker , N.C. State University

Jeffrey Scott Coker, M.Ed. and Ph.D., N.C. State University, is the Dean of the College and VPAA at Westminster College (PA) and former Director of the Core Curriculum at Elon University. He recently received the “Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education in Higher Education Award” from the National Society of Experiential Education.

Evan Heiser , Elon University

Evan Heiser, M.Ed., Kent State University, serves as the Assistant to the Vice President for Student Life, and Director of Student Life Assessment and Planning.  He oversees the Elon Experiences Transcript, and is currently pursuing his Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University.

Laura Taylor , Elon University

Laura Taylor earned her Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of South Carolina.  She is an associate professor of statistics at Elon University and teaches courses in applied statistics, and her research focuses on statistics education.  She also serves as the coordinator of the first-year mathematics courses in the Elon Core Curriculum.


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How to Cite

Coker , J. S. ., Heiser , E., & Taylor , L. (2018). Student Outcomes Associated with Short-term and Semester Study Abroad Programs. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 30(2), 92–105.