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Global Diversity in the Classroom

Supporting International Student Success

Santa Clara University is a global university with students, faculty, and staff representing many countries and cultures. Global Engagement promotes globally-inclusive classrooms and co-curricular learning to further student success. 

Have a question or want to discuss a specific situation? Please reach out to Associate Provost Susan Popko at

Resources for Faculty

How the U.S. Education System Differs from Abroad

SCU's international students come from education systems that may differ significantly from the US system. Understanding some key differences can help calibrate learning structures to elicit desired outcomes in and out of the classroom. Typically, the U.S. system has different approaches for: syllabi, group work, class discussions and participation, faculty office hours, and grading. Students benefit from attention to pronunciation of international student names, awareness of time zones and holidays that impact international students, and more.
In the U.S.:
  • We have a liberal arts higher education that includes significant academic work in a core curriculum outside of a student’s major. 
  • Undergraduate students are admitted to the university, as a whole; not to a particular department.
  • Courses include “continuous assessment” and multiple forms of grading such as:  attendance, reaction papers, quizzes, group projects, papers, projects, mid-term(s), final exams.  
  • U.S. syllabi are considered contracts with students; they are literal and extensive.
  • Faculty hold office hours and may even require students to attend them.
  • Undergraduate degrees are typically four years.


  • Higher education is disciplined-focused and students study exclusively or almost-exclusively in their major. This means that by the end of their first year, students abroad may have completed nine courses in their major discipline already. By the end of a three-year degree, a student may complete twenty-seven major courses, which is significantly more than, for example, a twelve-course major in the U.S.
  • Undergraduate students are admitted by their major department, often partially on the basis of discipline-focused work they completed in high school. In some systems, students may be “tracked” into disciplines in junior high.
  • Courses are assessed, typically, by one or two exams or papers; there is no continuous assessment, including attendance or assessment of “class participation” or engaged learning. This means that this expectation in the U.S. classroom may be particularly strange or challenging for international students.
  • Many courses are lecture-style and faculty are considered the supreme authority which means that it would be uncommon for a faculty member to engage in conversation where they might pose ideas to generate discussion, for example.
  • Office hours do not exist and students would not typically engage with faculty outside of the classroom.
  • Undergraduate degrees may be three to five years, depending on the national system. 


Do you want to be sure you and your students pronounce each other’s names correctly? NameCoach is integrated into Camino and allows faculty and students to listen to recordings as often as necessary to feel confident they are addressing each other correctly.  NameCoach automatically appears on the left navigation bar of all of your Camino courses.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Instructional Technology team at

How Different Cultures Understand Time

Cultures around the world view time differently. Communicating clearly to students how time is viewed in the U.S. – and how you view time related to courses – can help alleviate confusion.  Cultural perspectives on time manifest themselves in manners that can be a source of confusion or conflict.

Cultures tend to understand time as present-oriented (France), future-oriented (U.S., Japan), or past-oriented (India). Recognize that, in the U.S. we view time as money in our profit-oriented society, and, culturally, our attitudes about how to use time, punctuality, and deadlines all flow from this perspective. Note that, of course, individuals may have unique approaches to cultural traits, but as a whole, some attitudes are generally shared by a culture.

Learn more about cultural perspectives on time.

Tips for Effective Communication About Time

Student learning online may be affected by time zones and scheduling if you require them to attend online sessions or complete work synchronously. Levels of attention, participation, energy, emotional or psychological issues, learning disabilities, or cognitive abilities may be of concern for students. To promote student success, we recommend that faculty who teach online regularly keep synchronous lectures and discussions short and be mindful of overloading students with too much information and/or visual stimuli.

  • Consider adopting a standard way of communicating about time, i.e., GMT or Pacific Time, to avoid confusion of “Are we meeting at 5:00 my time or your time?” “Are we meeting at 5:00 a.m. or p.m.?” 
  • Consider adopting a standard way of communicating about dates, e.g., writing out dates: Month, Day, Year, rather than 9/17/20 which can be confusing in cultures where day and month are reversed from the format in the U.S.
  • Have resources available to disseminate to students about tech support.
  • Monitor student engagement and check comprehension, e.g., observe who is opening files, watching videos, accessing course materials and/or consider incorporating frequent quizzes to promote engagement.

The Weekend in Many Countries is Not Saturday/Sunday

In many countries Saturday and Sunday are not the weekend. In many Islamic countries the weekend may be either Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday. In Brunei, the weekend is Friday and Sunday and people work on Saturdays. In Nepal, Iran, Palestine, Somalia and Djibouti the weekend is officially only one day – Friday, except in Nepal when it is Saturday.

Examples of countries of SCU students with Friday/Saturday weekends:

  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Malaysia
  • United Arab Emirates

Holidays Around the World

Countries around the world observe different religious and cultural holidays. Surveying students at the beginning of class provides an opportunity for students to share holidays taking place during the term in their country.

Learn more about holidays around the world: 

Effective Strategies for Courses with Online Students

Santa Clara University is a globally diverse university with students residing in countries around the world. In developing pedagogical strategies for online learning, teaching across time zones can present significant logistical challenges. When should you schedule class meetings, exams, student collaborations when you and your students are spread across multiple time zones? The decisions faculty make about how to approach this can have a significant impact on pedagogical effectiveness and positive learning outcomes.

Know the Time Zones of Students in Your Courses

SCU supports over 1,600 international students from 70 different countries across 15 time zones spanning a 20 hour time difference. If your course includes any online components, students may be engaging across time zones. Awareness of time zones will help in finalizing course plans for student success.

To help you calibrate your course, you may wish to survey your students at the beginning of the class.  

Here are examples of questions to include in your survey:

  • What time zone are you in? (in relation to GMT)
  • Is there daylight saving time where you are? If yes, when does the time change begin? If yes, when does the time change end?
  • What are the best hours/days to contact you taking into consideration time zone differences?
  • Provide the names and dates of any holidays in your country (outside of the U.S.) during the term.

Common Time Zones of SCU Students

Many countries do not observe Daylight Savings Time or change time zones on dates that differ from the U.S., so the times below should be used as examples only. Communicate with students and refer to websites below for times that are accurate on particular dates.

Common time zones for SCU students:

  • Germany (Berlin)
  • Kenya (Nairobi)
  • India (Mumbai)
  • China (Beijing)
  • Philippines (Manila)

Description of time differences between SCU time zone and most common student time zones

Helpful time zone planners: