Home & Away Coaching exchange students from a distance A best-practice manual on blended mobility Edited by Ilse Op de Beeck, Katrin Bijnens, Wim Van Petegem Home & Away Coaching exchange students from a distance A best-practice manual on blended mobility Edited by Ilse Op de Beeck, Katrin Bijnens, Wim Van Petegem Home & Away. Coaching exchange students from a distance. A best-practice manual on blended mobility. Publisher: EuroPACE ivzw, Kapeldreef 62, B-3001 Heverlee, Belgium. ISBN-NUMMER : 9789081148009 This publication is protected by a Creative Commons License (Attribution-Non- commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License). http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ The VM-BASE project has been funded with support from the European Commis- sion. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Table of Contents Table of Contents...................................................................................... 3 Introduction............................................................................................... 9 Chapter 1: Supporting the mobile student of tomorrow...................... 12 1.1 Introduction..................................................................................................................12 1.2 Physical mobility..........................................................................................................12 1.2.1 Introduction ...........................................................................................................12 1.2.2 Horizontal and vertical mobility ............................................................................13 1.2.3 Mobility: different modes of organisation...............................................................13 1.2.4 Some examples of mobility programmes.................................................................15 1.3 Virtual mobility............................................................................................................18 1.4 Blended mobility..........................................................................................................20 Chapter 2: State-of-the-art and needs in virtual exchange support measures................................................................................................. 23 2.1 Introduction..................................................................................................................23 2.2 State‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures ...........................................24 2.2.1 Introduction ...........................................................................................................24 2.2.2 Measures for incoming students ............................................................................24 General informaton .........................................................................................................24 Information available for exchange students ...................................................................26 Selection of students........................................................................................................27 Language preparation......................................................................................................28 Cultural preparation .......................................................................................................29 E‐coaching.......................................................................................................................29 Assessment methods........................................................................................................30 Evaluation and feedback ..................................................................................................31 2.2.3 Measures for outgoing students .............................................................................31 General information ........................................................................................................31 Information available for the students.............................................................................32 3 Selection of students........................................................................................................34 Language preparation......................................................................................................34 Cultural preparation .......................................................................................................35 E‐coaching.......................................................................................................................35 Assessment methods........................................................................................................36 Evaluation and feedback ..................................................................................................36 2.3 Inventory of students’ and teachers’ needs ..............................................................36 2.3.1 Introduction ...........................................................................................................36 2.3.2 Findings about the students’ needs ........................................................................37 2.3.3 Findings about the teachers’ needs .........................................................................41 Teachers’ needs concerning incoming students...............................................................41 Teachers’ needs concerning outgoing students ...............................................................43 Chapter 3: E-coaching .......................................................................... 45 3.1 Introduction..................................................................................................................45 3.2 E‐coaching.....................................................................................................................45 3.2.1 What is e‐coaching?................................................................................................45 3.2.2 E‐coaching of exchange students ............................................................................47 3.3 Competences of the e‐coach .......................................................................................47 3.3.1 Who can be an e‐coach? ..........................................................................................47 3.3.2 Competences needed as an e‐coach..........................................................................48 3.4 Tools for e‐coaching.....................................................................................................50 3.4.1 Learning platform...................................................................................................52 3.4.2 Reflective tools........................................................................................................54 3.4.3 Non‐interactive tools ..............................................................................................57 3.4.4 Collaborative tools ..................................................................................................60 3.4.5 Communication tools..............................................................................................63 3.4.6 Social networking tools...........................................................................................68 3.5 Best practices/cases ......................................................................................................71 3.5.1 Go abroad ‐ Laurea University of Applied Sciences ...............................................72 Pilot description ..............................................................................................................72 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)..........................................................77 Guidelines & recommendations.......................................................................................79 3.5.2 Virtual Window for Study Abroad ‐ University of Tartu ......................................79 Pilot description ..............................................................................................................79 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)..........................................................81 Guidelines & recommendations.......................................................................................82 4 3.6 Some key issues related to e‐coaching ......................................................................83 Chapter 4: Virtual Mobility Before a Physical Exchange .................... 87 4.1 Introduction..................................................................................................................87 4.2 Orientation guidelines.................................................................................................88 4.2.1 Virtual Buddy System – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven ........................................89 Pilot description ..............................................................................................................89 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)..........................................................94 Guidelines & recommendations.......................................................................................94 4.2.2 TKK multimedia presentation and virtual student interviews – TKK ...................97 Pilot description ..............................................................................................................97 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)..........................................................98 4.2.3 Virtual Exchange of Students Mobility Experience ‐ University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics ......................................................................................100 Pilot description ............................................................................................................100 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................102 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................103 4.2.4 Case: ESN Galaxy ................................................................................................104 4.2.5 Case: Distributed Campus....................................................................................105 4.3 Course information and credit transfer ..................................................................106 4.4 Pre‐selection tools & student selection....................................................................107 4.4.1 Online education and evaluation tool of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.............................................108 Pilot description ............................................................................................................108 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................110 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................111 4.4.2 Case: Student selection through webconferencing for Erasmus Mundus Master Programme Adapted Physical Activity .........................................................................112 4.4.3 Case: M.A.S.T.E.R. Mobility, Assessment, Selection, Technology and E‐learning Research ........................................................................................................................113 4.5 Preparatory courses ...................................................................................................113 4.5.1 Multilingual Survival Kit in GIS ‐ University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics ..............................................................................................................114 Pilot description ............................................................................................................114 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................115 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................117 5 4.5.2 Case: Electronic language tests for outgoing students at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven ...........................................................................................................................119 Chapter 5: Virtual Mobility After a Physical Exchange ..................... 121 5.1 Introduction................................................................................................................121 5.2 Virtual assessment and evaluation at a distance ...................................................121 5.2.1 Virtual feedback and information system ‐ Laurea University of Applied Sciences .......................................................................................................................................122 Pilot description ............................................................................................................122 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................128 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................129 5.2.2 Exam aquarium ‐ TKK .........................................................................................130 Pilot description ............................................................................................................130 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................132 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................133 5.2.3 Supporting oral exams at a distance for the Master of European Social Security – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven .....................................................................................135 Pilot description ............................................................................................................135 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................136 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................138 5.3 Virtual Alumni ...........................................................................................................138 5.3.1 Introduction .........................................................................................................138 5.3.2 Alumni Associations ............................................................................................140 5.3.3 Identity and Added Value.....................................................................................141 Meeting the needs of different stakeholders ...................................................................141 Drivers and challenges ..................................................................................................142 5.3.4 Case Studies .........................................................................................................144 Different concepts..........................................................................................................144 Commission driven networks ........................................................................................144 Institution driven networks...........................................................................................149 User driven networks ....................................................................................................154 Student organisation driven networks ..........................................................................157 Other types of alumni networks ....................................................................................159 5.3.5 VALE (KHLeuven Erasmus Alumni Network) – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven160 Pilot description ............................................................................................................160 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders)........................................................163 Guidelines & recommendations.....................................................................................164 5.3.6 Recommendations: Setting up an Alumni Network.............................................167 6 Building a Strategy .......................................................................................................168 Target group..................................................................................................................169 Infrastructure ................................................................................................................169 Chapter 6: Evaluating virtual mobility pilots....................................... 171 6.1 Introduction................................................................................................................171 6.2 General reasons to evaluate......................................................................................171 6.3 Formative or summative evaluation?......................................................................172 6.4 Evaluating yourself or independent evaluation? ..................................................172 6.5 Data collection methods in evaluation....................................................................173 6.6 Quantitative methods................................................................................................174 6.7 Qualitative methods ..................................................................................................175 6.8 Selecting appropriate evaluation methods to use..................................................176 6.9 Gathering and analysing evaluation data...............................................................177 6.10 Acting on the results................................................................................................178 Chapter 7: Guidelines & recommendations for stakeholders in student mobility .................................................................................... 180 7.1 Introduction................................................................................................................180 7.2 For Students intending to undertake an exchange ................................................180 7.3 For Student Associations & Representatives..........................................................182 7.4 For Teachers & Tutors ...............................................................................................182 7.5 For (senior) managers in Higher Education Institutions ......................................183 7.6 For International Relations Offices and student mobility coordinators .............184 7.7 For central support services in Higher Education Institutions ............................186 7.8 For networks of Higher Education Institutions .....................................................186 7.9 For the European Commission & national and regional policy makers.............187 Chapter 8: Conclusions........................................................................ 189 Annex I: Glossary of terms & tools....................................................... 192 Annex II: References ............................................................................ 198 Introduction ..................................................................................................................198 Chapter 1: Supporting the mobile student of tomorrow ................................................198 Chapter 2: State‐of‐the‐art and needs in virtual exchanges support measures..............200 Chapter 3: E‐coaching ...................................................................................................202 7 Chapter 4: Virtual Mobility before the physical exchange.............................................203 Chapter 5: Virtual Mobility after the physical exchange ...............................................204 Chapter 6: Evaluating virtual mobility pilots ...............................................................207 Chapter 7: Guidelines and recommendations for stakeholder in student mobility ........207 Annex III: Further Reading ................................................................... 208 Projects on Virtual Mobility ...........................................................................................208 MoreVM ‐ Ready for Virtual Mobility..........................................................................208 E‐MOVE – An operational conception of virtual mobility ...........................................209 BEING MOBILE – Disseminating Virtual Mobility for Students and Teachers .........209 REVE – Real Virtual Erasmus ......................................................................................210 Projects on Blended Mobility .........................................................................................211 SUMIT – Supporting Mobility Through ICT...............................................................211 ESMOS – Enhancing Student Mobility through Online Support ...............................211 VICTORIOUS – Virtual Curricula Through Reliable Interoperating University Systems .......................................................................................................................................212 Projects supporting the exchange of experiences of mobile students.......................213 Europe Now...................................................................................................................213 Mobi‐Blog ‐ The European Weblog platform for mobile students .................................214 Let’s Go! A project Making Mobility a Reality for All Students and Staff...................214 Annex IV Background of the handbook ............................................ 216 The VM‐BASE project .....................................................................................................216 Partnership .......................................................................................................................216 EuroPACE ivzw (BE) .................................................................................................217 AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BE) .......................................................217 Coimbra Group (BE) ..................................................................................................217 Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (BE)........................................................................218 ESU (BE).......................................................................................................................218 Tartu Ülikool (EE).......................................................................................................219 TKK Dipoli (FI) ...........................................................................................................219 Laurea‐ammattikorkeakoulu (FI) .............................................................................220 BEST (FR).....................................................................................................................221 University of West Hungary (HU) ...........................................................................221 University of Edinburgh (UK) ..................................................................................222 8 Introduction The importance of student mobility and inter‐university exchange programmes is vastly increasing and the issue currently occupies a significant place in the agendas of educational policy makers and higher education institutions. In 2007 Erasmus programme celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Erasmus programme is probably one of the best‐known actions of the European Commission, encouraging student as well as staff mobility, and aiming to enhance the quality and to reinforce the European dimension of higher education. Erasmus has been and remains a key factor in the internationalisation of the European higher education systems. Few, if any, programmes launched by the European Union have had a similar Europe‐wide reach. The Erasmus website indicates that around 90% of European universities take part in the programme and approximately 1.7 million students have participated since it started in 1987. More than 3,100 higher education institutions in 31 countries are participating in the Erasmus programme, and even more are waiting to join. In the academic year 2006‐2007, 159,324 European students participated in the Erasmus programmes. On Erasmus, Ján Figel’, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Training, Culture and Youth said: “Europe needs more and better mobility at all levels, and Erasmus is an excellent way forward. (…) The European Commissionʹs vision is that participation in the Erasmus programme should be the general rule, rather than the exception, for both students and teachers (European Commission, 2008).” Erasmus has given European university students the chance of studying and living in a foreign country and has reached the status of a social and cultural phenomenon. The months spent abroad are a turning point in the lives of thousands of individuals. Studies show that a period spent abroad 9 not only enriches studentsʹ lives in the academic field but also in the acquisition of intercultural skills and self‐reliance. Staff exchanges have similar beneficial effects, both for the people participating and for the home and host institutions. But despite the evident success of Erasmus, and including other mobility actions, there are still serious challenges. There remains room for improvement in particular with regard to adequacy of grants, recognition of study periods and student services. Still an important number of European students and lifelong learners simply do not have the opportunity to participate in Erasmus exchange programmes for social, financial, or other reasons. “Among the challenges left, the Erasmus grant remains far too low to allow students from less favourable financial backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of the Programme.” (European Commission, 2006). Virtual mobility can offer a valuable alternative here, as it makes it possible for students to take part in courses at other universities without having to leave their home university. Moreover, virtual mobility can be used to prepare and follow‐up physical mobility to enrich the latter and make it even more effective and fruitful. Procedures of ‘blended mobility’, in which aspects of physical and virtual mobility are combined in order to maximise the advantages of both approaches to student and teacher mobility across Europe, should therefore be further examined, developed and implemented. This manual explores the options for extending, supporting, complementing and improving physical student mobility through virtual mobility activities. In particular, it gathers the outcomes and experiences of the VM‐BASE (Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges) project which aimed to improve the quality of student exchanges by offering virtual support, both before, during and after physical mobility. The first chapter of this handbook introduces the different types of mobility and describes how the mobile student of tomorrow can be supported in an efficient and effective way. Chapter 2 elaborates on the needs analysis that was carried out to identify students’ and teachers’ needs and requirements concerning international student exchange and furthermore presents an 10 overview of the state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures for both incoming and outgoing students. The third chapter elaborates on e‐ coaching and methods and tools to coach exchange students at a distance. The following chapters focus on virtual mobility before (chapter 4) and after (chapter 5) a physical exchange and include several practical examples and cases. Chapter 6 describes some of the approaches taken in the evaluation of the VM‐BASE pilot cases. Chapter 7 offers recommendations and guidelines to institutions, staff and students intending to engage in blended mobility activities. Main conclusions are drawn in Chapter 8. In the annexes a short glossary of some of the more common terms used in the handbook (annex I), references (annex II), further reading (annex III), and information on the background of this handbook (annex IV) are provided. 