Sunday, 15 August 2010

Internationalising Academia

Most British Universities are now switched onto Internationalization. I have seen many statements of intent from British Universities. The intent being to internationalize their environment, their initiatives, their research and their curricula. Over the past few years I have been turning intent into practice. I have now incorporated aspects of internationalization into most of the modules I teach.

Many international students come to Britain to study. Most come for a Masters programme. They come for a British education and a British experience. I endeavour to turn this British education into a British + international education. It is my aim and practice to give my students the knowledge and skills that can be used globally.

So, how exactly do I achieve this? Below, for some of my modules, I give a brief description of some of my internationalisation initiatives.

Essential Skills for Computing (Eskills)

The international content of this module consists of one lecture entitled Fonts. In this lecture I, firstly, explain and demonstrate the Unicode Character Set. Then I explain and demonstrate Fonts and their relationship to the Unicode Character Set. There is a followup practical exercise. The students are tasked to construct a simple internationalised webpage using Mac OSX. The webpage is to contain characters from the Unicode Character Set eg arrows, mathematical symbols, enclosed alphanumerics, chinese, japanese, braille ...etc... The webpage is to be viewed from Mac OSX, Linux and Windows. The students are required to observe, analyse and explain differences between the views from Mac OSX, Linux and Windows.

Practical IT Systems

This is a three week module for MSc IT students. For the first week I teach PHP and some aspects of internationalizing websites. The students are allocated to teams and have two weeks to construct an Adaptive Internationalised Factlet Website. The basis of the website is a master set of factlets written in English. These factlets are translated into other languages/scripts. The language used for display of factlets will be determined automatically by the browser language setting or manually by the user language selection menu.

Rather than any further explanation from me it is better if you view one of the student websites for yourself → Internationalised Factlet Website

International Computing

This module is 100% internationalisation of Computing and IT. The topics I cover includes:

  1. Characteristics of Languages & Scripts
  2. Software Internationalisation & Localisation
  3. Character Sets
  4. Unicode Character Set
  5. Unicode Transformation Formats
  6. Fonts
  7. Keyboard Mappings & Input Methods
  8. Internationalizing Websites
  9. Constructing AI (Adaptive Internationalized) Websites
  10. Country Codes & Language Tags
  11. IDNs (Internationalised Domain Names)

Students are only required to know English for this module. It is though essential to have knowledge of the characteristics of languages/scripts in order to internationalise computing. Characteristics I cover includes:

  1. Chinese and Japanese do not use space to separate words
  2. For a given sentence, Chinese requires less characters than English
  3. Hangeul jamo (letters) are combined to form syllabic blocks
  4. English words give no indication of syllable breaks

Student Projects

Most of the student projects I supervise are concerned with constructing AI (Adaptive Internationalised) websites. AI websites adapt content according to Browser Region, Browser Language, Browser Date and Browser Time. Each student is tasked to construct an AI website but each has a different content theme. Themes have, so far, included: Goscote Garden Centre, Loughborough's Chocolate Alchemy, Loughborough Market, Crazy English and Loughborough Student Union Shop.

There are so many adaptations that can be implemented in an AI website. Different themes will have different adaptations. Here are just a small number of the possible adaptations that can be implemented in an AI website.

  1. display of Browser Region flag
  2. display of text content in Browser Language language/script
  3. display of date in Browser Region format
  4. display of prices in Browser Region currency
  5. display of Browser Region festival greetings according to Browser Date
  6. display of time of day greetings according to Browser Time
  7. ...etc...