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Educators: Virtual exchange and more innovative approaches to mobility should be explored

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Imagine the chance to have an international student experience without having to leave your country, or even bedroom.

The hot topic of “virtual exchange” was discussed in a roundtable discussion at the recent Association of International Education Administrators event, chaired by executive director of the Stevens Initiative, Mohamed Abdel-Kader.

They explored how technology has the potential to internationalise the student experience.

“There can be some significant barriers to physical student mobility, and virtual exchange –through the use of technology – is able to bridge some of those gaps,” Abdel-Kader told The PIE News.

The use of virtual exchange transforms the whole international student experience, as not every student is able to go abroad.

However with virtual exchange, students could be given the chance to connect with and learn about peers from another country.

Students at Lord Fairfax Community College participate in virtual exchange with Jordanian students. Source: LFCC

Universities have already started rolling out virtual exchange programs in their university. Last year, the University of Adelaide partnered with leading universities around the world to launch a Virtual Exchange Program (VEP).

The program enabled students to take online for-credit courses from participating partner institutions, offering them the opportunity to study online with committed students from across the globe and engage with the most cutting-edge tertiary education delivery models.

The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands also offers a virtual exchange program, which received positive feedback from enrolled students.

TU Delft student Nina Dinaux said, “I took the VEP course because I like to take a broader view of my studies and being in a virtual classroom you could have discussions with students from other cultures and with other perspectives.”

Another student Palash Patole said, “I think everyone should give it a try: don’t be bounded by your classroom or your nationality and study from the experts across the world – study anytime you want and  earn credits for it.”

During the AIEA event, sessions were held to explore and discuss strategies for engagement and employability alongside innovative approaches to mobility.

Executive director at CONAHEC Sean Manley-Casimir acknowleged that enabling relevant workplace skills is proving to be a challenge among educators.

“The skills gap is manifesting itself – there is a distance between what we are doing in higher education and what industry is looking for,” he said. 

“There is a very significant increase in student mobility towards Canada, including a path to permanent residency, and students are very carefully watching what will happen with skilled migration such as OPT programs in the US,” he advised.

At the AIEA Conference 2019, educators and industry experts discussed strategies and innovative approaches to the future of international education. Source: The Pie News

In Australia, however, international students are seeking course-related employability which is becoming increasingly hard on employers due to the growing number of international students.

IEAA chief executive Phil Honeywood shared, ““In Australia, we now have 650,000 international students.. which makes it difficult for Australian employers to provide [course-related employment].”

Since we are living in the digital age and almost every aspect of our lives today are entwined with social media, the internet, and other cybertechnologies, are banning mobile phones in schools and universities a good way to be progressive?

Renowned author and journalist Esther Wojcicki challenged this in her keynote address. “Banning phones doesn’t work; it’s better to teach kids self-control and to teach them to use [their devices] politely,” she said. 

She urged educators to adopt online learning platforms and encourage peer-to-peer learning, according to The Pie News.

Wojcicki also stressed the importance of preparing students for success post-graduation, and called for a more updated approach.

“The number one skill employers want today is creativity. But how do we prepare creative students when the way we learn has changed? We already have AI; what we need are people who have skills that computers don’t have… social-emotional skills.” she said in her speech.

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