11 Chapter 1: Supporting the mobile student of tomorrow 1.1 Introduction Since the Middle Ages, mobility of students, teachers and staff has been one of the most important features of universities. As the universities of Europe changed to new ways of working in the past decades they have continued to support this valuable tradition. For those students not able to benefit from the existing face‐to‐face programmes, the concept of virtual mobility can be introduced, enabling international cooperation opportunities through the use of information and communication technologies. But virtual mobility represents not just an alternative solution for but also a complement to, traditional real mobility programmes. This first chapter elaborates on different types of mobility: from physical mobility – presenting some of the most important physical mobility programmes that have been in place since the 1970s ‐ to virtual mobility and blended mobility, combining the best of both worlds. 1.2 Physical mobility 1.2.1 Introduction Mobility in space, geographical mobility, ‘real’ mobility, physical mobility… are all terms used to refer to students and teachers in higher education “physically” moving to another institution inside or outside their own country to study or teach for a limited time. In the following paragraphs different aspects or types of mobility such as horizontal and 12 vertical mobility, free‐mover and programme mobility are distinguished and some of the most well‐known programmes are briefly described. All of the variants of geographical mobility presented are forms of physical mobility. 1.2.2 Horizontal and vertical mobility Student mobility can be classified by the length of the study period abroad. When students only spend part of their study programme abroad or at a different institution in the same country, and only complete some modules or courses, but not whole degrees, it is referred to as horizontal mobility (also called temporary, credit or non‐degree mobility). Most national and European mobility programmes promote this variant of mobility. The maximum mobility period for students and graduates in such programmes is usually one year. With the implementation of the Bologna process and the increasing introduction of Bachelor and Master programmes in Europe, many higher education institutions are also expecting an increase in what is known as vertical mobility (also called degree or diploma mobility). Here, students study abroad for a full degree, achieving for example their first degree at an institution in one country (usually their home country) and their second degree at another institution, either in their home country or abroad (e.g. Bachelor degree at home – Master degree abroad). The EU Erasmus Mundus programme for example supports vertical mobility in a systematic manner (Wuttig S., 2006). 1.2.3 Mobility: different modes of organisation Mobility can also be classified by the mode of organisation of the study period abroad. Programme students are mobile students taking part in an organised mobility programme. “Free‐movers” on the other hand do not benefit from any kind of agreements between institutions and do not take part in an organised mobility programme. 13 “Free‐mover” mobility is the oldest form of academic mobility. Since the middle of the 1970s organised mobility has gained increasing importance, with the rise of structured national promotional programmes (see for example the DAAD scholarships) and European mobility programmes. Organised or programme mobility is nowadays considered to be the major mobility engine for students, graduates, doctoral candidates and teaching staff in Europe (e.g. Erasmus, Leonardo, Marie Curie) and, increasingly, the entire world (e.g. Erasmus Mundus, Alßan) (Wuttig S., 2006). The geographical mobility of free‐movers can take place within a country or across national borders. Free‐mover mobility can also be seen on a worldwide scale and is generally not limited to certain regions or target countries. In contrast, organised or programme mobility usually focuses on certain regions (e.g. Ceepus, Nordplus…) or on certain continents (e.g. Europe in the case of Erasmus, Marie Curie) (Wuttig S., 2006). The importance and popularity of particular mobility schemes often differs between countries and in some countries free‐mover mobility still plays a considerable role. Apart from the free‐mover mobility and the international cooperation coordinated by speciﬁc externally funded programmes, many higher education institutions cooperate with each other on a bilateral basis. Bilateral agreements between institutions are organised in order to start up joint initiatives or intensify existing contacts, and usually also create opportunities for student and staff mobility. The advantages of such bilateral agreements with regard to mobility are for example ease of application, smooth credit transfer and recognition of studies. Bilateral agreements can exist both on the level of the institution and on the level of faculties or departments. Finally, mobility can also be supported in the framework of networks of higher education institutions or student networks. The Coimbra Group Student Exchange Network for example is a mobility scheme complementing the traditional Erasmus mobility. It facilitates and encourages the mobility of students within the Coimbra Group, a network of long‐established European multidisciplinary universities. An example of a student run mobility programme are the courses organised by BEST, the 14 Board of European Students of Technology. Students from the BEST member universities get the opportunity to increase their knowledge, skills, international experience, establish contacts, etc. The cost of the courses is covered by the organisers. 1.2.4 Some examples of mobility programmes Erasmus is probably the best‐known programme of the European Commission and has grown to be the EU flagship programme promoting student and staff mobility and enhancing quality and reinforcing the European dimension of higher education. But as already indicated above, the European Commission funds several other mobility schemes and many students are not travelling under Erasmus. A few examples are briefly presented here. Erasmus In 1987 the European Commission began supporting a mobility programme for European students named after the philosopher, theologian and humanist Erasmus. Its core idea was to facilitate university students’ mobility amongst European universities. Quickly the programme became very popular amongst European students. Since 2007 Erasmus became part of the EUʹs Lifelong Learning Programme and expanded to cover new areas such as student placements in enterprises (transferred from the Leonardo da Vinci programme), university staff training and teaching for enterprise staff. The programme seeks to expand its mobility actions even further in the coming years. Currently, the Erasmus programme contains a wide range of measures designed to support the European activities of higher education institutions and to promote the mobility and exchange of their teaching staff and students. Actions include not only support for students (studying and working abroad, linguistic preparation), but also for university/higher education institute staff (teaching or receiving training abroad), for universities/ higher education institutes (intensive programmes, academic and 15 structural networks, multilateral projects), and for enterprises (student placements, teaching abroad, university cooperation). http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong‐learning‐programme/doc80_en.htm Erasmus Mundus Erasmus Mundus started in 2004 to promote European higher education as a centre of excellence in the world. The programme is intended to strengthen European cooperation and international links in higher education by supporting high‐quality European Masters Courses, by enabling students and visiting scholars from around the world to engage in postgraduate study at European universities, as well as by encouraging the outgoing mobility of European students and scholars towards third countries. The current Erasmus Mundus programme (2004‐2008) has been successfully running since its launch. The new Erasmus Mundus II programme (2009‐2013) builds on this by aiming to become the EU reference programme for cooperation with third countries in this area. Over a period of five years, over 950 million euros will be available for European and third‐country universities to join forces in joint programmes or collaborative partnerships, and to grant scholarships to European and third‐country students for an international study experience. http://ec.europa.eu/education/external‐relation‐programmes/doc72_en.htm Tempus Tempus (the Trans‐European Mobility Scheme for University Studies) supports the modernisation of higher education and creates an area of cooperation in countries surrounding the EU. Established in 1990, the scheme now covers 27 countries in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Tempus finances two types of actions: • Joint Projects are based on multilateral partnerships between higher education institutions in the EU and the partner countries. They can develop, modernise and disseminate new curricula, teaching methods or materials, boost a quality assurance culture, 16 and modernise the management of higher education institutions. Joint Projects also include small scale and short duration mobility activities for students, academic staff, researchers, university administrators and enterprise; • Structural Measures contribute to the development and reform of higher education institutions and systems in partner countries, to enhance their quality and relevance, and increase their convergence with EU developments. http://ec.europa.eu/education/external‐relation‐programmes/doc70_en.htm Ceepus The Ceepus (Central European Exchange Program for University Studies) programme started in March 1995. Ceepus supports university networks operating joint programmes, ideally leading to joint degrees. In the framework of these networks, Ceepus covers mobility grants for students and teachers. The Ceepus partner countries provide the funding for the programme. Students can spend a study period abroad or teachers can undertake a teaching period at a partner university. These opportunities are designed to strengthen professional and personal relationships among Central European scholars. Member countries are Albania, Austria, Bosnia‐Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Kosovo. http://www.ceepus.info Nordplus The Nordplus Framework Programme offers financial support to a variety of educational cooperation between partners in the area of lifelong learning from the eight participating countries in the Nordic and Baltic regions (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden). The Nordplus Framework Programme 2008‐2011 supports mobility, project and network activities and consists of four sub‐programmes: Nordplus 17 Junior, Nordplus Higher Education, Nordplus Adult Learning and Nordplus Horizontal. The Nordplus Higher Education Programme was established in 1988 and offers opportunities for students and teachers as well as administrators. The main activities of the programme include mobility grants for students and teachers, intensive courses for students to experience more than the usual classroom, teachers learning from each other and networking for developing innovative projects. http://www.nordplusonline.org 1.3 Virtual mobility With the growing significance of distance learning and e‐learning, virtual mobility has become increasingly important over the last few years. It is since the second half of the 1990s that the notion of virtual mobility has gained currency in the context of the internationalisation of higher education institutions. But what is understood by virtual mobility? The elearningeuropa.info portal defines it as: “The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to obtain the same benefits as one would have with physical mobility but without the need to travel”. This definition clearly shows the two different elements of virtual mobility. Virtual mobility is usually juxtaposed with the real mobility of “academic pilgrims” and contributes to the internationalisation of education by encouraging (cross‐border) cooperation between different education institutions. Secondly, it is linked to the new possibilities opened through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supported environments that include, for example, videoconferencing, live streaming, collaborative workspaces, and computer‐mediated conferencing. In the framework of the Being Mobile project, elements such as the enhancement of (inter‐) cultural understanding were added to the definition to highlight the richness of the experience and the similarities with the Erasmus exchange programme: “Virtual Mobility is a form of learning which consists of virtual components through a fully ICT 18 supported learning environment that includes cross‐border collaboration with people from different backgrounds and cultures working and studying together, having, as its main purpose, the enhancement of intercultural understanding and the exchange of knowledge”(Bijnens H. et al., 2006). However, virtual mobility goes beyond virtual Erasmus. It is more than just a copy of the traditional Erasmus programme and it can take many forms. Based on the broad definition four main types of virtual mobility activities are identified (Bijnens H. et al., 2006). The typology is mainly based on the type of activity and the circumstances in which the virtual mobility activity takes place: • A virtual course or seminar (series): Students in a higher education institute engage in virtual mobility for a single course (as part of a whole study programme) or a seminar (series) and the rest of their learning activities take place face‐to‐face in a traditional way; • A virtual study programme: An entire virtual study programme is offered at one higher education institute, giving students from different countries the chance to take this study programme without having to go abroad for a whole academic year; • A virtual student placement: Student placements are organised between a higher education institute and a company (sometimes in a different country). In the virtual equivalent students use ICT to support their internship, giving them a real‐life experience in a corporate setting without the necessity to move from the campus to the company or to relocate to another country for a certain period of time, and providing them with a practical preparation for new ways of working through (international) collaborative team work; • Virtual support activities to physical exchange: Virtual mobility enables both better preparation and follow‐up of students who participate in physical exchange programmes. Preparatory activities could include student selection at a distance through video‐ or webconferencing (for checking social and language skills) and online language and cultural integration courses. Follow‐up activities will help students to keep in touch with their peers, 19 scattered around the world, to finish their common research work and/or paper work. They could also take the form of a so‐called ʹVirtual Alumniʹ organisation, to foster lifelong friendships and networks. Although the term ‘virtual mobility’ is relatively new, the European Commission has actively promoted virtual mobility in the past years, mainly through the financial support of projects within the Socrates/Minerva and the eLearning and Lifelong Learning Programmes. Some of the more recent projects dealing with the subject include the above‐mentioned Being Mobile project, REVE (Real Virtual Erasmus), E‐ MOVE (An operational conception of virtual mobility), and More VM (Ready for Virtual Mobility), each targeting different aspects of virtual mobility for different groups of participants. Short descriptions of these projects can be found in annex II. 1.4 Blended mobility While in many cases virtual mobility represents a valuable alternative solution to physical mobility, there seems to be general agreement that it is not a substitute for physical mobility. Virtual mobility is, on the other hand, becoming increasingly popular as a support and complement to traditional real mobility programmes. It can offer additional solutions and is a way to further improve the existing traditional programmes such as Erasmus. When aspects of physical and virtual mobility are combined in order to maximise the advantages of both, it is defined as ‘blended mobility’ or – if applied to the EU Erasmus programme – ‘blended Erasmus’. This blended approach is in line with the results of, for example, the Eureca project, carried out by the European student association AEGEE, which recommends among other things that “Erasmus students could be prepared already at their home universities in ‘outgoing seminars’ on the one hand, but could also “exchange experiences in ‘return seminars’” on the other hand. The report also states that “every student should have the 20 right to attend a language course that enables him/her to follow the academic programme” at the host university and that “short‐term exchanges and virtual exchanges could be innovations”. Also the report of the seminar on “Bologna and the challenges of e‐learning and distance education” in Ghent (2004) places special emphasis on the supportive function virtual mobility can play for physical mobility and indicates that “virtual mobility must be used to enrich and support physical mobility by better preparing it, providing effective follow‐up means for it, and offering the possibility to stay in contact with the home institution while abroad. It can also offer (at least part of) the benefits of physical mobility for those who are otherwise unable to attend courses abroad.” European projects such as SUMIT (Supporting Mobility Through ICT), ESMOS (Enhancing Student Mobility through Online Support), VICTORIOUS (Virtual Curricula Through Reliable Interoperating University Systems) and others, suggest that the European Commission has also identified virtual mobility as a support tool in physical mobility as an important topic. (See annex II for more information.) Also the VM‐BASE project (Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges) – in which this manual presents the results ‐ aims to raise the quality of student exchanges by offering virtual support to physical mobility. In VM‐BASE virtual support is used to prepare and follow‐up the mobile student, as a complement to the existing exchange programmes. The project thereby supports teachers in coaching exchange students at a distance (e‐coaching). Exchange students can prepare themselves for their stay at a host university through, among other support activities, virtual seminars between the home and host university. Preparatory language or cultural courses for the students could be given in a traditional way at the home university or via ICT from the host university before their stay. During their stay at the host university they could stay connected with students, colleagues, or teachers at the home university. And on their return, they could extend their stay ‘virtually’ by keeping in contact with the host university by virtual means. 21 In the following chapters, we will go into more detail about how virtual mobility schemes can further support and innovate the existing physical Erasmus exchange and elaborate on the many virtual support activities that are possible for the phases before, during and after a physical exchange. We will answer questions about the kinds of virtual exchange support measures currently in place in higher education institutions, and how physically mobile students can virtually prepare themselves in order to be more focused and productive during the actual stay. We will also look at what higher education institutions can do to support the mobile students of tomorrow. 22 Chapter 2: State-of-the-art and needs in virtual exchange support measures 2.1 Introduction What kind of virtual exchange support measures for both incoming and outgoing students are currently already in place in higher education institutions? This chapter first presents an overview of the state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures for both incoming and outgoing students. The second section of the chapter makes an inventory of students’ and teachers’ needs concerning international student exchange. The study methodology used includes a literature search and information gathered through questionnaires, interviews with students and teachers, and other existing sources at the following VM‐BASE partner institutions: • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven), Belgium; • Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KHLeuven), Belgium; • University of Tartu (UT), Estonia; • University of West Hungary, Faculty of Geoinformatics (NYME GEO), Hungary; • Helsinki University of Technology, TKK (TKK), Finland; • Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Laurea), Finland; • University of Edinburgh (UofE), UK. 23 2.2 State-of-the-art in virtual exchange support measures 2.2.1 Introduction In this first section, the different virtual support measures of today are discussed for both incoming and outgoing students, with a focus on the following themes: • Information available for exchange students; • Selection of students; • Flexible assessment methods; • Language preparation; • Cultural preparation; • E‐coaching; • Evaluation and feedback of the exchange. 2.2.2 Measures for incoming students General informaton The arrival of incoming exchange students is often scheduled at the beginning of each semester. The departure, in turn, is scheduled at the end of the semester. The start and end dates depend on both the exchange programme and its duration (whether it is a half‐year or a full‐year exchange). As shown in figure 2.1, some minor variations exist in the semester start and end dates of different institutions. 24 Figure 2.1 ‐ General calendar for the most important exchange programmes: the arrival and departure of incoming exchange students at TKK, Laurea, K.U.Leuven, KHLeuven, UofE, UT and NYME‐GEO. (NB: KHLeuven and NYME‐GEO offer exchange placements only during the spring semester.) These variations naturally cause some unwanted consequences. When discussing the incompatible semester timings of one’s home and host institution, there are a number of problems that arise. Potential time gaps before and/or after the exchange can, at worst, cause delays in one’s studies. International joint projects, such as virtual orientation courses and other joint activities, are also somewhat challenging. The number of incoming exchange students also varies substantially among the partner institutions. The number of students annually involved in the international student exchange is somewhere between 10 and 800 students per institution. Many, but not all, of them are in the Erasmus programme. Both the size and the structure of the organisation as well as the number of incoming exchange students, among other things, affect how the students can be supported during the entire process. Smaller institutions with fewer exchange students are generally better able to support their students as 25 well as to try new activities than bigger institutions with more exchange students. As far as organisation structure is concerned, non‐universities generally seem to be more flexible with their activities and better able to offer personal support and guidance to their students than universities. On the other hand, the exchange programmes are also more fixed. Non‐university students have less freedom to plan their exchange than university students. Finally, there are the country‐specific variations that need to be taken into account. Also, students are different. Some simply need more support and guidance than others. Information available for exchange students Institutional websites are the integral tool for disseminating key institutional information and for promoting institutional identities to the general public. Links to the existing public online information for incoming exchange students are provided in figure 2.2. Name of Link to the existing online information (in English) institution: (EN): TKK http://www.tkk.fi/en/studies/international/index.html Laurea http://www.laurea.fi/internet/en/01_studies_and_applying/01_Group/06_Infor mation_for_International_Students/index.jsp KULeuven http://www.kuleuven.be/english KHLeuven http://www.khleuven.be/english_pages UofE http://www.international.ed.ac.uk UT http://www.ut.ee/studentoffice NYME‐GEO http://www.geo.info.hu/en http://www.ceepus.info Figure 2.2 – Links to the existing online public information for incoming exchange students 26 All previously mentioned websites provide general information concerning student exchange at the institution in question. The Ceepus network makes the only exception. Most information is available in English, which is extremely important. As language can also become an issue if the students cannot understand the information they are given. According to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), students regularly face problems with the information retrieval at their host institution due to language barriers. Sometimes the information is also placed in a password‐restricted area, in which case access to service is usually provided only after the arrival. Exceptions can be made, but only for good reason. The question is why? In this case, common practice does not seem to equate with best practice. Without the ability to join the university online and be issued with the necessary user‐id and password, the students are effectively cut off from the institution system (Final Report of the Victorious project, 2007). Providing good information and making it easy for the students to find is very important. Also, many institutions have a rather positive view about the information being readily available at their individual websites. However, from the student perspective, this is more often not the case in reality. Other methods of information provision (during exchange) include handouts, e‐newsletters, electronic message boards and special information sessions, among other things. On some campuses, there are also international meeting centres or suchlike for the international and internationally‐minded students. Some institutions have also invested in an entire virtual learning environment which they use for the provision of information. Selection of students In the case of incoming exchange students, selection is usually done by the home institution based on mutual agreements. Only seldom there is a special commission or suchlike responsible for the selection. Students are usually required a sufficient knowledge of English but this is rarely tested. 