High Impact Learning in a Short-Term Study Abroad Program


  • India Luxton Colorado State University
  • Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez Colorado State University
  • Mehmet Egemen Ozbek Colorado State University
  • Laura Thornes Colorado State University




Social Network Analysis, High Impact Learning Practices, Mixed-methods, International Education, Short-term Program


This study examines a short-term study abroad program in Costa Rica. The goals of the study are to (1) investigate the link between high impact learning practices (HIPs) and program learning outcomes and (2) capture the relation between program structure, program facilitation, and student learning networks. The methodology includes ethnographic observations, student interviews, and social network analysis. The implementation of three HIPs in the program (applied learning, project-based, and cultural-learning) drives the change in student network structure. The article places scholarly attention on how HIPs incorporated into the program structure influence changes in student learning and support networks as well as influence student reported learning outcomes.


Abstract in Spanish

Este estudio examina un curso a corto plazo en el extranjero que se llevó a cabo en Costa Rica. Los objetivos del estudio son (1) investigar el vínculo entre las prácticas de aprendizaje de alto impacto (denominado en inglés HIP) y los resultados del aprendizaje del curso y (2) capturar la relación entre la estructura del curso, la facilitación del mismo, y las redes de aprendizaje de los estudiantes. La metodología incluye observaciones etnográficas, entrevistas con estudiantes, y análisis de redes sociales. La implementación de tres HIPs en el curso (aprendizaje aplicado, proyectos, y aprendizaje cultural) influye en el cambio en la estructura de la red social de los estudiantes. El artículo enfatiza cómo las prácticas de aprendizaje de alto impacto, incorporadas en la estructura del curso, influyen en los cambios en el aprendizaje de los estudiantes y en las redes de apoyo, así como en los resultados de aprendizaje reportados por los estudiantes.


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Author Biographies

India Luxton, Colorado State University

India Luxton is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University. India graduated from Western New England University in 2015 with her Bachelor's degree in Sociology. She received her Master's in Sociology from Colorado State University in 2017. India is a dedicated sociologist who seeks to enact change through education, social research, and application.

Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez, Colorado State University

Dr. Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University. His research, teaching, and engagement align with sustainable design and construction topics. He has received grant funding from federal and state agencies and private organizations. Rodolfo has taught multiple courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and he is well versed in the scholarship of teaching. His efforts in leading the Sustainable Buildings program were recognized with the 2019 Award for Excellence in Education Abroad Curriculum Design. He received his CMMS and Civil Engineering Ph.D. degrees from Clemson University.

Mehmet Egemen Ozbek, Colorado State University

Dr. Mehmet E. Ozbek is a professor and the holder of the Joseph Phelps Endowed Chair in the Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. He has received grant funding from Federal, state, and private entities and has published extensively. He has served on journal editorial boards and national committees related to construction and infrastructure. Dr. Ozbek has taught courses on construction contracts and project administration, issues, and trends in construction management and research, multi-criteria decision-making, and teaching a service-learning and a study abroad course.

Laura Thornes, Colorado State University

Laura Thornes is currently the Associate Director of Development for International Programs and was the Director of Education Abroad from 2011 to 2021 at CSU. She held similar administrative leadership positions at the University of Arizona. Laura completed her Bachelor's in Secondary Education with German and Spanish from the University of Arizona and Master's in Educational Psychology from Northern Arizona University. She has led several student groups abroad to Germany and Mexico. She regularly collaborates with researchers on studies related to the social, academic, and professional outcomes of education abroad and benchmarking best practices for supporting historically underrepresented students abroad.


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How to Cite

Luxton, I., Valdes-Vasquez, R., Ozbek, M. E., & Thornes, L. (2022). High Impact Learning in a Short-Term Study Abroad Program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 34(1), 97–130. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v34i1.541



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