Among various channels of cross-cultural collaborations possible, the COVID-19 context has guided many in international education to promote virtual/online modes of collaboration worldwide. Since 2018, COIL/VE has already come into the cross-cultural collaboration endeavor at Japanese institutions through the Education Ministry (MEXT) initiative called Inter-University Exchange Program 2018-2022. This practice has strengthened international partnerships and expanded international collaboration through formal institutional agreements. With the pandemic shifting from the critical stage to a more relaxed phase, Japan is now exploring how to blend the rapid growth of online international education with its “traditional” mobility-based international activities. It is this intersection of new modalities and current practices that paves the way for our future.
The demand for digital transformation of higher education in Japan has gained new emphasis in response to the pandemic crisis in Japan. Japan has its ambitious future prospective called “Society 5.0”, which aims at a human-centered society in which everyone benefits from advanced technology. This envisioned “Super Smart Society” recognizes that we need more bearers of the information technology society, and it is also necessary to require the bearers and all residents, including the increasing aging population, to acquire new competencies, be immersed in their application, and to take advantage of technology for their better lives. Two such important competences are said to be (i) intercultural competence and (ii) growth mindset. At higher education institutions in Japan, STEAM, for example, which emphasizes interdisciplinary and project-based teaching and learning methodology, is being adopted in science and engineering schools on campus as a part of curriculum integration. COIL is increasingly viewed as the cornerstone that leads to “internationalization of the university” with a focus on sustainability. See Kansai University’s IIGE white paper series online (“I-Paper”) at: https://www.kansai-u.ac.jp/Kokusai/IIGE/resources/whitepaper.php
While speed is not always Japan’s forté in making decisions, these national initiatives are making changes to shape the future. The next normal phase for international education will not wait for a slow pacing any longer. More changes in Japanese higher education institutions are yet to come, and they are, fortunately, coming quickly as the world has sped up its transforming process.