27 Online application systems and other electronic services are becoming more and more common. However, as many as three out of seven institutions still reported that they have no electronic services available for the procedure. Most exchange programmes are managed on both central and unit level. Practices vary widely among the partner institutions. Language preparation Incoming exchange students, just like any other students, are offered language courses throughout the academic year. In addition, some institutions offer intensive pre‐semester language courses just for the exchange students. The number of online courses is almost non‐existent. In some cases, there are no language courses at all available in the local language at the host institution. All Erasmus students are offered Erasmus Intensive Language Courses (EILC). The EILC, a scheme supported by the European Commission, are specialised courses in the less widely used and less taught European Union languages and the languages of other countries participating in Erasmus. The EILC give Erasmus students the opportunity to study the language of the host country for three to eight weeks. The courses take place in the host country before the actual exchange. Official statements documenting students’ knowledge of a certain language (usually English) are uncommon. As indicated above, in general there is no or very little testing. Only one partner institution reported that it requires an official statement from the student that documents that he/she has sufficient skills in English. A professor at the student’s home institution must sign the document. Only applicants, whose mother tongue is either the local language or English, are exempt from this. Interestingly, one of the partner institutions reported that it encourages the exchange students to take courses also in other languages, not just in the local or English language. According to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), this is, however, not always the case. Students sometimes have difficulties trying to study other languages, because as exchange students they are expected to improve their local and/or English language skills only. 28 Students are usually informed about the possibilities for language preparation through the institutional websites. Information letters or suchlike, sent to the students before arrival, are also common. Finally, a so‐ called language‐buddy system, where local and foreign students could teach one another, is in planning phase at one of the partner institutions. Cultural preparation The cultural preparation of students covers everything from the host country’s culture to the exam procedures and student life of the host institution. There are thus lots of things that need to be taken into account. The importance of cultural preparation and orientation before and during the exchange should not be underestimated. Incoming exchange students are offered cultural preparation through various means: guides, websites, courses and orientation days. Tutoring (buddy system) and friendship family programmes are also quite common and especially the buddy system is popular among the students. Student organisations also play an important role in the cultural support of incoming exchange students by organising various activities and offering facilities and buddies for the exchange students. Preparation for the actual culture shock and/or reverse culture shock is, however, often forgotten. Students are seldom even aware of the phenomenon. Despite this fact, experiencing culture shock or some symptoms of it is almost inevitable. Through proper preparation students can understand the phenomenon and its possible causes and, perhaps, decrease its effects. E-coaching Two out of seven institutions reported that there is no e‐coaching as such available for the incoming students. However, the personnel of international student services are always reachable, in case students need support and guidance on any issues. In this type of communication, e‐mail is the most common tool for communication. Other institutions provide e‐coaching mostly via e‐mail and Skype before and/or during the exchange. Digital learning platforms are also used, but 29 only during some teaching and learning activities. There is no e‐coaching available after the exchange. Four out of seven institutions reported that they offer e‐coaching provided by other students (tutors). This type of e‐coaching often relates to cultural preparation and takes place before and during the exchange, but also after the exchange depending on the students. The personnel of international student services, in turn, deal with study‐related issues. In general, e‐coaching is considered as a good option for supporting incoming students, especially in the preparatory phase. In some cases, it can even be considered to reduce language barriers and, thus, to ease communication between teachers and students. At present, e‐coaching is offered mainly just bilaterally. Thus, there is no community building among incoming students. This is perhaps something that could be considered more in the future. On the other hand, e‐coaching also raises the question of responsibility and resources as well as commitment. Why should e‐coaching be offered to students? What is the added value of it? Assessment methods In general, there seem to be very few alternative assessment methods in use. Most institutions prefer that the exchange students take their exams physically at the course‐providing institution. Exceptions can be made, but for good reason. Students also need to take the initiative. Virtual assessment methods are uncommon. However, one of the partner institutions reported that it has tested post‐ exchange virtual exams for some of its exchange students. The exams were arranged as a Skype conference together with the students’ home institution. In some cases, the exam has also been sent via e‐mail or fax and returned the same way. This requires, however, that the home institution provides supervision during the exam. Videoconferencing is another method that has been developed. The idea is that students could both make their exams and be evaluated through videoconferencing. The use of videoconferencing is practical, especially, if it is necessary to involve teachers also from the sending institution. A so‐ 30 called exam aquarium (a net based virtual exam system) is also in the planning phase and was piloted in fall 2007 at another partner institution. Experiences with the use of virtual assessment methods are generally quite good. However, the use is somewhat challenging, since the different methods often require attendance and commitment from the home as well as the host institution. Moreover, certain technical provisions have to be available at both institutions. Evaluation and feedback Most institutions reported that they regularly collect feedback from the exchange students. The most common way of gathering feedback is through various questionnaires. Only one institution reported that it also organises evaluation discussions between the incoming students and international coordinators. Two out of seven institutions reported that there are no systematic methods for the evaluation or collection of feedback at their institution. Only the Erasmus students are regularly requested to give feedback through the official Erasmus questionnaire. Feedback is collected in the different phases of exchange, usually closer to departure. Questions deal with general issues, accommodation and everything in between. Feedback forms are usually available in electronic and/or paper format. 2.2.3 Measures for outgoing students General information There are considerable variations in the times of departure and return of outgoing exchange students (see figure 2.3). The schedule is often dependent on the host institution, and the home institution does not always even know when its students are departing or returning. Also, application deadlines vary substantially. Only seldom is the acceptance of applications year‐round. The number of students annually involved in the international student exchange is somewhere between 10 and 600 students per partner institution. 31 Figure 2.3 ‐ General calendar for the most important exchange programmes: the departure and return of outgoing exchange students at TKK, Laurea, K.U. Leuven, KHLeuven, UofE, UT and NYME‐GEO. (NB: The students of KHLeuven go for an exchange during the fall semester of their 3rd year only. The students of NYME‐GEO, in turn, go for an exchange during the spring semester only.) The support and guidance given to the outgoing exchange students also depend on the size and the structure of the organisation as well as on the number of incoming exchange students, among other things. However, according to the Final Report of the Victorious project (2007), services for incoming students are generally rated more highly than those for outgoing students. This is perhaps due to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect, but also due to the assumption that the only services students need are the ones at their host university. Information available for the students Links to the existing public online information for outgoing exchange students at TKK, Laurea, K.U.Leuven, KHLeuven, UofE, UT and NYME‐ GEO are provided in figure 2.4. There are no English websites publicly available at K.U. Leuven, KHLeuven or University of Tartu. Other 32 institutions do provide information also in English, but the quality is varied. Name of Link to the existing online information (in English and local institution: languages) TKK http://www.tkk.fi/fi/opinnot/kv/index.html (FI) http://www.tkk.fi/en/studies/international/index.html (EN) Laurea http://www.laurea.fi/internet/en/01_studies_and_applying/01_Group/03_Stud ying_at_Laurea/02_Internationality_in_studies/index.jsp (EN) (information is available on the intranet and not on public pages) KULeuven http://www.kuleuven.be/internationaal (NL) No website available. (EN) KHLeuven http://www.khleuven.be/internationalisering (NL) No website available. (EN) UofE http://www.international.ed.ac.uk/exchanges/index.html (EN) UT http://www.ut.ee/valismaa (EE) No website available. (EN) NYME‐GEO http://www.geo.info.hu/erasmus (HU) http://www.ceepus.info (EN) Figure 2.4 ‐ Links to the existing online public information for outgoing exchange students All aforementioned websites provide general information about the different possibilities to study abroad. A lot of information is also provided face‐to‐face in information sessions etc… Personal contact is also considered important. Not everything can or should be done virtually. An example of good practice information provision for outgoing exchange students is the TU Exchange Programme Database of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The website is for the students of TU Delft, who want to find information on studying in a foreign country. The website includes information about the universities, with which TU Delft has an 33 exchange programme, and some important links. It is publicly available in both Dutch and English. http://uitwisseling.tudelft.nl/index.cfm?language=en Selection of students Most institutions reported that the most important criteria for the selection of their outgoing exchange students include academic background, study results, personality and motivation. Language skills also play an important role, especially, if the working language is other than English. Motivation letters or suchlike are relatively common, but only seldom are students personally interviewed or official recommendations required. On the other hand, there are also institutions whose selection criteria purely base on study results. Applicants may be ranked according to their study success (average credits earned per year, average marks) and only the best ones are allowed to go. At least, this is the case where there are more applicants for a programme than places available. Alternatively, students who may have failed two or more subjects at the end of the study year previous to their exchange are not allowed to go. This kind of selection, which is purely based on quantitative criteria, is somewhat problematic as it excludes highly motivated students, who have had less success in their studies, from the study abroad experience. This is not a good way to support student mobility. Most exchange programmes are managed on both central and unit level. The selection of students, in turn, mostly takes place at departmental level. Four out of seven institutions reported that there are no electronic services available for the selection procedure. Language preparation All students are offered language courses at their home institution throughout the academic year. However, there are no preparation courses as such available. The host institution often arranges the linguistic preparation. The previously mentioned Erasmus Intensive Language Courses (EILC) are also common among the Erasmus students. Language certificates are rarely required. 34 Cultural preparation The experiences of former exchange students are widely exploited in the cultural preparation of outgoing exchange students. Thoughts and experiences are shared in exchange reports, international fairs and in special group meetings. At many institutions, cultural information is also given by the incoming exchange students. Attendance is usually voluntary. One of the partner institutions reported that it organises special courses for all outgoing exchange students. An online course is provided four times a year, whereas unit‐ and field‐specific prep‐courses are given only twice a year. International coordinators also play an important role in the general support. Another partner institution has created international student exchange blogs. The idea is that some students could be paid to write a diary electronically and mount it. In the future, the blogs would also give a historic record to support and advice other exchange students. Post‐exchange cultural support is generally something that is given very little attention. However, research has shown that the so‐called reverse culture shock or re‐entry shock is often as frequent and hard as the initial culture shock. It is also an inevitable part of the study abroad experience and should therefore be better taken into account. E-coaching In general, there is very little e‐coaching available for outgoing students at any of the partner institutions. Support and coaching are done mostly via e‐mail, when needed. Three out of seven institutions reported that there is no e‐coaching at all available for outgoing students. At one of the partner institutions, some prep‐courses are completed partly online, where coordinators and other students answer the questions of outgoing students in virtual discussion areas. This type of e‐coaching is used mainly before exchange. Some students are offered online courses with digital materials and communication tools over an e‐learning portal. All institutions agree that there is great potential for e‐coaching. At the moment, e‐mail is the most common tool for communication, but there has been discussion about how to improve, diversify and extend the e‐coaching 35 services. More attention has also been paid to the professors’ involvement in coaching in general. Assessment methods As far as outgoing students are concerned, the use of alternative assessment methods is almost non‐existent. Most institutions prefer that students take the exams physically at the institution where they actually followed the course. Exceptions can be made, but this usually requires student initiative and, even then, the decision is up to the professors. E‐learning portals are used as a method of virtual student assessment in some cases. At two out of seven institutions, outgoing students can also take (online) courses while on an exchange. However, exams still need to be taken physically at the home institution. The previously mentioned exam aquarium could be one solution also for the outgoing students. Evaluation and feedback The evaluation of an exchange is compulsory at all institutions. However, tools and methods vary somewhat. Most students are asked either to fill in a questionnaire or to write a report on their exchange for the home institution. In addition, oral feedback sessions are organised in at least two out of seven institutions. In some cases, students are also asked to participate in the information days organised for students interested in going on an exchange. 2.3 Inventory of students’ and teachers’ needs 2.3.1 Introduction The following sections elaborate on the findings about the students’ and teachers’ needs. Students’ needs are investigated as a whole, whereas teachers’ needs are investigated from two different perspectives: teachers’ needs concerning incoming students and teachers’ needs concerning outgoing students. 36 The exchange period is separated into four different phases, which can be identified as following: • Preparatory phase: when a student starts to think about an exchange and search for information; • Before exchange: when a student’s application is approved and he/she starts to prepare for the actual exchange; • During exchange: when a student is on the (physical) exchange; • After exchange: when a student returns back to his/her home institution. 2.3.2 Findings about the students’ needs Students’ motivation for international student exchange seems to vary substantially. According to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), non‐Erasmus students are generally more academically‐oriented than Erasmus students. Meeting new people, practicing a foreign language and living in a foreign country are, in turn, more important for the Erasmus students. Either way, it is important to understand that motivation plays an important part, when analysing the needs and expectations of international exchange students. Moreover, it is important to understand that students, who go to university as the route to a good job, rather than as a cultural and transforming experience, are unlikely to be motivated to study abroad simply in order to get to know a different culture, meet new friends and learn another language. According to Amillo J. et al. (2005), however, this seems to be a driver that is much more strongly valued by the designers of international programmes than by the students themselves. On the other hand, there are also various personal and institutional barriers that represent obstacles to international mobility. Even though not all barriers are of equal importance and not all affect all students in the same way, financial barriers are still, for many students, the major deterrent to study abroad. (Amillo J. et al., 2005). This also became evident in the interviews with students. Figure 2.5 presents a summary of students’ needs and requirements concerning international student exchange. 37 Preparatory phase Before exchange During exchange After exchange ‐ More information on ‐ More ‐ More information on ‐ Information both practical and information on both practical and about possibilities academic matters (in both practical and academic matters (in to resit exams English) academic matters English) ‐ Information ‐ Guarantee of (in English) ‐ Counselling/tutoring about possibilities financial security ‐ Possibility to by the international for an internship during the exchange hear other coordinators and/or after the exchange ‐ Possibility to hear students’ teachers of host ‐ Recognition of other students’ experiences on institution as well as studies; experiences on student student exchange by fellow students simplification and exchange ‐ Contacts with ‐ More courses in speed‐up of the ‐ More support and local students English procedure, guidance in study‐ and/or teachers ‐ More international information about related issues at home before arrival teachers and the ‘conversion institution ‐ Language researchers to create tables’ ‐ Facilitation of the preparation and an international ‐ Possibility to application procedure testing atmosphere share own ‐ ‘Complete ‐ Cultural ‐ (More) local experiences on international student preparation language studies student exchange exchange packages’ ‐ Information about ‐ Help with (courses, funding, taking exams; reverse culture accommodation, etc.) possibilities to resit shock exams ‐ Information about possibilities for an internship after the exchange ‐ Continuous support and guidance from home institution ‐ Help with culture shock Figure 2.5 – Students’ needs concerning international student exchange In general, students also seem to require more guidance from and communication with their teachers (Bijnens H. et al., 2006). This concerns not only the international exchange students but all students. The use of 38 ICT is another factor that should be investigated more. According to Valjus (2002), the effective use of ICT requires that all partners have the equipment, time, skills and willingness to use new technology. ICT is a tool that in some projects brings considerable benefits, whereas in some other projects its use is not at all relevant. According to van der Wende (2006), students want ICT mainly for convenience. As such, it does not have any intrinsic value. The availability and accessibility of information in different phases of the exchange seems to be something that most international exchange students accentuate. More information (in English) is required on both practical and academic matters. Another thing that most exchange students emphasise is the support and guidance given by their home institution. At present, students are generally more satisfied with the support and guidance given by their host institution than those given by their home institution. Tutoring (buddy system) and various activities organised during the exchange are highly appreciated by all incoming students. The support and guidance given by other exchange students is also considered important. Students clearly want to share their experiences with and ask for advice from one another. Even according to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), students most often ask either other exchange students (51%), local students (50%) or the International Office (50%) for help when facing problems. Former exchange students are also important motivators, especially in the preparatory phase. The small number of courses offered in English is one of the major shortages students face during international exchange. Sometimes the number of courses is not even equivalent to the one given at one’s home institution. At worst, the language may change mid‐course. Thus, institutions do need to invest in developing their English language programmes. The trend that students are likely to choose English‐language courses is clear, although multilingualism is one of the unique features of Europe. According to Antal K. et al. (2006), it is also essential to invite international lecturers and include teaching staff mobility while creating English‐language courses. 39 Recognition of studies, in turn, seems to be an eternal problem among all international exchange students. According to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), about half of the respondents (52%) had all their courses recognised by their home university, 28% had most of the courses recognised, 13% only a few and 7% did not receive any recognition. The procedure for recognising studies is both time‐consuming and complicated. Furthermore, there is seldom guarantee of success. Both students and teachers seem to demand more international student exchange agreements in order to simplify and speed up this procedure. Students also have a growing need for support and guidance on study‐related issues, in general. Many incoming students would like to make contact with the local students and teachers already before their arrival. This kind of virtual mobility before the exchange is considered to support, not to replace, the physical exchange. Language and cultural preparation is also something, for which there is clearly a need. Students are seldom prepared for the culture and/or reverse culture shock. According to Antal K. et al. (2006), the role of intercultural and language preparation courses in increasing mobility is, however, essential. Incoming students do need help when they arrive and some information to survive. There is also a necessity to monitor and evaluate these courses and to amend them to reflect the real needs of students. After the exchange, in turn, many students seem to have a need to share their experiences on the exchange. This is also something that should be taken more advantage of e.g. in the cultural preparation of future exchange students. It is definitely worth investigating how students’ experiences, while they are abroad or once they have returned, can be utilised to bring some benefits to students at the home institution. Some simple ideas are e.g. to have teams of students abroad and at home working together on a project or, as previously mentioned, to have returning exchange students organising the cultural preparation (Amillo J. et al., 2005). 40 2.3.3 Findings about the teachers’ needs Teachers’ needs concerning incoming students In general, teachers seem to be quite dissatisfied with the information provision, as far as incoming students are concerned: most teachers would like to get more information about and to get to know their students already before the actual exchange. Also students have shown interest in this kind of pre‐exchange communication with local teachers and students. The challenge that pedagogy in a diverse and multicultural classroom represents for teachers, has also been noticed. Teachers clearly need help with the cultural preparation. More information about the teacher’s role in supporting incoming students is also required. More teachers’ needs concerning incoming exchange students are summarised in figure 2.6. Preparatory phase Before exchange During exchange After exchange ‐ Cultural ‐ General ‐ Language support ‐ ‘International preparation: information about for students, mentorship pedagogy in a the incoming customised network’ diverse and students (number of according to the ‐ Students to multicultural students, level of students’ skill level market the classroom English, knowledge ‐ Continuous exchange ‐ Information about of the field of study, feedback from programme he/she the teacher’s role in cultural students has attended case of problems background, etc.) ‐ Help with grading; ‐ Evaluation and during the exchange ‐ Contacts with the information about feedback of the ‐ Less bureaucracy incoming students the ’conversion exchange in the selection before arrival tables’ used at ‐ Information procedure ‐ Provision of timely student’s home about possibilities ‐ Clarification of the and adequate institution to resit exams roles and information so that responsibilities of students can prepare students, teachers their study plans (in and international cooperation with the coordinators at home and host home/host institution) institution ‐ Students’ access to 41 internal services before arrival ‐ Language preparation for students Figure 2.6 ‐ Teachers’ needs concerning incoming students. According to most teachers, incoming students generally seem to have a bigger need for support and guidance than outgoing students. Some also tend to expect or even demand special treatment. According to the Erasmus Student Network Survey (2007), approximately one out of ten of the respondents (11.5%) believed that exchange students were treated favourably. This was mostly because of their lower language skills that they were given more attention to during courses. On the other hand, 8% of respondents also stated that local students were treated favourably. This came up in e.g. differentiated prices of accommodation, voting rights at the campus, access to lectures, use of university facilities, provision of information, discount on transportation, services and meals. Several teachers also emphasise the linguistic preparation and support of students. According to some of the interviewees, students’ language and/or ICT skills are not always at the expected level. This is partly a consequence of the fact that no language certificates are usually required. Some exchange students also tend to resist teaching methods they are not familiar with. This could perhaps be prevented with proper cultural preparation at the host institution. Also, if teachers could make contact with and get to know their students already before the exchange, they could perhaps prepare incoming students better for local customs. Students’ evaluation and feedback on the exchange is highly valued by most teachers. Feedback is welcome both during and after the exchange. Most teachers are also eager to keep in contact with the students after the exchange. Some of the interviewees even suggested creating an international mentorship network, a kind of alumni organisation, for the purpose. Through the network, teachers and entire institutions could also 42 strengthen their cooperation with the working life. Another thing teachers seem to wish for is that students would market a successful exchange programme he/she has attended after the exchange. Teachers’ needs concerning outgoing students In general, teachers seem to have more needs and requirements concerning incoming than outgoing exchange students. According to some of the interviewees, outgoing students can sometimes be so independent that they hardly need any support and/or guidance. On the other hand, most teachers also agree that they can be important motivators or demotivators, when students are thinking about study abroad and, therefore, their role should not be underestimated. Teachers’ needs concerning outgoing exchange students are summarised in figure 2.7. Preparatory phase Before exchange During exchange After exchange ‐ More ‐ Provision of timely ‐ Better (virtual) ‐ Students to provide information about and adequate connection with information on good different information so that students abroad practice at the host possibilities to students can prepare institution study abroad; their study plans (in ‐ Help with grading; information on cooperation with the information about the courses home and host ’conversion tables’ ‐ More institution) used at student’s international home institution student exchange ‐ Information about agreements possibilities to resit ‐ Preparation for exams credit transfer Figure 2.7 ‐ Teachers’ needs concerning outgoing students. Teachers’ needs concerning outgoing exchange students generally seem to concentrate in the following three phases: preparatory phase, before exchange and after exchange. During exchange, however, students are 43 considered to be more on their own or are the host institution’s responsibility. Better (virtual) connection during exchange is, however, something that both students and teachers seem to wish for. The support and guidance given by the home institution is highly valued by the students. Teachers engage, perhaps, for more academic reasons. Teachers generally seem eager to assist their students with the exchange start‐up. As previously mentioned, they are both important motivators and information providers for the outgoing exchange students, especially in the preparatory phase. Before the exchange, in turn, they can help students with the study planning. Students are often also more willing to contact teachers they know than someone in the International Relations Office. When both the home and the host institution are involved in the study planning, also the recognition of studies can be considered to ease off. All this requires, however, equal information delivery. At present, it often seems that teachers are forgotten in this context. After the exchange, recognition of studies and credit transfer seem to be the main issue for both students and teachers. Teachers need help with grading and information about the ‘conversion tables’, whereas students are more interested in ensuring a smooth credit transfer process. Teachers’ interest in getting more information about the local grading systems and the potential grading differences between home and host institution is based on the fact that teachers want all their students to be treated equally. No under‐ or overgrading for anyone. In turn, both students and teachers are interested in getting more information about alternative assessment methods and arrangements to resit exams. This is perhaps an area, where ICT could be exploited more in the future. 