IVEC is a consortium of global universities aiming to drive forward pedagogies, perspectives, and practices on Virtual Exchange in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). A key highlight of this year’s conference was the symposium run by the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS) and the Global Case Study Challenge (GCSC), focusing on a critical discussion of the role and impact of Virtual Exchange (VE) as a future-oriented form of responsible education and internationalization.
The symposium, put together by Eithne Knappitsch, Anna Zinenko and Barbara Covarrubias-Venegas featured a diverse and highly relevant panel of experts, each bringing a unique perspective:
Anna Zinenko, Expert in Corporate Sustainability and Virtual Learning Design, Global Case Study Challenge/FUAB, Spain: Discussed sustainable VE and its role in corporate sustainability, including good practice examples from the GCSC
Daniela Elisabeth Ströckl, Professor of Health Informatics, CUAS, Austria: Addressed sustainable digitalization, digital footprint, and VE.
Lavern Samuels, President of IVEC, President of the International Education Association of South Africa; Director, International Education and Partnerships, South Africa: Explored VE from a South African perspective, emphasizing its role in equitable knowledge exchange and the importance of decolonization of curricula.
Alfonso Díaz Segura, Corporate Director for Business Operations, Marketing & Internationalization, CEU University Group, Spain: Explored VE as a responsible form of internationalization from a Spanish-European perspective and discussed current EU policy in relation to VE.
Isabella Ofenbauer, ICM Student and Internationalization@Home Student Voice, CUAS, Austria: Shared insights on the student experience of different forms of VE and the importance of internationalization@home for students unable to undertake longer mobilities.
Keiko Ikeda, Vice-Director & Professor, Institute for Innovative Global Education, Kansai University, Japan: Discussed VE from a Japanese-Asian perspective, focusing on the changing role of VE internationalization.
Jan Kimphove, Head of International Affairs at Unichristus, Brazil: Provided insights into VE from a Brazilian-South American perspective, highlighting language, equitable access to education and the importance of the different contexts of the global south and the global north.
- VE has transformative potential of Virtual Exchange (VE) in reshaping international education.
- VE is a valuable tool for sustainable and responsible internationalization.
- There is still a clear need for strategic institutional commitment to support VE.
- VE requires a specific didactical approach.
- Technology and digitalization, as well as access, are key to designing and enhancing VE.
- The importance of student voices in shaping and co-creating VE experiences.
- The potential of VE to reduce the carbon footprint of international travel.
- VE can contribute to a decolonialization of curricula
The IVEC 2023 symposium underscored the importance of VE as a transformative tool for HEIs. It highlighted the need for strategic approaches to integrate VE into the curriculum, emphasizing its role in fostering global competencies, sustainability, and responsible internationalization. The insights shared by the panelists provided valuable perspectives on the future of VE, setting the stage for its continued evolution and impact in the realm of global education.
The Potential Relevance of Virtual Exchange for CUAS
For CUAS, VE represents a strategic approach to enhancing global learning, responsive curriculum development, and internationalization@home. These initiatives align with CUAS's strategic commitment innovation in education, internationalization, sustainability, and digitalization. VE offers a platform for students and faculty to engage in international collaboration without the environmental impact of physical travel, aligning with CUAS's sustainability goals.
Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
The integration of Virtual Exchange (VE) programs within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is not just a trend but a strategic imperative in today's globalized education landscape. The following points highlight why HEIs should actively drive forward with VE initiatives:
Enhanced Global Learning Opportunities: VE facilitates global learning experiences, enabling students to engage with diverse cultures and perspectives without the constraints of physical travel. This exposure is crucial in cultivating globally competent graduates.
Cost-Effective Internationalization: VE offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional study abroad programs, making international education more accessible to a broader range of students.
Curriculum Innovation and Responsiveness: VE encourages curriculum innovation, allowing HEIs to rapidly respond to emerging global trends and incorporate real-time international perspectives into their courses.
Building Global Networks: Through VE, institutions can establish and strengthen international partnerships, fostering a global network that benefits both faculty and students.
Promoting Inclusivity and Equity: VE can democratize international education by providing opportunities for students who may face barriers to physical mobility, thus promoting inclusivity and equity in higher education.
Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility: By reducing the need for travel, VE contributes to sustainability efforts, aligning with the growing emphasis on environmental responsibility in education.
Enhancing Institutional Reputation: Implementing successful VE programs can enhance an institution's reputation as a forward-thinking, globally engaged HEI.
In conclusion, the adoption of Virtual Exchange is a strategic move for HEIs aiming to remain competitive and relevant in the evolving educational landscape. It offers a pathway to internationalization that is inclusive, innovative, and aligned with global educational trends.