Active Teaching Lab Recap: International and Non-Traditional Students — 10 Ways to Support

Thu March 4, 2021

Theme of March 4, 2021 Lab

International and non-traditional students — 10 ways to support: How can your course activities be better designed for returning students, or ESL speakers eight time zones away? There’s a good chance that you have had these populations in your course, and have probably noticed that their needs are different than traditional students.

  • Nontraditional students: Nationally, over 70% of higher ed students are “non-traditional” (source), that is they meet one of seven characteristics: delayed enrollment into postsecondary education; attends college part-time; works full time; is financially independent for financial aid purposes; has dependents other than a spouse; is a single parent; or does not have a high school diploma (source). UW-Madison is ranked #1 of the 2021 Best Colleges For Non-Traditional Students. The Badger Ready Program and UW-Madison Online actively recruits non-traditional students.
  • International students: UW-Madison was ranked #24 (2019–20) for International students (source) who make up ~14.5% (>6300) of the student body (source).


If you’ve been to Labs before, you’ll have heard that these tips will help all your students.

  1. Foster connection: We learn best and check our learning through feedback from others: our instructors, fellow learners, and disciplinary professionals. To facilitate that feedback, we need trusted connections.
  2. Prepare students: Provide overviews, “roadmaps” and plenty of time for students to understand and prepare for the actions they need to take in your course.
  3. Communicate effectively: Use simple, jargon-free language to explain content, expectations, and processes.
  4. Assess inclusively: Empower students to build content mastery on the foundation of their existing knowledge, values, and skills by providing options to prove their mastery of your content.
  5. Educate yourself: Learn more about the variety of students you teach: their cultures, expectations, dreams, skill sets, etc. Remember, we all need to find our own way in life — empathetic support helps!

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.