44 Chapter 3: E-coaching 3.1 Introduction The state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures in the previous chapter showed that in general, there is very little e‐coaching available for both incoming and outgoing students. E‐mail is the most common tool for communication between teachers, students and International Relations Officers. However, most institutions agreed that there is potential for e‐ coaching. In the VM‐BASE project the concept of e‐coaching was explored and e‐coaching runs like a red thread through all activities carried out. Particular attention was paid to supporting and coaching teachers and students at a distance both before, during and after the exchange. This chapter describes some of the key issues related to e‐coaching. More concretely it sheds a light on the concept and how it was perceived in the VM‐BASE project, the competences that are required to be an e‐coach, models, tools and systems that can be used, and best practice cases related to e‐coaching. 3.2 E-coaching 3.2.1 What is e-coaching? Coaching is a method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim of achieving some goal or develop specific skills (Wikipedia). Due to the increase of internationalisation, international teaching practices, part‐time education, etc. it increasingly happens that students need to be coached from a distance. For exchange students in particular, face‐to‐face coaching is often hard to put into practise because of the geographical 45 distance between teachers, International Relations Officers, and students. The emergence of different tools and electronic communication media nowadays can offer support to the coaching process from a distance. Furthermore, these tools offer the possibility to teachers from both institutions (home and host institution) to collaborate and jointly guide the student through the exchange process. When investigating online teaching and learning, one comes across many different terms describing the process, such as e‐support, e‐moderating, e‐ tutoring, e‐mentoring, virtual support, tele tutoring, … Baars G. (2005) uses the term ‘e‐coaching’ and defines it as “coaching via the Internet (digital learning environment)”. It can be done from a distance, using synchronous (chat, videoconferencing, audioconferencing…) or asynchronous communication tools (e‐mail, online discussion fora…). As with face‐to‐face coaching, an e‐coach can coach an individual or a group of people. Also, the VM‐BASE consortium uses the term ‘e‐coaching’ and does so in a very broad interpretation. The ‘e’‐part of the term stands for ‘electronic’ and obviously refers to the fact that the coaching is done through technology. The ‘coaching’‐part refers to the (personal) guidance that is needed in the whole process. Information and communication technologies should not be used in education without considering and valuing this human aspect. The use of ICT does not imply that the teacher automatically gets replaced by a tool. On the contrary, the teacher and/or tutor remains particularly relevant. The use of ICT does bring about a fundamental shift in teaching methods: the expert/instructor becomes a moderator/coach. It is no longer about the transfer of knowledge or content but more and more about creating the context for it. G. Salmon (2004) describes these e‐moderators as ‘specialist tutors’: they deal with participants but in rather different ways because everyone is working online. The goal for them is to enable ‘meaning making’ rather than content transmission. 46 3.2.2 E-coaching of exchange students E‐coaching methods can be used in regular teaching. VM‐BASE obviously focused on e‐coaching of teachers and students participating in mobility activities. When preparing for an exchange, students need reliable and clear feedback on their questions. When taking a course virtually, they need feedback to be able to estimate their learning progress and to plan the next learning activities. Finally, after a virtual assessment, they need feedback to assess their learning outcomes. Examples of e‐coaching methods are therefore manifold: a virtual buddy‐system for preparatory support, e‐portfolios or weblogs during the stay abroad, a virtual consulting hour of a teacher using chat, a moderated discussion forum, etc. Also peer‐assessment and self‐assessment are possible when complemented with e‐coaching. Several of these scenarios were tried out in the VM‐BASE project and each of the VM‐BASE pilot courses used different tools and e‐coaching methods. As indicated above, the human factor stands out as being one of the most important aspects and the success of such activities often depends on whether or not the presence of a coach can be felt (even if there is only minor steering by the coach). 3.3 Competences of the e-coach 3.3.1 Who can be an e-coach? Being an e‐coach is not solely reserved for teaching staff. On the contrary, a variety of people can perform the role of e‐coach: teachers, external teachers or external experts, and even other students. Furthermore, the Erasmus coordinators in the faculties, and the International Relations Officers and other staff working at the international offices can play this important role of being an e‐coach for exchange students. 47 However, people in administration such as those in International Relations Offices have organisational skills and a lot of expertise in supporting exchange students but often have no expertise in e‐learning. The same is true for teachers who have tutoring skills but are not necessarily familiar with e‐learning or e‐coaching techniques. E‐learning experts on the other hand, usually do not have expertise in supporting exchange students. Often, there is already a lot of ICT training available for teachers in institutions, but what is lacking is training for administrative staff in International Relations Offices – and they are mostly the people supporting the students on exchange. They should be the first target group and could use training in educational technologies to know how to start virtual support initiatives. Also the student competences should not be forgotten in this matter and students could also benefit from some introductory courses. 3.3.2 Competences needed as an e-coach E‐coaching is a new competence and requires particular skills from both teachers, students, International Relations Officers and others involved in the e‐coaching process of exchange students. Discussions during the VM‐ BASE workshops revealed that e‐coaches need to be reliable, adaptive, clear, and sensitive to the cultural context. They also need to know their boundaries and have language skills, a multicultural background, problem solving skills and a peer perspective. According to R. Mobbs (2004), the following areas of general expertise are assumed as prerequisites and provide a basis for the new competencies e‐ tutors/e‐coaches need: • A good all round knowledge of the subject‐matter of the course; • The background pedagogy that underpins the course; • A good understanding of the limits and limitations of the information and communications technology; • A closer working and sharing relationship with the learner; • Provide learners with ʺpositiveʺ support and ʺpositiveʺ encouragement; 48 • A role of mentor/counselors as well as academic advisor. Smits et. al. (2006) confirm that the e‐coach takes on different roles depending on the phase of learning process. They identify five major stages in the coaching process: access and motivation, socialisation, information exchange, knowledge construction, and development. G. Salmon (2004) stresses the importance of the presence of emotional intelligence. According to her there is evidence that people who display higher levels of emotional competence have greater success in relations with others (on and offline) and superior performance. It is therefore important to develop qualities like self‐awareness, interpersonal sensitivity and the ability to influence in order to become a successful e‐coach. This refers once more to the human factor being an important aspect of e‐ coaching. It is clear that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary and that an e‐ coach needs to master both hard and soft skills. In this context, the VM‐ BASE consortium highlights four important aspects of e‐coaching: technological, organisational, content and social aspects. Stakeholders need to be acquainted with technology and there must be attention for the users of the technology (usability). To serve that purpose, a helpdesk, manual, forum or another platform introduction could be integrated. The learning process needs to be organised (organisation of group activities, making appointments with students, etc.). The ability to work from numerous locations and to organise work schedules differently can be quite empowering, but may take some getting used to and requires planning and preparation upfront. Clear communication on tasks, goals and expectations is therefore indispensable. In that sense, e‐coaching becomes part of a joined‐up communication strategy. And last but not least the pedagogical aspects need to be taken into account: the teacher must be well informed both socially and content‐wise. Attention has to be paid to group dynamics, introduction of the users. An e‐coach must also be able to give different types of feedback to the students: both content‐related (informative, reflecting, correcting …) and not content‐related (administrative, motivating…). 49 3.4 Tools for e-coaching Tools and technologies that can be used for e‐coaching are increasingly becoming larger in number and more diverse in their application. The success of an initiative is not so much dependent on the tool as such but more on the use of a tool which is carefully considered beforehand. The choice of tools and the approach depends on the aims, the situation, the participants, etc. The technology must be as transparent as possible and the way in which a tool is fit for an activity is crucial. No technology without philosophy! E‐coaching tools and interactive communication tools in general are often categorised into two large categories: • Synchronous tools (facilitating communication between users at the same time), e.g. chat, videoconferencing, webconferencing, audioconferencing…; • Asynchronous tools (facilitating communication between users independent of time), e.g. e‐mail, online discussion forums, e‐ portfolio…. Following the experiences in the VM‐BASE project, the consortium created a typology of tools, reflecting their specific use for e‐coaching purposes. This categorisation is not considered to be exhaustive but contains the main tools used in this context. Tools that are distinguished are: reflective tools (e‐portfolio, weblog), non‐interactive tools (streaming media, informational website), collaborative tools (wiki, group blog, discussion forum), communication tools (e‐mail, chat, video‐, audio‐, and webconferencing), and social networking tools (social networking, shared media, social bookmarking). The different categories will be explained in detail in the following sections using a more concrete and practical approach. Each tool is described including some hands‐on information on how to get started using the respective tool and providing some ideas and experiences drawn from the findings of the VM‐BASE project. 50 Tools for e‐coaching Reflective Non‐ Collabo‐ Communi‐ Social Tools interactive rative tools cation tools networking tools tools E‐portfolio Streaming Wiki E‐mail Social media networking based on personal web pages Weblog/ Blog Informational Group blog Online chat/ Shared website media Instant messaging Discussion Video Social book‐ marking forum/ blog Conferencing Audio Conferencing Web Conferencing Figure 3.1 – Categories and examples for tools that can be used for e‐coaching 51 3.4.1 Learning platform The majority of higher education institutions make use of a virtual learning environment (VLE). Because of the fact that most of the VLE’s incorporate a combination of tools, we decided to not integrate this into the diagram, but to treat it as a category on its own. Description A virtual learning environment or platform is a software system that enables online interaction between learner and tutor. It combines methods of online communication (such as chat room, discussion boards and e‐mail) with the ability to deliver learning materials (such as documents, articles and assessments). The learning platform is thus the place where you find your e‐mail, courses, and communities online provided by the institution. Examples of learning platforms are Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle. Although students and teachers both need to log on to the system, students access a different portal from the one the teachers use. Teachers are given wider access rights, which means they can edit the platform, whereas students only have ‘viewing rights’. There is no such thing as one manual for all learning platforms, and for details you are advised to contact the ICT‐desk of your institution or visit their website. Within the learning platform several tools are available, most of them explained in the following sections. In case one of these tools is not provided by the institution, a free alternative is usually available on the Internet. Because of the privacy of all people involved in the course or project, it is recommended that you use the tools of the institution provided on the learning platform. Free tools cannot always give you these guarantees. 52 Figure 3.2 – Example of a VLE, Toledo K.U.Leuven (based on Blackboard) Ideas & experiences Many of the tools offered by the learning platform can be used for exchange projects. This is explained in the following sections. One of the VM‐BASE project pilots, the ‘Online education and evaluation tool of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven’ uses a particular institutional learning platform (see section 4.4.1). 53 Experiences from an existing international programme at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences showed the differences in level of statistical knowledge between bachelor students from K.U.Leuven and bachelor students from institutions abroad. For this reason, the programme officer decided to develop a tool to test and improve the statistical knowledge of foreign students, prior to their arrival at the university. To that end, two courses on statistics were converted to an online version and integrated into ‘Toledo’, the learning platform of K.U.Leuven (consisting of Blackboard and Questionmark Perception), resulting in an online testing‐ and learning tool that allows students to check and improve their level in statistics. Incoming students are given access to the the learning platform and tool after their file is approved at K.U.Leuven and when they are still at home. Also other VM‐BASE pilots used the learning platform of the own institution to store and deliver course materials, e.g. University of Tartu used WebCT for their preparatory course ‘Virtual Window for Study Abroad’ (see section 3.5.2) and the University of West Hungary developed the ‘Multilingual Survival Kit in GIS’ in Moodle (see section 4.5.1). 3.4.2 Reflective tools E-portfolio Description An electronic portfolio, also known as an e‐portfolio or digital portfolio, is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web (also called Webfolio). Such electronic evidence may include inputted text, electronic files, images, multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. E‐portfolios are mainly used as a platform to demonstrate the user’s abilities, qualities, evidence of achievement, and development. If online, an e‐portfolio can be maintained dynamically over time. 54 An e‐portfolio can be created through a variety of tools, like weblog, wiki social networking tools (explained further in this chapter). The portfolio can also be integrated into the institutions’ virtual learning platform. A wiki is one of the easiest ways to make one, because of the possibilities it offers to organise your information. You can add text, images, multimedia, hyperlinks and documents to the portfolio, making it a collage of the achievements of individuals or groups. Portfolios can be very personal, so in some cases it is better not to allow its content to be viewed from outside the institution. Ideas & experiences E‐portfolios were not used in one of the VM‐BASE pilots, but here are some ideas how it could be used as a reflection tool for the support of exchange students. There are three types of portfolios. First there is the ‘development portfolio’ in which students can easily see their learning process over time. This type of portfolio also displays the mistakes and progress made by students during their learning process. The second type is the ‘assessment portfolio’. The teacher can judge the student by the available assessments on the portfolio. These first two types are useful for exchange students. The student can keep a portfolio abroad, which can be assessed afterwards at the home institution. This helps to improve the interaction between the teacher of the home institution and the outgoing student. The teacher is able to see the learning process of the student abroad. In addition, the portfolio can be used to see the assignments given by the host institution, enhancing the collaboration between both institutions. A portfolio also enhances peer‐review, making it a very interactive alternative for all parties involved. The last and third type is the demonstration portfolio. This e‐portfolio resembles most the classic portfolio. It can be considered as an extensive and personal curriculum vitae and gives the opportunity to share this with possible employers, teachers, family, friends. This type can be used for students, who are looking for work or an internship (abroad). For an internship abroad the student cannot visit the company several times. 55 Sometimes the company cannot be visited at all. In this case, an e‐portfolio can prove useful. It is a good way to give a professional and personal presentation of yourself to your new workplace. A demonstration portfolio could also be used to introduce the student to teachers of the host institution or a host family. Weblog/blog Description A blog (short for weblog) is a user‐generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject. Some function as more personal online diaries. Personal blogs could show a learning process or could just be a representation of the activities or thoughts of a person. A blog is usually maintained by an individual, but could also be used by a group, and can contain commentaries, descriptions of events, links or other media files. Most blogs focus on texts and images, but some blogs focus on other social media. A blog can be initiated and hosted by the institution in the learning environment or on a (free) site. The most common free services are Blogger (a Google service) and Wordpress. A blog consists of considerable information, making it difficult to retrieve the exact text. Therefore you can add tags: words that are connected to a small part of text. Those tags appear on the sidebar of the blog connecting different messages together by clicking on those tags. You can link your own blog to someone‐else’s blog. This way, you can create a network of people sharing the same interests. You can comment or respond to each others’ blog, while the blogs remain separate entities. They will not occur next to one another in the same frame, but they can be seen at the blog roll, a list of recommended blogs. Ideas & experiences Students can use blogs to describe their exchange experiences. It is a way to stay in contact with the home institution when the student is abroad, 56 making it easier for the home institution to understand what is happening at the host institution. These practical experiences of exchange students can also be collected, as was done in the ‘Virtual Exchange of Students Mobility Experience’, a pilot that was carried out by the University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics (see section 4.2.3). During their exchange, the students report their experiences in online diaries or blogs. A diary or blog can contain some private or public data that is being categorised through tags. Through the combination of all the blog entries, a thematic information set was organised named Mobility Guide. Students who spend a learning period at a partner university regularly refresh information related to this institution in the Mobility Guide. Through the categorisation, future outgoing students of the university can find the right answers to their questions. Blogs are also a useful tool for (international) traineeships: both the company and the teacher can view the diary of the student on the Internet. Both parties can respond to it, which will improve the communication between them, especially when the student is abroad. The blog could, as a last step, be easily added to an (e‐)portfolio. 3.4.3 Non-interactive tools Streaming media Description Streaming media is a type of media that delivers moving images and/or sound over the Internet to your computer. Streaming differs from downloading in the sense that it is continuously received by, and normally displayed to, the end‐user whilst it is being delivered by the streaming provider. Streaming is quicker than downloading, because you do not need to wait until the entire document is transported to your computer before being able to watch it. The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather than to the medium itself. 57 Higher education institutions often offer an audio‐ or video streaming service. Sometimes it is even integrated into the learning platform of the institution. Ideas & experiences Streaming was used by the ‘TKK multimedia presentation and virtual student interviews’, a pilot tested by TKK (see section 4.2.2). The pilot consisted of two parts: a TKK multimedia presentation and five student interviews and the purpose was to offer general information about TKK through visual means (multimedia presentation) and to give potential exchange students the chance to hear other students’ experiences on student exchange at TKK (video interviews). The multimedia presentation is available both on DVD and on the TKK website. The student interviews are available on the student union’s website. Streaming videos can give a visual idea of the place students come from or are going to. Streaming could also be used for a video portrait in which the student can show him‐ or herself to the host family. Last but not least, streaming media can be used to record lectures which could be of great benefit to those exchange students that have to follow an obligatory course at their home institution while they are away. In that case, the teacher could opt for audio‐ or videorecording the course and make it available online. The student in turn could easily watch the lecture at a moment suitable for him or her. An example of this are the VENUS seminars, a series of expert seminars broadcasted through videoconferencing and through online streaming at the VENUS project website. In this type the lecture of the teacher is recorded and connected to the PowerPoint presentation or animation (‘talking head method’). Entire lectures or courses can be recorded like this and be followed at a distance by the students. 58 Figure 3.3 – Example of streaming media (VENUS seminars – http://www.venus‐seminars.net) Informational website Description Most higher education institutions have their own website nowadays. A website is usually created by a professional programmer and the host of the website can probably be found at the ICT‐desk of the institution. For writing webpage texts however, you do not need to be a programmer. For an informational website you should make a logical structure for the site in collaboration with the programmer, making use of menus and navigation. Pay special attention to usability, because nothing is more irritating than a bad structured website, where the requested information cannot be found at. 59 Ideas & experiences Institutional websites are used by international students for searching information about their new host institution and studies. Especially for them it is important to centralise all information they need on a website that is easy to access, well structured and regularly updated. Higher education institutions have a positive view about information being readily available on their websites, but from the student perspective often this is not the situation in reality. For higher education institutions it is important to have complete and up to date websites with relevant academic and practical data for exchange students. Keep in mind that future exchange students are probably not yet familiar with the local language and/or often do not yet have access to restricted parts of the website. A website, or at least parts of the website therefore, must be available in English and be in a non‐restricted area of the website. 3.4.4 Collaborative tools Wiki Description A wiki consists of a collection of related web pages that are connected to each other. You do not need to be a web designer to work with a wiki, because it is organised in a user‐friendly way. These web pages can be edited simply and fast by everyone who has access to it. Images, internal and external links and other documents can be added. And everyone can also create new pages. Recent changes are registered in the history‐button. A wiki is used for sharing information among a group of people, so the information can be elaborated and improved. The best‐known wiki is Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), the online encyclopaedia that can be edited by everyone. Wiki pages can be used to show personal information as in an e‐portfolio, but mostly it is just used to share more general information about a topic. 