Virtual mobility is currently on everyone's lips, especially when it comes to bridging the gap between inclusion, sustainability and growing mobility figures, or when the corona situation suddenly no longer allows students to complete their semester abroad locally. With Community Moments, the European Association for International Education (EAIE) is offering a webinar series on a range of topics. The last production in the EAIE Community webcast series focused on the topic of the moment: virtual mobility.

The main guest of this EAIE Community webcast series on "Virtual mobility: where are we headed?" is Piet van Hove, future EAIE Vice President. He stresses that virtual mobility is not unreal. What he is talking about is a mobility, which, in contrast to the physical movement of a person, only takes place via the Internet.

For a sustainable and real mobility experience, however, travel, immersion in foreign cultures and different soft skills, which are mainly developed in activities outside the study courses, are still essential. Attending online courses at a foreign partner university only from home does not prepare young people sufficiently for their career and life. This is why the pure online form cannot completely replace classic mobility for students. However, it is a relevant extension of the range of courses on offer, as it can also reach students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to spend a certain amount of time abroad.

COIL as an interesting method

An inclusive approach for a comprehensive learning environment is Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL for short. The model combines virtual, international and collaborative elements. Students as well as the organising institutions benefit equally from this format. A prerequisite for using the COIL method is the anchoring at the respective institutions and the intense cooperation of the participating lecturers. In this way, the individual players make important contributions, especially to the internationalisation of the curricula of their institutions. COIL is an intelligent method for soundly promoting the progressive development of universities.

Blended mobility

Discussions at European level go one step further with a view to the next generation of Erasmus+ programmes from 2021. Part of the programme preparation sees pathways being cleared for what is called blended mobility, with one component each of physical mobility and virtual cooperation in teams.

An example of what such a blended form could look like: students in international teams are given a learning assignment and carry it out online. At the end of the course, students meet at one location to present their work and learning outcomes. In this way, certain intercultural elements that are neglected in pure online collaboration can be compensated.

Exactly how blended mobility will develop in Europe from 2021 remains uncertain for the time being. What is clear, however, is that the current situation is prompting all players in higher education - including Switzerland - to break new ground. It will soon become apparent in what form students will be able to complete the coming autumn semester. What is without doubt important is regular exchange at international level, as is facilitated by the EAIE Community Moments.

Movetia is following the current discourse in the European education policy area very closely. Both the EAIE webcast series and other exchange platforms offer opportunities for knowledge transfer with international experts.

On the right, you will find more information as well as important resources on the topic.