Virtual exchanges are here to stay

Virtual exchanges have been a cooperation form with our international partner institutions for several years. A number of student groups from Tampere University of Applied Sciences have worked with foreign students and teachers online.

Virtual exchanges are based on cooperation agreements between higher education institutions. They have been organised in many fields of education. Our cooperation is extensive and global. The corona spring of 2020 brought new energy and ideas into the development of virtual exchanges. Teaching went remote quite suddenly and physical exchanges were interrupted or cancelled. We, however, wanted to continue international cooperation with our partners despite the exceptional circumstances. Short and long virtual exchanges were an excellent way to do it.

What does virtual exchange mean? It has plenty of definitions. I define virtual exchange as an international agreement-based and technology-enabled activity at home with the learner and learning at the centre. Intercultural communication is a key part of virtual exchanges.

Picture of a zoom meeting where virtual exchanges were planned with strategic partners.

Virtual exchanges can be implemented as separate modules or combined with a physical mobility period before or after the virtual period. Virtual exchanges are also excellent for staff. International weeks online are a good example of this (e.g. the School of Art, Music and Media’s iWeek). Virtual mobility is less systematic and non-agreement-based mobility.

The corona pandemic made us consider new mobility practices and contents. Virtual exchanges naturally lead the discussion to sustainable development and its promotion. TAMK’s reliable international cooperation partners and particularly our strategic partners in Hague, Munich and Groningen have been of invaluable help in the development of new practices. We have planned diverse virtual exchange projects and pilots with them for the near future. It is already possible to see the Hague Network’s provision.

I believe that fast-developing technical solutions enable explosive growth in virtual exchanges in the years to come. But as usual, the courage to test new ideas is in the key position. I hope that TAMK students and staff have the courage to spend interesting, educational and memorable moments in virtual exchange. Virtual exchanges are here to stay and will open us great international cooperation possibilities in the future.

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Text: Kirsi Jokipakka, Head of International Services, Education and Learning Services