60 Many universities nowadays are able to set‐up a wiki for a course or a community. A wiki can also be created through free services. Ideas & experiences As mentioned before, wiki is a good tool to create an e‐portfolio. But it can also be used to share ‘abroad experiences’. Incoming students for example could share information about practical questions they have. A wiki can also be helpful for the students who are leaving to retrieve information about their new country. In that case, the wiki could be organised for example by country or by theme. Using a wiki for this purpose will probably be less personal than a blog. Blogs are more linked to the person who writes it, wiki pages can be edited by everyone connected to the wiki. A wiki is also a tool that can be very useful for doing collaborative work in the framework of a course. In the VM‐BASE pilot, ‘Multilingual Survival Kit in GIS’, the University of West Hungary developed a wiki allowing participants to collaborate and develop a compilation of specific vocabulary and terms linked to the GIS topic (see section 4.5.1). Group blog Description A group blog or collaborative blog is a type of weblog in which posts are written and published by more than one author. The group blog is based around a single uniting topic or theme. All the members can respond on the blog about the topic. These kind of blogs are used to create a sense of community among the participants, improve participation or to discuss topics with fellow experts. For more information on special features of blogs, see section 3.4.2 under ‘weblog/blog’. Ideas & experiences Ideas and experiences on how blogs can be used where already given above. Blogs can be used during the arrival of foreign students. They do not yet have a sense of community when they arrive in their new country, as they hardly know anyone. For them, group blogs can be a warm 61 welcome. These blogs could even start before their arrival. In that case the students can already get to know each other and discuss their experiences in preparing for the exchange. For other ideas and experiences on how blogs can be used see section 3.4.2 under ‘weblog/blog’. Discussion forum/board Description Discussion forums are online bulletin boards treating a topic on which members of the group can react. Online discussion forums are also known as Internet forums or message boards. The content is directed by the moderator, the leader of the forum, who makes sure the discussion goes well and stays polite. People participating in an Internet forum can build bonds with each other and interest groups will easily form around a topicʹs discussion, subjects dealt within or around sections in the forum. Most learning platforms have an integrated discussion board. On those discussion boards only the members of the group will be able to add information. In the framework of education the moderator will be mostly lead by the teachers who can also leave messages and give feedback to the students. This could be correcting, informative or affective messages to stimulate the discussion. Ideas & experiences A discussion forum can be used for exchange students to discuss a particular topic. A good discussion brings students together. This could be a practical topic, but could also be a topic of a course they are going to participate in. Students could ask questions on the forum about their new home to students from the host country. The ‘Go Abroad’ pilot, developed by Laurea University of Applied Sciences, included an interactive online discussion forum (see section 3.5.1). The forum is used by the outgoing students of Laurea who are preparing to go on an exchange. The advantage of a discussion forum is amongst others 62 that answers from teachers or International Relations Officers to questions from students can be read by the whole group. So the teacher needs to answer the question only once to inform everybody. 3.4.5 Communication tools E-mail Description It is probably not necessary anymore to introduce e‐mail in depth, as nowadays almost everybody is using it, especially when working in an international context. E‐mail is mostly used for one‐to‐one contact and is a good medium to give personal feedback to a student, in case you do not want the feedback to be read by a group of people. It can of course also be used for sending messages to large groups (possibly through creating a mailing list). In that way for example all incoming or outgoing students from one institution can be easily addressed at once. Ideas & experiences E‐mail is an easy medium to build up a personal relationship, be it between students, teachers, International Relations Officers or others. In the VM‐ BASE pilot ‘Virtual Buddy System’ of the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (see section 4.2.2), regular e‐mail was used to build up relationships between the exchange student coming to Leuven and his or her (local) buddy in order to make the integration of the incoming student easier and swifter. The virtual buddy provided all necessary practical information to the incoming students, which proved to be very useful, especially in the period before arrival. 63 Online chat/Instant messaging Description Chat refers to any text‐based kind of conversation between two or more users. The official technical name is synchronous conferencing. You can chat in either a public or a private chat room. For educational purposes chat in a private sphere is recommended. There is a lot free software available for private chatting, like Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, Skype or Google Talk. If you want to be sure the person is online, you need to make an appointment beforehand. Make sure it is clear for other people that you are ‘busy’; otherwise you will be interrupted by other people in your chat room. Ideas & experiences Chatting is a very simple and easy to handle tool for communicating to another individual. It can be used for supporting students abroad when they have short questions that need to be answered quickly. One could think of organising ‘virtual office hours’. In that case the e‐coach is available at a particular time during the week for answering questions through chat. Chatting has also been used in the ‘Virtual Buddy System’ of the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven. After the two students got connected through the virtual buddy system, they could meet each other in a chat room if wanted. Chat can be connected to online courses as manner for the teacher to answer questions about the course. This could for example be used after a lecture through streaming media, where no interaction between the teacher and student has taken place. This was done for example in the previously mentioned VENUS seminar series. Chat is a handy tool for reaching a lot of students. Even if not all students will be actively participating in the chat room, they can also just watch the conversation. The chatting text can be saved and read again by the student if necessary. 64 Audioconferencing Description Audioconferencing or conference calling consists of a telephone call linking several parties. When all people are participating it is called a group call, when the called party is just listening, it is called a party line. An audioconference can be done over telephone lines or over the Internet. When it is done over the Internet, it is called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Most normal telephones have an option to use the three‐way calling. Audioconferencing is often combined with webconferencing, sharing documents or presentations over the Internet. This meeting over the Internet could make use of an institutional tool or tools like Microsoft NetMeeting or Skype. Make sure you have a good microphone and speakers or a headset. You need to make an appointment for the meeting, invite all the participants and make sure they are all on time. The PowerPoint presentation can be integrated in Microsoft NetMeeting, so the PowerPoint can be shown during the meeting. Some computers are very slow in a webconference because of the video images. In such cases, an audioconference could be a good alternative. Ideas & experiences Audioconferencing is a very simple tool for giving presentations at a distance. A student at the host university can give a presentation for the teacher of the home university or vice versa. This can be used for testing, when a presentation form is required by the course. Videoconferencing Description A videoconference is a conference which allows participants at two or more locations to interact via two‐way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. Videoconferencing is sometimes used as a more general term, which also includes webconferencing. Videoconferencing can take 65 place between two locations, point to point, or between more locations, multi‐point. The computers are usually especially dedicated systems, because there is a lot of good quality technical equipment required. If you want to organise a videoconference you will have to look for videoconferencing facilities at your institution. Ask the responsible people to help you with the technical aspects, because you will need a professional to make it happen. Start organising early as preparing a videoconference takes of a lot of time. Make the necessary appointments with all the parties involved in the videoconference. Also make agreements on the ‘meeting etiquette’ with all the people who are participating (for example use of microphones, how and when to respond etc.). Ideas & experiences Videoconferencing could offer the possibility for an exchange student to follow an obligatory course at the home institution while being abroad or follow a course at the future host institution before the exchange. Former exchange students could for example also follow a course at their former host institution to keep in touch even after the exchange. Another example of the use of videoconferencing for virtual mobility is the above‐mentioned VENUS seminar series. In this project each of the participating universities organised a lecture on a topic with a European focus. Lectures were broadcasted via videoconferencing to the other universities. Last but not least, videoconferencing (or webconferencing) can be used for student selection, allowing teaching staff to put a face on a candidate and to check social and language skills. Webconferencing Description Webconferencing is used to conduct live meetings or give presentations over the Internet. In a webconference, each participant sits at his or her own computer and is connected to other participants via the Internet, 66 interacting with each other via two‐way video and audio transmissions. The difference between a videoconference and a webconference lies in the size and the technology used. Videoconferencing is most suited for meetings between larger groups and requires a high level of technological investment, whereas webconferencing is mostly used for smaller meetings and can take place using low threshold technology. Most computers are fully equipped with the required hard‐ and software for webconferencing. Older computers however might need extra hardware, like a webcam or microphone, to make webconferencing possible. You need a video camera or webcam (video input), a monitor (video output), a microphone (audio input), speakers (audio output), and a quite fast Internet connection. Webconferencing can easily be realised by Adobe Acrobat Connect or FlashMeeting, or free programmes like Microsoft Live Meeting, MSN Messenger or Skype. Ideas & experiences VM‐BASE explored the use of webconference as a tool for oral exams in the pilot project ‘Supporting oral exams at a distance for the Master of European Social Security’ conducted by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (see section 5.2.3.). It gave international students the opportunity to do their exams from a distance. Webconferencing can also be used when students have arrived at their guest institution, but when they still need to finish some exams from their home institution, or the other way around. A more basic way of webconferencing was used in the ‘Virtual Buddy System’ of the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (4.2.1). Before the students physically moved, they got contact with a buddy of their guest university. The students talked and could see each other through Skype. Finally, webconferencing can easily be used to stay in touch with a student abroad, for example to help and coach him with his or her thesis, or by organising ‘virtual office hours’. 67 3.4.6 Social networking tools Social networking based on personal web pages Description A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e‐mail and instant messaging services. Social networking is a way in which your own created webpage can be linked to a network of ‘friends’. There are two kinds of social networking: Internal Social Networking (ISN) and External Social Networking (ESN). An ISN is a closed/private community that consists of a group of people within a company or institution. An ESN is open/public and available to all web users to communicate. The most known tools are MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook. These tools can be used to create your own page where you add information, photos, blog, etc. Afterwards, you can invite people to become ‘friends’ and your page will then be linked to other pages to form a network. Your ‘friends’ can leave reactions on your page and you can enter their pages and make new ‘friends’. These types of websites allow you to quickly create a network. However, the protection of privacy might become an issue. Some sites make your personal information public, but most sites nowadays have options to show yourself only to ‘friends’ or ‘acquaintances’. Ideas & experiences Through social networking contact can be made between the foreign students and the local students. This could be used in a virtual buddy system or to stay in contact after the exchange. The university itself could also have a page on the Internet and link all alumni or foreign students to their page. This is already happening at for example MySpace.com. 68 Pages can be built for personal use, but also for a course, group or year. Such a page could work by stimulating the group. International students could support each other online in an informal way. The group page can start before the course, so the new classmates can already become friends before they meet. In the VM‐BASE pilot VALE (KHLeuven Erasmus Alumni Network), the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven opted to use Facebook to create an Erasmus alumni network (see section 5.3.5). The Erasmus students of KHLeuven from the past two academic years and from the current academic year were invited via e‐mail to join the online group. Figure 3.4 ‐ Example of virtual alumni networks (Advertisement at Myspace.com Nederland ‐ http://www.myspace.com October 29, 2008) Shared media Description File sharing is providing (uploading) and receiving (downloading) digital files over a network. This can be used for all kinds of media. Peer‐to‐peer 69 and streaming are the most used technical solutions for media file sharing. File sharing can be done in many ways. It can be done in the private sphere of the institution or a public sphere somewhere online. There are many types of media file sharing. First you should check whether file‐sharing already exists on your own institution’s learning platform and whether it meets your needs. If it does not work or if it is not to your liking, then there are alternatives. There are types in which you can share your files together with your e‐mail account like SkyDrive or GoogleDocs. These are more useful for formal documents of any kind. These tools can be shared by people you invite, or could be made public. You can even choose if the invited person will become just a reader, or if the person is also allowed to change the content. There are also special programmes for special kinds of files, like SlideShare, YouTube, iTunes or NumSum. SlideShare is a programme for uploading presentations with or without audio. NumSum is specially made for spreadsheets. YouTube is for video fragments and iTunes for audio as well as video. Ideas & experiences Shared media can be used to share lectures or speeches online (e.g. on YouTube or on iTunes). Students can download and view the lectures at a time convenient for themself. Also slides or other materials of a course can easily be shared and made available for exchange students who cannot be physically present at a lecture. Higher education institutions can also upload short movies or slide shows and use this to present and promote their institution to future incoming students. Social bookmarking Description Social bookmarking is a web‐based service to store, organise, search and manage bookmarks on the Internet. As such they are accessible from everywhere. Those bookmarks can be references to webpages or books. 70 Websites for social bookmarking are not restricted, which makes it easy for people to enter. Social bookmarking sites today use an organisational strategy known as tagging. Tagging refers to the ability to add a short description to the website and some relevant keywords (a tag) in order to classify the website. Several social bookmarking websites exist, like Del.icio.us and Furl. Specialised social bookmarking services for research are Connotea and CiteULike. These websites can help academics to share, store and organise their academic papers and bookmarks they are reading. It is possible to search through other peoples’ bookmarks or tags and to subscribe to news feeds (RSS). Relevant websites or sources can be shared among a group of teachers and students. Ideas & experiences Social bookmarking could be a part of an e‐portfolio as a reference list. The bookmarks can also be a prepared by a teacher to use for a preparatory course/literature for incoming students. The bookmarks can be sorted by tags of the course name or the course code. 3.5 Best practices/cases To investigate the challenges and opportunities of e‐coaching and to draw lessons for future similar initiatives, two pilot courses have been developed focusing on offering support to outgoing students before, during and after their physical exchange. The ‘Virtual Window to Study Abroad’ has been developed by the University of Tartu and is an online course combined with a forum on which experiences between former and future outgoing students can be shared. The blended course ‘Go Abroad’ has been created by Laurea University of Applied Sciences and includes several tools and assignments to offer support to exchange students. 71 Both cases are explained in more detail below, including their background, experiences and some guidelines and recommendations. 3.5.1 Go abroad - Laurea University of Applied Sciences Pilot description Laurea University of Applied Sciences offers its students various opportunities to study abroad. Outgoing international student mobility consists of student exchanges and placements abroad. Studies abroad strengthen such key competences needed in working life as language skills, understanding of cultures and cooperation skills, as well as give students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of their future profession and to complete studies that arenʹt offered at Laurea or elsewhere in Finland. Laurea participates in various mobility programmes, including Erasmus, and has a wide international cooperation network, with the main focus on higher education institutions in the EU. International student mobility requires long‐term commitment and careful planning from the student. Laurea organises various informative events on mobility each term. Exchanges are supported by guidelines and preparation courses offered to those who are going abroad. Preparation courses could earlier be taken in person or online. Preparation courses aim to prepare the student for successful operation in the studying and working environment of a different country. In addition to the prep‐ courses, students are supported by the international coordinators and faculty of Laurea and host institutions, tutors at the placements and other students during the whole mobility process; before, during and after exchange. The roles of different actors differ depending on the phase of the mobility. Laureaʹs previous prep‐course for outgoing exchange students did not meet the current needs. Feedback collected from all outgoing students after their return to Finland stated that they were not fully satisfied with the preparation for exchange. Students needed more information especially on: 72 • Practical arrangements (e.g. application, grants, documents needed, accommodation); • Studies that can be completed abroad, the host institution and especially the details of the course; • Location (country, area, city) and cultural encounters (culture shock, also the return shock). The coordinators of international activities also felt that the preparation should be developed, with emphasis on e.g. learning agreement, planning of contents of exchange and involving tutor teachers to the mobility process. International student mobility should also be better connected to student’s development in globalisation competence, as it is a central part of curricula at Laurea, and encourage students to get familiar with R&D activities at host institution and find out possible project ideas. The development project started in January 2007 by analysing two questionnaires of needs returned by former exchange students (the feedback inquiries of those students who have been in exchange, a separate inquiry N=12, and feedback inquiry of the year 2006, N=79) and a process simulation of Laurea’s outgoing international student exchange, using a method that has been developed in the SimLab of the Helsinki University of Technology (http://www.simlab.tkk.fi). Coordinators of international activities, the director and the assistant of international activities and the development manager of e‐learning participated in the simulation. Preliminary process map was first introduced and then edited on the basis of discussion. Three main questions were brought out: What should the contents of preparation for exchange be? What should be developed in the process? Which methods of implementation should be used? It became clear in the discussion that some more preparation before the exchange and much more support during the exchange were needed to meet the needs of students and respond to the feedback. The conclusion was that the “prep‐course” should last from the preparation to the evaluation of the exchange. Instead of a prep‐course it should be a study unit “support of international mobility”. In addition to the contact with tutor teachers also contact with other exchange students was found very 73 important. Blended learning, a combination of e‐learning and contact sessions, was found to be an optimal method of implementation, as besides virtual studies students also value individual and group meetings as methods of implementation. Virtual workspace and e‐mails could facilitate contacts to Laurea teachers and fellow students at home and during the exchange. Pictures, clips, blogs, videos could be used as well. Students also emphasised their own responsibility and the value of independent learning. Based on these ideas a new study unit for supporting international student mobility was created: • Blended learning (some parts virtually, some parts face‐to‐face); • Better integration of the exchange to studies and personal learning agreement; • Deepening the contents of the exchange: professional development, benchmarking ideas concerning R&D, LbD (learning methods); • Continuance throughout the whole mobility process (before, during and after exchange). It was decided, that since one of Laureaʹs units was developing the preparation for mobility at that moment anyhow, the international coordinators of that unit would plan and implement a pilot for a study unit. Another Laurea unit had already developed something in the same direction, and therefore the coordinators of this unit participated in the planning of the pilot together with the director and assistant of international activities and the development manager of e‐learning. Other international coordinators followed and commented on the pilot. The “Go Abroad” pilot study unit was planned and was taken into use in May 2007 with the first group of students, continuing until the end of the autumn term exchange, i.e. January 2008. A second group of students started in the pilot study unit in autumn 2007 and continued to the end of their spring semester abroad in 2008. This allowed for experiences in peer support also. The pilot study unit was evaluated and plans for future were made in spring 2008: the course had received positive feedback and was 74 developed further as well as disseminated inside Laurea to all other units (starting from April 2008). The course now includes an interactive online discussion forum for students before, during and after exchange and the possibility for e‐ tutoring and e‐support during the exchange. The course is delivered using blended learning, in the e‐learning platform called Optima. Before the exchange: • Meeting with the other students and international coordinators: information on practical arrangements (e.g. application, grants, documents needed) (information provided online as well); • Personal meetings with the international coordinator: information on studies abroad (host institution and study offer, accommodation, location (country, area, city), Learning agreement; • Meeting with the other students and international coordinators: final information about the Go Abroad –course; cultural encounters (culture shock); orientation for the exchange/placement; • Assignments to be completed online. During the exchange: • Assignments to be completed online: Writing the Go Abroad diary regularly; Participation in discussions during different phases of the exchange/placement with the international coordinators and other students abroad • Photography contest (voluntary) After the exchange: • Go Abroad assignments • Meeting with the international coordinator • Filling out a feedback form • Sharing the experiences in the classroom and/or at the International information days Figure 3.5 – Contents of the pilot study unit Go Abroad (support for international student mobility) 75 Figure 3.6 ‐ Screenshots of the Go Abroad web interface 76 Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) Several methods were used in the evaluation of the pilot study unit “Go Abroad”: • Follow up of the course by the international coordinators responsible for preparation continuously during the pilot; • Interviews with all students after return; • Feedback questionnaire at the end of the mobility; • Evaluation discussion with all international coordinators in spring 2008 after the pilot’s first group of students returned home. One of the international coordinators interviewed the students after they returned to gather views on the value of the pilot. The following are comments from the students concerning the contents of the course. ”Important information” ‐section: “Good that e.g. all forms and “Important information” section were in one place” Discussion forum was found useful: “The direct link to the coordinator and other students is great” “I read all the questions, answers and comments, but did not feel a need to write myself as my preparations went so smoothly” “Back in Finland” –section was not so much appreciated: “Useless, as I corresponded per e‐mail with the coordinator when back at home” Diary: “I did not write a diary at all, as I am not a writer type. But I see its importance now: a student who is preparing to leave for a country would like to read experiences of another student who has been to that specific country.” “I wrote the diary and the idea was good. Otherwise I would not have written anything.” Assignments form: “The assignments were useful, especially those tasks where I had to find out about the target university and city” “It was useful to think about the differences of cultures etc. in beforehand” 77 “I found the Competence‐assignments difficult” These results, together with the experiences of the coordinators who ran the “Go Abroad” pilot were discussed in a meeting of all international coordinators and the development manager of e‐learning. Development areas, such as the suitability of course assignment contents and methods, were recognised. The following different steps of the mobility process could be identified: • In the beginning of the preparation there is a need for face‐to‐face meetings; • In the beginning of the exchange there is a need for discussions; • Students were rather passive in the middle of the exchange; • At the end the discussion started again; • After arrival no need for the virtual workspace. All Laurea’s outgoing exchange students have to fill out an online evaluation form after returning to home. In the questionnaire there are some questions specifically about the preparation of the exchange and support during the exchange. The answers of the students who participated in the first pilot run (autumn 2007) were analysed in spring 2008 and compared to the answers of other students. The students of the pilot were clearly more satisfied with the support they got from home institution. Based on the evaluation, the contents of ”Go abroad” were modified, and it was decided that the course will be used for all outgoing students from Laurea. The persons who had run the pilot and some who were not so familiar with it yet modified the contents of the course together. A model workspace of “Go Abroad” was created in the online learning platform Optima and in future copies of the model will be easy to make for the outgoing student groups. Usability of the “Go Abroad” workspace will be evaluated once a year and the model workspace will be edited when needed. 78 Guidelines & recommendations The main conclusion of the development project is the importance to support not just the exchange, but students’ learning process as a whole. The pilot study unit “Go Abroad” has deepened the learning experience of some students remarkably. It was however clear that some students like online support better than others, and there should be a possibility to modify the course according to the needs of the students (e.g. based on earlier experiences, content of the exchange). The students also used other Internet‐based forums, e.g. other virtual courses or work spaces, during their exchange. These were partly overlapping with “Go Abroad” and resulted in decreased motivation. All in all, the discussion forum and the information included were very good, but the course assignments should be developed further. The use of the model workspace of “Go Abroad”, which was created in the pilot project, will harmonise the information and support for international student exchange and work placement in Laurea. Also the workload of international coordinators will decrease. • Support the student throughout the process (not only before and after); • Also support the learning process as a whole; • Use blended learning: also face‐to‐face meetings are necessary; • Peer support is important. 3.5.2 Virtual Window for Study Abroad - University of Tartu Pilot description Annually, approximately 300 to 400 students of the University of Tartu use the mobility support services of the central administrative office to prepare 79 themselves for a study abroad period. Information concerning related topics and requirements was partially available on the various websites of the university, and was provided to students when they came to consult a study abroad adviser at the office. Experiences from the previous years indicated that students complained of information being scattered across websites, as no comprehensive overview of all the topics involved with study abroad was available, and there was no possibility to learn from former outgoing students. Information days held did not allow as much flexibility as needed. This feedback suggested the need for the development of an online study abroad preparation course to assist students in finding comprehensive information and create a valuable tool for experience sharing among future outgoing students and students currently studying abroad. The efforts were made to integrate the existing information sources and to create informative materials on the topics that did not exist in the written form, but were just discussed during information days. The students studying abroad were invited to contribute as co‐advisors by sharing experience and giving some practical hints not necessarily discussed on official websites or information brochures. The course is targeted to those selected as outgoing students either by the university or any external authority, thus the course is not aimed at assisting students to choose their study abroad destination, but to provide input for the next stage of mobility preparation. However, the course was preceded by an university‐wide information day during which all study abroad opportunities were highlighted and the second part of mobility preparation, the online support course‐Virtual Window for Study Abroad, was introduced. I Information materials on • Study abroad regulations and rules for UT ( University of Tartu) students; • Organisational matters to be dealt with prior leaving: visas /residents permits; health insurance etc; • UT implementation of APEL ( accreditation of prior and experiential 80 learning) for courses taken abroad; • Promoting organisations of former outgoing students: ESN (Erasmus student network), tutors; • Cultural diversity, culture shock and cultural adjustment. II Vocabulary • Terminology used across the materials. III Media library • Pictures and video clips taken during study abroad period. IV Chatting space • Online forum to discuss with fellow students about accommodation options; courses available in a host institution; entertainment; typical behaviour patterns of different cultures; • Mail box. V Feedback • Evaluation form with open questions. Figure 3.7 ‐ Contents of the online support course‐Virtual Window for Study Abroad The virtual learning environment used for the study abroad preparation course is WebCT, as e‐learning, at the University of Tartu, mostly takes place in in this environment. A self registration option to enrol students to the course was used. The course is developed and administered by International Student Service staff ‐ study abroad advisors, who instructed the students the course, added information to the course and consulted students parallel to the course. Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) The first students were given access to the course in February 2008. They were the students about to leave for a hosting institution abroad. Students studying abroad at the time were requested to join the course and stay actively involved until the end June, the end of the second run of the course. Although the number of students initially joining the course was modest (around 15), as most of them had already left, the initial feedback was positive. As assumed, it indicated that the most beneficial part of the course was the support discussion forum with fellow students. The amount and 81 structure of materials displayed was generally assessed as user‐friendly and easily digestible. Yet, there were some comments on materials being too extensive and partially irrelevant. The second run of the preparation course, launched in April 2008, included around 180 future outgoing students. The ones studying abroad at the time were reminded to stay active and fully contribute to the course. The materials were reviewed, but no substantial changes adopted. Three weeks after the students were given access to the course; students’ advisors asked if there was a need to reserve time for any supplementary information workshops to cover some topics. The number of students, the question was addressed to, was ca 180, out of whom merely 15 reported back asking for additional information sessions. Most of the students replied that they might come individually to ask for some specific questions. Overall, the advisors commented that there were significantly fewer students visiting the central office for information than had previously been the case. Regrettably, there are no explicit statistical data on that. The most challenging task for the developers of the course was to create a well integrated and linked support course which would encourage students to acquaint themselves with a series of themes to facilitate mobility preparation, but to avoid it becoming exhaustive and regulative lecturing material. The administrative staff engaged with students support at UT was very supportive. The same applies for academicians who were approached to create materials on some topics. The developers said that the course somehow boosted cooperation between them and academic staff, as the latter has regarded mobility support as mostly administrative task and has been less involved. Guidelines & recommendations • The course is optional for both future outgoing students as well as for those already abroad. To make it more effective and beneficial for both groups, participating students should be able to earn credits for attending the course. The course would comprise two 82 stages: a mobility preparation stage, and later, during the study abroad period, a tutoring stage; • The course must include assignments for outgoing students which would stimulate them to familiarise themselves with all the aspects related to physical mobility experience; • Many students used the online forum to address fellow students on recognition of studies taken abroad; the forum should also involve academic personnel in charge of course transfer. To maximise their involvement, academics should be included to the course for a certain time period and that, in turn, would enforce students to compile study plans on time. To guide a group of people virtually, rather than answering individual e‐ mails, is definitely more effective time management; • This virtual preparatory initiative should also serve outgoing students during their physical study abroad stay, as very little communication takes place with fellow students in other countries at that time, and especially with their study abroad advisers at the home institution. • Information, discussion,… all can be offered together; • Input both from staff and fellow students is needed; • The discussion forum enables group advising; • Online environment should always be accessible; • Use blended learning, a virtual course should be accompanied by face‐to‐face meetings; • To make it successful, make it obligatory. 3.6 Some key issues related to e-coaching The flexibility needed to guide exchange students from a distance works in favour of e‐coaching alternatives. The e‐coach can stay in contact with 83 his/her student independent of time and place. The use of online tools facilitates continuous dialogue between the coach and the student abroad and allows for an efficient organisation of the coaching process (especially if also external teachers or experts are involved). Moreover, the implementation of e‐coaching activities can stimulate students and teachers from different institutions to learn together and to promote inter‐institutional knowledge transfer. Additionally, the e‐ coaching process is often digitally archived which implies that both student and e‐coach can keep track of and evaluate the students’ learning process. Despite the great opportunities e‐coaching has to offer for the guidance of exchange students abroad, some challenges appear as well. To overcome these, a lot depends on the skills and personality of the e‐coach or the team of e‐coaches. Online communication channels often deal with many written texts leaving out the non‐verbal aspect of communication. To avoid misunderstandings and misperceptions, good communication skills are needed. One way to assure this is to promote the use of Netetiquettes (e.g. don’t write things you would not say in a normal face‐to‐face conversation) and emoticons. Establishing mutual trust is also much more difficult online than offline. This applies even more to exchange students who have not yet met their e‐ coach on a face‐to‐face basis and usually come from different cultural backgrounds. Again also in this case, a lot depends on good agreements and the level of emotional intelligence of the e‐coach. E‐coaching requires that the users have the necessary ICT skills. In practice however, it will often be necessary to teach them how to work with electronic communication media and which tools to use for a particular setting. Good training and support systems for e‐coaches are therefore needed. Within the framework of the VM‐BASE project, two European‐oriented workshops addressing the issue of e‐coaching were organised. Experts in the field as well as higher education staff and policy makers participated in the workshops. The discussions taking place during these events revealed three main key issues to take into account when implementing e‐coaching in an institution. Although the e‐coach plays a key role in ensuring the 84 success of the process, structural support from the institution is indispensable. This ranges from a sound knowledge exchange system, the establishment of clear agreements for all parties involved on their role and tasks, to the necessary motivation and reward coming from the top‐level of the institution. Understanding and addressing these issues can make the difference between a successful or a frustrating e‐coaching experience. Given the specific setting it is necessary for the e‐coach and his/her students to establish clear agreements and guidelines on practical matters: what sort of contact will the e‐coach have with his/her students, what will the frequency of the contacts be, which communication tools will be used for what purpose,… These agreements serve an undistributed information exchange between the two sides and help to avoid misunderstandings and delays. E‐coaching implies good and established initial contacts between e‐learning units, support units and International Relations units. These are currently very often non‐existent. Coordination, communication and knowledge exchange between all however is essential. Expertise should be brought together, resources should be pooled. E‐learning units for example could be proactive in spreading awareness on multimedia etc. through workshops. In case teachers cannot specialise in the full support of ICT in exchanges, the possibility exists to become part of a team consisting of assistants or administrative staff who have the competences and skills to do so. To grow in their competences a virtual community of coaches could be set up in order for them to share experiences. Also a supervision model could be set into place and a FAQ could be provided. Successful e‐coaching depends highly on a strong institutional support structure. Last but not least, rewarding and motivating the e‐coaches for their efforts is very important. E‐coaches are often assistants (content) or technical support staff and they should be rewarded on that level. It should be accepted as a specific skill and a specific type of task/job/responsibility – within a teaching function, or within a function as administrative staff (International Office for instance). Teachers on the other hand are often overloaded with work: they have to do research and write publications but are not much rewarded to be involved with innovation in education. A 85 possible motivation for them could be to give them some time off from teaching, but also other rewarding systems should be thought of in this respect. 86 Chapter 4: Virtual Mobility Before a Physical Exchange 4.1 Introduction Preparatory virtual mobility actions support students not only at a social, cultural and linguistic level, but can also support other areas such as the course content. There are many ways in which students can virtually prepare for their physical Erasmus: virtual introductory language and culture courses, digital literacy courses, virtual pre‐selection tests, orientation modules, etc. However, so far the chance to use these kinds of courses, tests, tools and systems to facilitate the preparation of students from their home country for a stay abroad, is limited. The needs analysis performed in the framework of the ESMOS project recommends the following improvements for the phases before the exchange (Grillitsch, A., 2005): • Support on content of courses, selection of courses, learning culture; • Information on cultural matters (through a seminar on intercultural learning or an online course to help with culture shock); • Information on everyday life (accommodation, transport system, etc. e.g. through online information or by linking students preparing for a stay abroad with students who returned; • Language courses (e.g. through online courses or face‐to‐face seminars). The impact of preparatory activities on exchange students seems obvious: they will be well‐prepared, focused and more productive during their Erasmus visit. As students will be better prepared teachers will benefit as well. 87 The VM‐BASE project aimed to address the above‐mentioned needs and has set‐up several types of pilots creating orientation guidelines, developing pre‐selection tests and designed preparative courses. This chapter presents the VM‐BASE pilots as well as other cases and good practice examples, giving inspiration and recommendations to those intending to engage in similar activities. 4.2 Orientation guidelines Students do not often get enough information before they go on a physical Erasmus exchange. This ranges from very practical information about accommodation, legal affairs, and general information about the chosen host institution to up‐to‐date information on courses they can follow at the host university. Outcomes of the Victorious project (2007) show that almost all students have sought information about their host university on the Internet before they left their home university. In some universities, good information was available on the web, while in others there was no information at all. It is thus important for institutions to have complete and up to date websites with relevant academic and practical data for all students, including incoming students. Topics such as how to select a host institution for a physical Erasmus exchange programme, how to acclimatise with the institution and its location before arrival, how to establish links with new international friends while keeping links with friends at home, etc. should be included. In the following sections experiences from three pilots from the VM‐BASE project and two cases are described. They show several different ways in which this kind of ‘orientation’ information can be given to exchange students. 88 4.2.1 Virtual Buddy System – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven Pilot description Since the creation of the Erasmus mobility programmes KHLeuven has been strongly involved in those programmes and it has developed a large network of partnerships with numerous institutions for higher education throughout Europe. A study period abroad contributes to the further development of key competences that will be necessary in the students’ professional life: language skills, understanding of and cooperation with people from different cultures, different approaches to course subjects. The organisation of exchange programmes requires a lot of well‐considered planning and preparation, as well by the home and the host institution as by the students themselves. Over the years KHLeuven has developed a special introduction programme for its incoming Erasmus students, including contact with the students before their arrival, a special ‘induction week’ and plenty of formal and more informal channels of communication during the exchange. But until 2006 most of the contacts the incoming Erasmus students had before and during their exchange, were with the institutional and departmental coordinators for internationalisation. An important stakeholder, the student of the receiving institution, was only to a very small extent involved in the process of welcoming foreign students. This was all the more regrettable because the students of the host institution are an invaluable source of information when it comes to practical matters as student life in and outside the institution, getting around in town, finding places to shop and to go out. That’s why the international coordinators decided in October 2006 to introduce the ‘buddy system’. The main aims for setting up this system are: • To involve the students of the host institution more actively in the process of getting information about the cultural, educational and practical aspects of the exchange; • To gather information on the students’ needs related to physical exchanges: what information do they need, when should it be provided and by whom; 89 • To encourage personal contacts between students of the two institutions involved in the exchange. What this buddy system certainly does not aim at, is to let the students take over the role of the international coordinators. Providing essential information, especially on the academic/ educational level, clearly is the task of the international coordinators of both the home and the host institution. As already mentioned above, the buddies play a more practical role (as well before as during the exchange) and can make the integration of the exchange student in the host institution easier and swifter. The international coordinators also purposefully opted for a buddy system that started well before the exchange, continued during the actual exchange and, hopefully, even went on afterwards. Experience teaches us that foreign students not only need help during their stay at the host institution. Quite understandably they face a lot of uncertainties and therefore have a lot of questions before their arrival. Platform organisation and timing The system is integrated in the website of the KHLeuven. It is clearly visible and user‐friendly. The incoming Erasmus students go to the home page of the website and click on ‘English pages’. There they immediately find in the column on the left: need a buddy. Some essential explanation about the system is given and they can enrol online. There are three elements concerning their buddy for which they can indicate their preference: gender, country of origin and field of study at KHLeuven. 90 Figure 4.1 – The buddy system – ‘need a buddy interface’ The students of KHLeuven also go to the home page of their institution. They have to click on ‘internationalisering’ and then have the choice in the column on the left between ‘be a buddy’ and ‘buddy for a day’. If they want to be a buddy for the period before, during and after the exchange, they also have to enrol online and indicate the same preferences as the incoming Erasmus students. If they only want to help out during one day, e.g. the day of the arrival of the foreign students, the enrolment procedure is even shorter; no preferences are asked for. 91 Then it is up to the central international coordinator to make the matches and to inform both parties via e‐mail who their buddy is and how they can reach him/her. Figure 4.2 – The buddy system – ‘be a buddy interface’ 92 Figure 4.3 – The buddy system – ‘buddy for a day’ interface The system was created and put online between October and December 2006. The incoming Erasmus students of the second semester were notified of the project via e‐mail and the KHLeuven students were asked to volunteer via a message on the website. Then matches were made between the incoming Erasmus students and the KHLeuven students who had enrolled to become a buddy. Both parties were informed how to reach one another and they were encouraged to start communicating and exchanging information via e‐mail, prior to the arrival of the exchange students in February 2007. The first tryout of the project was evaluated by both the incoming students and their KHLeuven buddies in May 2007. 93 In October 2007 the project was run a second time. The system basically remained the same, but some new virtual components were added. The students were encouraged to not only use e‐mail as a virtual means of communication, but also Skype and MSN. In May 2008 the project was evaluated for the second time. Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) The project has received mainly positive feedback from the stakeholders involved. The international coordinators were pleased with the help and information that was given by the KHLeuven buddies to the foreign students. Especially the information concerning practical matters was very much appreciated. The KHLeuven buddies enjoyed the project. As benefits for themselves they mentioned: practising foreign languages (both written and spoken language), getting to know other cultures and building international friendships. They have enjoyed a lot of the benefits of an exchange programme, but without having to move physically. In the questionnaire they filled in, they unanimously stated they would do the whole project again. As to the Erasmus exchange students, they clearly saw the advantages of the buddy system. Especially in the period before their arrival and during the first couple of weeks of their stay they felt less insecure and better taken care of: there was always at least one fellow student they could turn to. Guidelines & recommendations One of the major challenges of this project is to motivate both the exchange students and the KHLeuven students to enrol. A possible means to promote this initiative among the foreign students is to put positive testimonials from foreign students who have had a buddy, on the KHLeuven website. These testimonials should highlight the benefits of having a buddy at the host institution. It would also be useful to ask the exchange students to promote the initiative among the next group of outgoing students from their home institution. 94 When it comes to stimulating the local students to enrol as a buddy for a foreign student, there are also different possibilities. Here too testimonials could prove to be effective. The buddy system can certainly be promoted as an alternative method of exchange for those students who (for one reason or another) are not able to or do not want to go on an exchange; an interesting formula of ‘internationalisation at home’. And last but not least, awarding credits to the local buddies could be a very convincing argument. In some institutions this is already being done. At the moment KHLeuven gives the local buddies a certificate, but no credits are granted. One of the main reasons is that when you grant credits, you also have to provide tools to evaluate the student’s performance. Until now KHLeuven has had no problems in finding enough students who want to be a buddy. But we are still dealing with relatively small numbers of incoming students. Will there still be sufficient candidates if the number of incoming students rises substantially? The buddy system was only used at Bachelor level, since KHLeuven only has Bachelor students. One could ask oneself the question if this system as such is equally valuable for Master and Ph. D. students. Previous experiences at the University of Tartu have indicated that exchange students at those two levels prefer more academic support and don’t require as much ‘practical’ support. You have to take into account that students at a Master and certainly at a Ph.D. level are a bit more experienced and/or older and are more focused on the academic value of their exchange. The human element in this system cannot be underestimated. Some foreign students have buddies who go to great lengths to help them; others have buddies who only do the very minimum or who let them down after the first days of their stay. And of course not all the matches are good ones. The success of the system also depends on maintaining the continuity when it comes to the people in charge of the system, e.g. what happens if there is a change of international coordinator? It is always advisable to have some written material, especially about the preparation of the buddies. 95 And buddies certainly need to be prepared. When the buddy system was launched, the international coordinators of KHLeuven scheduled an introductory meeting to brief the local buddies before they started communicating with the foreign students: they were informed about the type of information they would be asked to provide, about means of communication, about how and where to look up information, about the timetable of the ‘induction week’… There was also an evaluation meeting scheduled at the end of the project. During this evaluation it soon became clear that an interim meeting during the course of the project would have been very useful. Both groups, the local buddies as well as the foreign students, mentioned that the enthusiasm to communicate was very big before and just after the arrival of the foreign students, but that the contact disintegrated during the second half of the exchange. The novelty had worn off, the foreign students had made new contacts and were no longer feeling insecure and the local buddies were busy with their social life and the upcoming exams. Both groups mentioned that an interim meeting of the students with international coordinators could have given them a new boost. To conclude we would like to point out two things. First of all the buddy system, as mentioned above, can be of great help to the international coordinators. But at the same time the system also creates extra work for those same coordinators. Well‐considered matches have to be made, procedures have to be put into writing and the buddy system only works when sufficient preparation and guidance is given to the buddies. Secondly, although virtual technology is an excellent tool for communication and information in this project, it is only effective and lasting when it is boosted by a few interim face‐to face meetings. • The buddy as an extra source of information is a surplus; • “Internationalisation at home” is an advantage for own students; • Challenge: motivate students to enrol; 96 • Success factors to take into account are the human element, the preparation of buddies and the continuity. 4.2.2 TKK multimedia presentation and virtual student interviews – TKK Pilot description This pilot was carried out by the International Relations Office, PR & Communication Office and Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli (TKK Dipoli) at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK). The pilot consisted of two parts: TKK multimedia presentation and five student interviews, and it was conducted during the academic year 2007 – 2008. The purpose of the pilot was: • To offer general information about TKK through visual means (multimedia presentation); • To give potential exchange students the chance to hear other students’ experiences on student exchange at TKK (video interviews). The multimedia presentation is available both on DVD and on the TKK website (see figure 4.1). The advantage of the DVD is that it can also be used for promotional purposes and given to partners and other stakeholders. The student interviews will be available on the student union’s website. 97 Figure 4.4 ‐ Multimedia presentation, available on the TKK website, http://www.tkk.fi/en/index.html Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) On average, students’ feedback on the multimedia presentation and the student interviews was really positive. Focusing more on the visual means of representing information for students was considered a good thing. Students thought that both the multimedia presentation and the student interviews make a good addition to the portfolio of services for mobile students. However, they should not replace any of the existing ones. 98 The student interviews were considered more personal, and the information given through them more informal and “off‐the‐record” than in the multimedia presentation. The interviews were also seen as types of visual blogs, through which the students, who were on an exchange, could share their experiences. The high quality of the multimedia presentation, in turn, made it very suitable also for promotional purposes. Students’ feedback on the multimedia presentation and the student interviews is shown in figure 4.2. TKK multimedia presentation Student interviews • Good general information about • Personal TKK • More “off‐the‐record” • Visually impressive information • (More) suitable for promotional • A good addition to the portfolio purposes of services for mobile students • Also respond to the students’ need to share their experiences Figure 4.5 ‐ Students’ feedback on the pilot outcomes On the other hand, there were also a set of challenges associated with this pilot, one of them being the cost/quality issue. From the PR perspective, that is ‘high quality’ only. However, there should definitely be other options as well. We have distinguished the following three levels of production: • In case you follow a ‘Do it yourself’ concept, your relative production cost will be 10. Most learning material can be placed under this category; • For a more ‘advanced’ production you will need more support which indicates that your relative cost will reach 100; • Professional production, e.g. multimedia productions require a high quality which elevates your relative cost to 1000. 99 In this case, the TKK multimedia presentation can be seen as a high quality product, whereas the virtual student interviews are more ‘quick and dirty’ type of (advanced) products. Taking into account the rapidly changing environments and the organisational barriers in the academic world, the latter two levels should be more in favour. And, indeed, TKK has faced some major changes in the environment in recent years: implementation of the Bologna Process in 2005, new organisation structure (from 12 departments to 4 faculties) in 2008 and Aalto University in 2009 (merger of 3 universities). Another challenge is how to make the system alive; how to take advantage of the existing structures and, on the other hand, bring more Web 2.0 type of production thinking to universities? These types of activities not just make a good addition to the service portfolios, but can also enhance the teaching and learning processes at universities. Multimedia exchange reports or additional activities in the spoken (English) skills courses are just a few examples. • Be aware that involving all stakeholders could be a slow process which requires time; • Include cultural aspects. Personal interviews can be added to achieve this goal; • Take advantage of existing structures; • Keep in mind the cost versus quality issue. 4.2.3 Virtual Exchange of Students Mobility Experience - University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics Pilot description The University of West Hungary, Faculty of Geoinformatics is an active partner in student and teacher exchange programmes. Over the last three 100 years the students of the faculty spent scholarships months at several partner universities, located in the following countries: Austria, Germany, Poland and Spain. As a host university the Faculty of Geoinformatics was visited by students from the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. These exchanges were realised within the framework of Erasmus and Ceepus (Central European Exchange Program for University Studies). The number of exchanges available for the universities is increasing. The organisation therefore claims new solutions. Apart from the existing e‐ learning tools, collaborative work and knowledge sharing may help the organisational activity. For the VM‐BASE project, the teachers of the Faculty of Geoinformatics set up a pilot project called ‘The Virtual Exchange of Student Mobility Experience’, an online content management system focusing on outgoing students. Student motivation and the availability of useful information are of crucial importance to increase the number of exchanges and the success of the exchange programme. Students considering an exchange might be more convinced by their colleagues, who have already lived through the experience. Generally, students who are reluctant to participate, struggle with the following questions: • Why should I take part in exchange programmes? • What kind of opportunities are there? • Which partner university should I choose? In the past, the exchange students finishing their mobility activities provided a text document with photos or presentations of their experiences. The amount of useful information in these documents was minimal because only a few topics were dealt with. This is why a new method was developed at the Faculty of Geoinformatics. The set‐up of a collaborative, online content management system appeared to be a suitable alternative. During the exchange, the students report their experiences in online diaries or blogs. A diary or blog can contain some private or public data that is being categorised through tags. They can use free tagging in order to categorise the blog entries. 101 Through the combination of all the blog entries, a thematic information set is organised named Mobility Guide. Students who spend a learning period at a partner university regularly refresh information related to this institution in the Mobility Guide. Through this categorisation, outgoing students may find the right answers to their questions (see figure 4.6). Figure 4.6 ‐ Mobility guide concepts (Kottyan, 2007) Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) The Mobility Guide is part of the new Mobility Portal that was implemented on the Drupal content management system. Two essential features of the Drupal system were used to create the guide. The blog module allows every registered user, in this case every scholarship student, to maintain an individual online diary. Blogs consist of 102 individual posts that are ‘time stamped’ and tagged by students. At present a post can contain texts and pictures on the portal. The Mobility Guide consists of selected information from diaries using the book module. A book is a set of pages organised into a structure. Drupal automatically provides links to navigate on pages and a navigation menu can be enabled on the site. The pilot is in its first run, so it is too early to know what kind of changes might have to be implemented in the future. Experience shows however that students find the portal easy to use for blogging. Guidelines & recommendations • To implement a system like this, it is highly recommended to use a content management system that has some modules and can be customised according to the requirements; • To integrate the ‘diary part’, it is best to use a blog module; • It seems a good idea to allow the students to administer their own blogs. In this case they also involve friends to comment on their posts. This way the site can turn into a community site; • The organising and structuring tool we used is the ‘book module’ of Drupal. It can also be implemented using a wiki module or a similar tool. It is however important to provide a user‐friendly interface to students that can be edited easily. • Use a content management system; • Provide the possibility to tag; • Provide an easy interface. 103 4.2.4 Case: ESN Galaxy ESN (‘the Erasmus Student Network’), a non‐profit international student organisation that fosters student mobility in higher education under the principle of ‘students helping students’ has created a webbased platform called ‘ESN Galaxy’. This platform based on the new Web2.0 technology brings together all the sections of the network allowing them to communicate and share information real time. News from local sections are automatically collected from local websites and displayed on the central one. All local websites contain both ‘community information’ (every kind of content that makes the community stronger: forums, guestbook, photos, etc…) as well as ‘helpful information’ (useful information with helping purpose: housing system, job offer, information about the host city, etc.) Centralising all information allows exchange students to immediately have an overview of what is going on in the network and they can, for example, look for accommodation or get information on their host country. ESN Galaxy also supports local sections by provision of web‐based services (Boomans V. et al., 2008). http://galaxy.esn.org Figure 4.7 ‐ ESN Galaxy web interface 104 4.2.5 Case: Distributed Campus Distributed Campus is developed by the Freie Universitaet Berlinʹs Competence Center e‐Learning / Multimedia, the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) in cooperation with several other institutions and programmes. The Distributed Campus supports international students in their preparation for study abroad stay at the Freie Universitaet Berlin by offering a multimedia online portal including a number of components. The DC‐timeline feature offers a systematic checklist to accompany students through programmable pre‐departure activities, starting with the application, through questions concerning passports and visas, to arrival in Berlin. This checklist is customizable by organisation, including the fixing of group departure dates and including activities specific to a studentʹs enrolled group. Students following this timeline can be confident that they will get done what they need to get done on time and in the right way to ensure a successful year abroad. DC‐Content describes everyday and university life, offers information about Germany and the city of Berlin, and useful hints for living in the new cultural environment. It also includes a search and translation function. The tasks on the timeline are linked to the DC‐Content and other resources, and are attractively illustrated. The DC‐German layer offers online lessons in German vocabulary and communication skills at the intermediate level to prepare the students for everyday communication. DC‐Management allows different exchange programmes to configure the application for their specific groups of users, including the selection of relevant topics and contact information for their particular programme. These components are integrated customisable so that users experience a personalised working environment. http://www.distributed‐campus.org 105 4.3 Course information and credit transfer Students who go on an exchange often find out once they are abroad that they are unable to follow the courses selected prior to their departure: courses simply do not exist any longer, courses appear to be only available in the local language, it is not possible to attend courses because of overlapping timetables, etc. This problem is attributable to unsuitable courses being selected by the student and inadequate or outdated information about courses on university websites. When abroad it proves to be very time consuming to rectify the situation and select new courses. Sometimes it is even not possible anymore for the student to get ECTS recognition for the newly selected courses. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the annual survey of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) reveal that slightly more than half of all Erasmus students receive full recognition of their courses taken abroad. This is supported by the Trend IV report of the European University Association (EUA) which claims a continuous problem of course recognition and ʺ[...] overcomplicated application procedures [...]ʺ as immense barriers towards student mobility. Online information on courses that mobile students can take could easily be provided beforehand. Institutions should ensure that correct information is available (on their websites) before the students start their virtual or physical courses abroad. Recommendations given by the participants of the Virtual Mobility Forum in this respect are (1) to provide a searchable database of courses and programmes, which fulfils the ECTS‐label requirements (2) to make sure (course) information and website are not only available in the local language but also at least in English (3) to put information not only on the university website but also test if the information is available via the European portals PLOTEUS and Study‐in‐Europe. The issue of the provision of course information and credit transfer – although an important one ‐ was not directly addressed in the VM‐BASE project. There has been and is some activity around this topic in other projects though. 106 For virtual mobility courses, the Net‐ACTIVE project (2005‐2007, coordinated by UNED) for example has developed a ʺVirtual Mobility Schemeʺ which allows students to follow some modules of quality distance learning programmes from European Masters courses belonging to NetACTIVE. The system ensures that the credits obtained will be recognised by the university in which they are enrolled. The PRIME ‐ Problems of Recognition In Making Erasmus project (2008‐ 2009, coordinated by ESN) will conduct research among higher education institutions and their faculties on the procedures applied to outgoing Erasmus and other exchange students. The results will deliver a detailed picture about course recognition and the actual recognition process upon return of exchange students in Europe. 4.4 Pre-selection tools & student selection Tools and tests to assess themselves in how far they are prepared for the studies at the host institute of their choice are another possibility to enhance the orientation and preparation phase of exchange students. From the teachers point of view it is also important to be able to select the best students beforehand and have well‐prepared students who reach a certain study level for following a particular course and have the necessary language and other skills. In this respect it could therefore be useful to have a procedure to select the best students. When paper applications are not sufficient, student selection can happen via electronic means, such as webconferencing, allowing teaching staff to visualise the candidate and to check the study level, social and language skills of the student. One VM‐BASE pilot and two cases are presented here sharing the experiences of students and teachers with a few tools that could be used for assessment or selection. 107 4.4.1 Online education and evaluation tool of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Pilot description The International Master in Physiotherapy is a two‐year Master programme in English at K.U.Leuven, aimed at foreign kinesiology students who already have a bachelor degree. Experiences from an existing international programme at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences showed the differences in level of statistical knowledge between bachelor students from K.U.Leuven and bachelor students from institutions abroad. This was probably due to the great emphasis K.U.Leuven imposes on statistics and research methods in general in comparison to other institutions. For this reason, the programme officer decided to develop a tool to test and improve the statistical knowledge of foreign students, prior to their arrival at the university. To that end, two courses on statistics, taught at the faculty, were converted to an online version and integrated in Toledo, the Blackboard platform of K.U.Leuven, resulting in an online testing‐ and learning tool. The tests make use of Questionmark Perception. The learning platform is built up out of learning units. 108 Figure 4.8 – Blackboard environment K.U.Leuven (Toledo) Figure 4.9 – Online testing and learning platform 109 After an initial test the user is being redirected to the learning platform. In case the user fails the test, he/she is being advised to review the theory of the respective chapter, in case he/she passes the test he/she can move on to the next chapter. The learning units can be downloaded and printed in PDF format. A website manual and a discussion board are integrated to offer support to users. Students are expected to post their questions and remarks on the discussion board to allow fellow students to give answers. The course team only intervenes when wrong solutions to exercises are posted. Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) In general the tool received positive reactions from the different stakeholders involved. Professors in research methods at the faculty where enthusiastic towards the initiative, given their experiences with the low level of statistical knowledge of foreign students. The bachelor students from K.U.Leuven, who were involved in the developing process, seemed to like the platform as such but did not understand why this tool was being created for and used by foreign students and not by them. For this reason, K.U.Leuven bachelor students were also given access and made use of the theory, exercises and tests to prepare for their exams. After trying out the tool, the foreign students confirmed their need to improve their level of statistical knowledge. In the beginning the level of exercises even caused some panic amongst the students. Although students get access after approval of their file, the team noticed that they only start using it actively in the summer months. This is probably due to the fact that at the moment of getting access, most students are still involved in and occupied with other study programmes etc. The developer of the tool has experienced considerable challenges during the process. Different departments of the university were involved to offer support regarding technical and pedagogical matters. It proved to be rather hard from time to time to reach the right people for support or to streamline communication between supporting departments. The 110 continuous evolution of online tools, like the Questionmark Perception module, was considered to be another challenge. Guidelines & recommendations • It is advisable to conduct some benchmarking as preparation before starting to develop an online platform instead of starting from scratch; • Students are given access to the tool after their file is approved. At this point they are not yet enrolled at K.U.Leuven. This procedure allows for students to check out their abilities to succeed in the International Master before they make their decision to enrol; • To develop and maintain an online tool, demands a lot of effort and might increase the workload substantially. It is therefore advisable to engage one person to conduct the task and to be really focused in getting the job done. This will contribute to the quality of the online modules and opens possibilities to really follow‐up the users. Even more important is to ensure continuity in work. ‐ It has proven to be quite difficult to have a personnel shift in the middle of the developing phase; • The developing team has chosen to only put material online that is not liable to constant updates. This reduces maintenance afterwards and decreases the workload substantially; • Providing a discussion board as support tool might allow for the foreign students to interact and to get acquainted with each other before their arrival at K.U.Leuven. So far the developers have not yet exploited this option. • Provide access to the tool already before they come to the institution; • Be aware that to develop and maintain an online tool, a lot of effort is demanded; 111 • Put material online that is not liable to constant updates. 4.4.2 Case: Student selection through webconferencing for Erasmus Mundus Master Programme Adapted Physical Activity From the teachers point of view it is also important to have well‐prepared students who reach a certain study level for following a particular course and who have the necessary language and other skills. In this respect it could be very useful to have a procedure to select the best students. Student selection can happen via electronic means, such as videoconferencing or webconferencing, allowing teaching staff to put a face on a candidate and to check social and language skills. In the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Adapted Physical Activity (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), user‐friendly communication tools were used for the selection of students. Students accepted into Erasmus Mundus programmes receive substantial grants from the European Commission during their studies. The organisers of the programmes are hence under the obligation to select the best students for their programme. To get a better picture of the capabilities of potential students, traditional paper‐ based selection has been complemented with virtual communication. The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven tested this idea in the framework of the REVE project. The coordinators chose a two‐tier selection procedure. The first phase was based on a traditional paper application. The second phase included a virtual selection interview for the withheld candidates using FlashMeeting, a webconferencing tool developed by the Open University UK. The teachers and staff members who took part in this pilot selection procedure were very satisfied with the results. The introduction of webconference‐based selection answered a growing need with the programme organisers who were increasingly confronted with the shortcomings of paper‐based selection. Especially the assessment of students’ language skills played a key role in choosing this methodology. 112 4.4.3 Case: M.A.S.T.E.R. Mobility, Assessment, Selection, Technology and E-learning Research Master students of European universities dispose of very different levels of previous knowledge. This causes high drop‐out rates in the respective study programmes. Preparatory and remedial courses can lead to an increase of study success (higher completion rates in a shorter time‐span). The M.A.S.T.E.R. project (2006‐2008, coordinated by Maastricht University) aimed at the development of online courses for prospective master students. The project has been implementing on the one hand an innovative learning environment to facilitate prospective European master degree students in their selection process by ensuring more informed decision making, and providing online preparation for a master programme. On the other hand, it tried to improve the opportunities of universities to better inform students about their programmes. Because of this, students should be able to make a more informed choice, refresh or attain the required skills and form a bond with the university at an early stage. M.A.S.T.E.R provides guidelines for programme directors who want to create online assessments that show prospective students the content of a master programme and the required levels, transferable (topic independent) didactical scenarios for remediation of lacks in knowledge, skills or competences and a set of instructions for staff members involved in online distance education. http://www.masterproject.info 4.5 Preparatory courses The final report of the UK Socrates Erasmus Council on Experience Erasmus reveals that two thirds of the institutions considered that competence in the host language is important for Erasmus students. Language training was provided in the host country in many cases. However, relatively little language training was provided in the host 113 country. (…) Arrangements for or provision of language training is not sufficient, not always well known, or not appropriate (…) There should be wider provision of and better publicised, language courses in the home institution, taught as a tool across all disciplines. However, not only language courses (acquiring basic skills in the language of the host country) but also culture courses (about the history and culture of the host country, and the structure, organisation and academic traditions of the host institution) and digital literacy courses (if particular ICT systems, e.g. a digital learning environment, are in use in the host institution, that require prior training) are beneficial for exchange students. Although they do already exist in most higher education institutions, they often do not yet exist in a virtual form or are not easily accessible for Erasmus students. Again some examples and cases of such courses are described below. 4.5.1 Multilingual Survival Kit in GIS - University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics Pilot description Studies in the Faculty of Geo‐informatics in Székesfehervar are very specific. A good knowledge of the specific and technical vocabulary used during the practical and fieldwork is fundamental. On the one hand the pilot aimed to prepare incoming students to the use of Hungarian. On the other hand, outgoing students also need training in German and English language. Because of this, the decision was made to initially develop a trilingual course in English, German and Hungarian. Within the framework of the pilot, a wiki has been developed. Participants collaborate to develop a compilation of vocabulary and terms linked to the GIS topic. One teacher coaches these participants. A first run took place in February 2008 with a group of 4 Erasmus students. In July 2008 there were two parallel runs. One focused on English – Hungarian – German, the other on English and Russian for a specific group 114 of people (Kazak and Tajik teachers from a Tempus project, coming to Hungary for training on GIS in August). Each course was developed in the virtual learning environment of Moodle software and integrated into the online VGEO portal. Each course contains guidelines (requirement, how to edit in a wiki), a wiki activity, several forums and a questionnaire template in order to collect feedback. Students access the platform on the faculties’ website. Figure 4.10 – Multilingual survival kit ‐ Course structure Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) First run Second run Participants started to work directly on Special recommendation before the start: do the wiki ask the participants to introduce themselves No participant knows the expectations on a forum (created for this purpose). 115 or language skill of the other This enhances collaborative work, interaction participants. Everybody writes the wiki and organisation between participants. The for himself. No collaboration between goal is that participants know what the participants to fulfil the trilingual goal. interests, expectations and skills are of the No interaction. others, so they can make a choice on their input, interact and organise easily. Teacher helps if the participants don’t manage to organise themselves and assign tasks. Before starting the development, insist on the writing conventions for ex: “all the links must be done following this standard [English term – Hungarian term – German term]. If you don’t know 2 languages write this [English term ‐ ??? ‐ ???] “ In the wiki, first write in black, remark and proposals of the teacher in red, corrections and proposals of participants in green All in one (free choice of the topics and Development step by step: 3 written articles) 1 – Find as many categories as possible = Participants get a bit lost. insure the wiki focus on all the important They don’t really know on what subject topics (or “categories”) = insure a large and to start. They wrote three articles, chose complete cover = insure the basis of the wiki the easiest subject for them, and favour architecture. copy/paste solutions. 2 – develop the categories in details = insure The trilingual goal was not reached. that each category has a rich vocabulary = Development was heterogeneous. continue to develop the architecture The vocabulary gathered was poor. 2bis – at the bottom of each category page, The method was not adapted to a participants can add action verbs linked to the heterogeneous group (language topic of the page. knowledge + GIS knowledge) 3 – Articles can be developed to describe each term. Coaching… difficult… Effective coaching The teacher also got lost because the The teacher keeps control on the development wiki had an anarchic development. at each step. All participants are doing the Difficult to back up… no solution! same task so the teacher is not lost. He can give some new idea about topic to discover and/or develop. He can stop a participant if he think one category is enough detailed. Ask to several participants to work together on a category. With the historic, he can see who has difficulties and can be effective by giving additional explications to people. When a step 116 is validated, the next one can start. Wiki at the end: Wiki at the end: Really minimal (on technical terms, no Large coverage translation). Structure is well balanced. Not elaborated architecture The trilingual aspect is reached. Low quality of the information gathered. Students discovered some aspects they didn’t know (knowledge was effectively shared). The wiki is rich and well organised For participants: Progressively but surely, everybody learned ‐ Beginners get lost quickly, impossible something: to learn vocabulary from articles when Beginners focus on the cross referencing of the vocabulary is spread on 3 different words in several languages in order to pages, lost in the text of the article. What increase their knowledge of language. they need is seeing the 3 version of each Advanced learners focus on discovering new word on the same line! Then they can aspects, more elaborated topics, and also work add their ideas (even if not complete) on their knowledge of the vocabulary. and follow the development and learn day after day. Guidelines & recommendations • For a lively community: involve as many participants as possible (even if they have different levels); ask them to introduce themselves when you start to run the pilot if participants don’t know each other (create a forum with this topic). Participants can write about themselves, the languages they know, what they expect, how they think they can participate, interact and organise; • Create step by step guidelines and display it also step by step. Start by short and simple guidelines describing simple exercises and finish with more complex tasks. Experience shows that if you ask things that are too complicated at the beginning, it can be a deterrent. If participants enjoy their tasks from the beginning, they quickly become addicted to the wiki and the collaborative community works and you can ask them more than expected; 117 • The choice of the activities is strategic and essential. The activities must take into consideration the language knowledge of the participants; • Heterogeneous level is not a problem when the wiki activity starts with simple tasks (for example beginners just write words). Intermediate level and participants who are familiar with the language can look for more specific topics (organisation, choice of the categories) and write articles as a third step; • The brainstorming activity to find categories has 3 very important advantages: It requires an active participation. The categorisation aspect aims that participants can weigh the importance of terms, regroup subcategories, structure their thinking; Copy/paste is useless; People with heterogeneous levels in one language can participate because at the beginning the brainstorming exercise is easy. They can also follow the development made by others and learn progressively new terms, words, and expressions. This is not possible if they faced some complicated articles in 3 languages on 3 different pages…; • The teacher has an important role as coach and moderator: Although the usual habit with a wiki is to give people freedom (which is what was done in the first run), it is better to keep them under control. The pedagogical aspects were also more important than expected at the beginning; • Recommend this type of activity to people who want to prepare students with language on a precise subject; • When doing e‐coaching you have several possibilities. You can send general mail with your suggestions or write your comments and suggestions directly on the pages in the wiki. If you expect the discussion to get complicated, it is better to use the forum option. When the wiki starts to be developed, there are comments spread over many pages. We recommend you to create a page that gathers the address of the pages where you expect some input. 118 • Participants should introduce themselves and their language skills; • Respect the ‘three step process’; • Display guidelines step by step. Respecting these guidelines will increase the student satisfaction; • Categorisation of brainstorming is important/strategic; • Always have an eye on the content, do real coaching, control each day; 4.5.2 Case: Electronic language tests for outgoing students at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven The electronic language tests have been created by ILT (the K.U.Leuven language centre), responding to a request of the Faculty of Law at K.U.Leuven. The Faculty wanted to introduce language requirements, demanding a basic knowledge from their students before they leave for the foreign country. The tests are open to students of other faculties as well, despite the fact that language requirements are generally less strict in these other faculties. In those cases, the tests serve merely to explore the students’ language level. Outgoing students from the Law Faculty, who fail the basic test, have to attend a language course and add the acquired certificate to their Erasmus file. The language tests are electronic and take place once a year at the universities’ computer room. This implies that students do not have the possibility to take the tests at home on their own computer. The tests are not integrated into the universities’ Blackboard learning environment, but are accessible through a secured gateway on the website of the language centre. The test consists of multiple‐choice questions. 119 Students have to ‘click’ one right answer. As is often the case with multiple‐choice tests, a ‘gambling‐correction’ is included (students get one extra point for a correct answer; false answers get minus one point). Each question has a limited answering time (40 – 50 seconds). A ticking clock is present on the screen. Figure 4.11 – Online language tests ‐ Example of an online question The overall reaction of outgoing Erasmus students towards the electronic language tests is positive, despite the fact that some Law students are unhappy with the fact that a language requirement has been imposed by their faculty. Students often assess their own language level too high, which might result in dissatisfaction with the results. The qualification percentage was 39.5%. 120 Chapter 5: Virtual Mobility After a Physical Exchange 5.1 Introduction Not only is support necessary before students leave on an exchange, but after students come back from an exchange some kind of follow‐up is desirable. Return activities aim not only at debriefing the student/teacher and evaluating the mobility experience, but also at reinforcing the social and content‐oriented networks that have arisen during the actual period abroad. This chapter again describes several VM‐BASE pilots and centres on two main themes: virtual assessment and evaluation of exchange students at a distance and virtual alumni. It presents the results of the study that was made within the framework of the project on how to set up and support a Virtual Alumni Association as a community of students and teachers who embarked on physical and virtual mobility activities. 5.2 Virtual assessment and evaluation at a distance It is important to consider ways that virtual assessment and evaluation at a distance can be combined with physical attendance at examinations, at the end of an Erasmus stay. This could take place once a student is back in their home institution. The VM‐BASE project was not aiming at the development of new ICT tools, but rather at the effective use of existing tools helping teachers in both the host and the home institution to evaluate and to assess a stay in another institution. Those tools can support common evaluation by teachers at home and in the host institution together, or can be used for evaluation 121 when students are no longer in the foreign country, e.g. when they have failed an exam, or when they need to finish project work after their stay abroad. 5.2.1 Virtual feedback and information system - Laurea University of Applied Sciences Pilot description This pilot project aimed to develop Laurea’s mobility‐related feedback system so that it would be better placed to support the internationally mobile students’ reflection of their own experiences. Also it wanted to produce information for the prospective and future exchange students in an interesting and useful way. It continued the work done in the first pilot (‘Go abroad’ study unit supporting international mobility before, during and after exchange) by concentrating on linking the after mobility phase to the pre‐mobility phase; including both planning to go on an exchange and preparing for the exchange phases. Laurea collects feedback from all mobile students after they return home as part of Laurea’s quality assurance system. The feedback is collected through an online questionnaire, which contains both multiple choice‐ questions and open questions on quality, suitability and usefulness of mobility services and support offered by Laurea and host institution, as well as success of the mobility itself. Students are also asked to fill out a short description or report of the exchange experience at the end of the questionnaire. The purpose of this is to give information and advice to fellow students on the mobility experience. The experiences from Laurea’s outgoing exchange students have been published in an International Relations Management System (IRMS) data base, which is open to all students and staff. The IRMS is an online filing system with factual information about Laurea’s international partner institutions abroad. The student experiences have been placed under the host partner institution in question, with the idea in mind that they will help prospective mobile students decide on the suitable target country, 122 institution and form of mobility for themselves. However, the experiences gathered with the feedback questionnaire have been mostly brief, in text format only and not including much reflection of students own experiences. This limits their usability for the prospective and future outgoing exchange students. New ICT‐tools, e.g. virtual diaries, blogs, pictures and video could have been used more effectively to gather and present information in a more appealing way. Feedback collected from students shows that they seldom stop to think what they really have learnt during their exchanges: language and cultural skills are evident, personal development as well, but especially their professional development is something they do not stress. Advice given to other students is also often very superficial (e.g. “It was the best time of my life, I really recommend going on an exchange!”) despite the very specific questions about studies at host institutions and practicalities at target area / country the students had before they went on their exchange. In the pilot study unit ‘Go abroad’ (supporting international mobility before, during and after exchange) students were tasked to keep an online diary, either using a blog or the diary in the e‐learning environment, and to participate in the online discussions. These aimed at enforcing reflection and sharing of advice among students on an exchange and those preparing to go on exchange. One student, in his after mobility phase, commented on the importance of delivering information from former exchange students to future exchange students this way: “I did not write a diary at all, as I am not a writer type. But I see its importance now: a student who is preparing to leave for a country would like to read experiences of another student who has been to that specific country.” The pilot, aimed at developing Laurea’s mobility‐related feedback system so that it would better support the mobile students’ reflection of their own experiences and also to produce information for the prospective and future exchange students in an interesting and useful way. It can be divided into three elements: 123 • Developing the quality assurance feedback questionnaire to raise response percentage and to improve contents regarding the description on mobility experience; • Improving or creating a new way to present outgoing mobility experiences to prospective mobile students; • Continuing the development of the ‘Go abroad’ study unit towards reflecting on exchange experiences and sharing them with future exchange students. A group of international coordinators and students who had returned from their exchanges in January 2008 were brought together to discuss these developments and to plan practical activities for achieving pilot aims in a feedback session April 2008. The group first tackled the development of the existing feedback questionnaire. After research about the technical restrictions and considering the role of quality assurance feedback and the ‘Go abroad’ study unit, it was decided that only the wording of the online feedback questionnaire would be adjusted to better gather students’ experiences and to encourage students to share pictures, videos, blogs and websites. The experiences would still have to be to be manually transferred from the feedback questionnaire to the presentation form, but it was considered a better solution than having overlapping feedback forms or creating yet another form for students to fill out, as these would decrease motivation to fill out any feedback forms. From the beginning of 2008 Laurea had started to use a new intranet as the main communication channel for staff and students. Later in the spring a new customer relations management (CRM) system began its pilot phase. The new CRM system includes international cooperation partners, but will be for staff use only. These developments ensured that was a good time to create a fresh way of presenting student mobility experiences. The group considered different online possibilities, such as pages in the intranet and wiki, but decided to create an interactive map that would present Laurea’s students opportunities for student exchanges (i.e. Laurea’s international partner institutions abroad) through student experiences and a few facts, using pictures, videos and links as much as possible. The idea was to make 124 the map fun to explore, thus acting as a motivator for student mobility and a place for linking different information. Figure 5.1 ‐ The online, Google‐based map ‐ http://opko.laurea.fi/opas/kv.htm 125 A Google‐based map was chosen due to its usability and features. The map was put together by two incoming exchange students during their internship at one of Laurea’s research & development environments in May‐June 2008. Their task included contacting Laureaʹs former exchange students and collecting information from several sources, researching the feature possibilities Google offers for the map, planning and carrying out the design of the map and filling out information for each international student mobility partner. The students were able to give insight and use their own experiences in designing the map in a matter that is clear and easy to use for a student who is thinking of going on a student exchange. The purpose of the map presenting outgoing student mobility possibilities is to encourage students towards mobility and to inspire them about internationality. This is the initial step towards going abroad. The map is targeted to prospective exchange students. Once the decision to go abroad has been made, the future exchange students require more information, but specifically about the target area /country they have chosen. This information is at best provided by the exchange students who have been on an exchange at the same area/country, and can thus be best delivered within the ‘Go abroad’ study unit, where students in their after or during mobility reflect their exchange experiences and share them with future exchange students. 126 Figure 5.2 ‐ Screenshot of a diary at ‘Go Abroad’ study unit’s e‐learning space Questions in ‘Go abroad’ study unit’s online assignment form and diary were modified to avoid overlapping re‐quests for feedback and to better support exchange students to reflect and provide advice for the future exchange students. Questions, such as the following were added to the ‘My Exchange Experience’ assignment form, in its ‘After the exchange’ section (questions 1‐3 are in the ‘Before the exchange’ section). “8. Reflect on your answer to question number 1. Consider what kind of benefits your student exchange or work placement abroad gave you, especially from the point of view of your studies and your future career.” “9. Reflect on your answers to questions number 2 and 3. Consider what you learned about the target country, area and culture before starting the exchange, and what you experienced during the exchange. Did your experience of the host 127 culture match your expectations? Could you have prepared yourself for culture shock better?” The main outcomes of the pilot are the developed feedback collection system and developed international student mobility information tool. In addition, the study unit supporting student mobility before, during and after mobility has been further developed. These outcomes ‘close the circle’ of student mobility linking the different phases: getting interested in international mobility ‐> preparing for mobility ‐> reflecting the outcomes of mobility ‐> providing information for potential mobile students. AFTER THE EXCHANGE feedback Information for DURING THE prospective exchange students EXCHANGE APPLYING FOR Sharing reflections on exchange experiences with future exchange students BEFORE THE EXCHANGE Figure 5.3 ‐ Closing the circle by improving links between feedback given and information provided Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) The outcomes of the pilot project have not yet been fully utilised and therefore cannot be evaluated. The pilot project group however anticipates that the changes made to the ‘Go abroad’ study unit in order to further encourage reflection will deepen students learning experience remarkably, as the results from previous pilots’ evaluation show that students greatly appreciated the reflective discussions online. The new international student mobility information tool (the map) is also expected to be of great 128 assistance to prospective exchange students. This was indicated by the initial comments from former exchange students while information for the map was being gathered. An example: “Your idea seems like a very good one! I wish there was such information source when I was planning my trip!” The three elements developed during the pilot will be in use and evaluated throughout academic year 2008‐2009. Evaluation will take place in three themes: (a) development in quantity and quality of feedback given, (b) information acquisition before exchange and (c) influence of reflection to learning. Forms of evaluation will include the online quality assurance feedback survey which students fill out after returning to home institution as part of the regular exchange evaluation, an evaluation discussion with international coordinators during the academic year and collecting experiences from outgoing students during the on‐going ‘Go abroad’ course. Special emphasis will be put on the pilot’s outcomes during all feedback gathering from outgoing exchange students. Use of the international student mobility information map will be promoted with a poster campaign. Guidelines & recommendations The experiences and advice from former exchange students are generally most valuable to students thinking of going on an exchange, or preparing for an exchange. It is not however easy to link the supply (reflections on experiences international mobility, feedback) and demand (first general information in easy, fun form, then specific information on target institution / area / country). Using virtual tools allows for the information be gathered and published without restrictions of time and place. However technical points of view and possible need for editing should also be considered. The next step of distributing information about international mobility is using the feedback and experiences of exchanges in teaching (especially the reflections of professional experiences). 129 • Motivate students to write what they have learned during an exchange; • Experiences and advice from former exchange students are valuable to students thinking of going on an exchange; • Using virtual tools allows for this kind of information to be gathered and published easily. 5.2.2 Exam aquarium - TKK Pilot description An exam aquarium is a camera‐guarded and computer‐equipped room reserved for writing exams. It is a web‐based examination system, which requires special software designed explicitly for writing exams. In the aquarium, a student independently takes an exam at a time suitable for him/herself. Teachers create the question database. The purpose of this pilot was to determine the suitability of exam aquarium at TKK. Additionally, we wanted to investigate the possibilities of bringing more flexibility for the incoming and outgoing exchange students; whether one could sit an exam also for another (foreign) institution, not just for TKK. Altogether, eight courses and five examiners participated in the pilot. Additionally, students were able to re‐write their maturity tests. The pilot was carried out by the Department of Surveying, Main Library, Teaching and Learning Development, Language Centre and The Student Union of Helsinki University of Technology. During the pilot (academic year 2007 – 2008), the exam aquarium was physically located at the Main Library (see figures 5.4 and 5.5). 130 Figure 5.4 ‐ Exam aquarium at TKK Main Library (TietäNet 2/2007) Figure 5.5 ‐ Exam aquarium ‐ under video surveillance (TietäNet 2/2007) 131 Several Finnish universities have already adopted the exam aquarium, and the overall experiences have been positive. We have also listed some of the strengths and weaknesses of exam aquarium in figure 5.6. Strengths Weaknesses Student perspective: Student perspective: • More flexibility; • No straight contact between the • Re‐writing of exams easier; teacher and the student; • Time saving; • Threat to equal grading. • Possibility for self‐assessment; • (Exchange) students could sit Teacher perspective: exams also for other institutions. • Creating the question database may be time‐consuming especially Teacher perspective: at the beginning; • More structured essay answers, • Continuous exam writing; no more deciphering of difficult • No straight contact between the handwritings (teachers); teacher and the student; • Time saving; • Challenges in the technical field – • Possibility to give feedback on the how to solve mathematical exam answers. problems? Figure 5.6 – Strengths and weaknesses of the exam aquarium Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) During the pilot, feedback was gathered from all project‐participating parties (students, teachers and library staff), and the general opinion was really positive. The exam aquarium was considered suitable for all courses and, especially, for exams including essays and multiple choice questions. Also challenges associated with the use of mathematical signs and calculation, as well as the few technical problems still need to be faced. All students involved in the project were willing to use the exam aquarium also in the future. Privacy (68% of respondents), flexibility in entering and taking exams (59% of respondents) and possibility to structure and revise one’s answers (36% of respondents) were some of the major strengths according to students. The weaknesses, in turn, included small writing space and limited text processing and editing (14% of respondents). 132 Teachers saw the exam aquarium, first and foremost, as a service for students, not a mainstream type of activity. This naturally raised the question of motivation – are the teachers really motivated to continue working with the exam aquarium? The library staff, in turn, was very pleased with the experiment and interested in continuing the work. They were responsible for the reception of students during the pilot. Guidelines & recommendations Based on the experiences gained in this pilot (including feedback from users), the following recommendations concerning the establishment of exam aquarium were outlined. Special attention should be paid to exam supervision, software and administration, in case the students are given the opportunity to sit exams also for other institutions. Technically, it should not be a problem. The location needs to meet certain standards and therefore requires: • Enough table space; • Enough space and computers for all examinees; • Storage for personal belongings; • Video surveillance possibly with real‐time supervision; • Possibility to take exams also in the evenings and weekends; • Possibility of extension. Responsibility for the exam aquarium, its development and maintenance should be on a permanent administrative unit. If the responsibility is through a single department, as in this pilot, there is a risk that the exam aquarium is not taken enough advantage of. Long‐term development is neither possible, if the responsibility is project‐based. The supervision was done via recording surveillance cameras and by the library staff, which not only identified the examinees, but also followed the actual exam through the surveillance cameras. Teachers had the opportunity to see the video recordings afterwards. Recommendations regarding supervision: • Recording video surveillance is the base of supervision; 133 • Identification of examinees either in person or by computer (entrance cards); • Real‐time supervision in addition to recording video surveillance; • Examiners are not likely to go through all video recordings extensively, because it is too time‐consuming, so the supervision needs to be taken care of some other way; • All video recordings need to be available on the Internet. • The software used in this pilot was, in principle, quite suitable for TKK’s purposes. The need for further development mainly focused on the following properties: Possibility to print out the question database and exams to be graded; Possibility to use mathematical signs; Examiners need to be able to alter the (predetermined) assignment scores later; Possibility of exam simulation for teachers; Diversification of feedback properties. If the exam aquarium is regularised, common rules and regulations need to be established. Some of these central issues include: • The allowed number of exams / student / course; • The allowed number of exam enrolments; • The allowed time to spend on grading. Regardless of the software, the existing service level requires at least the following improvements: • Mathematical signs and calculation: the use of mathematical signs and calculation is quite common at TKK and, therefore, much attention should be paid to its implementation to the examination system; • Printing possibility in the exam aquarium: the examinee could e.g. print out an assignment, then work on it and, finally, scan it back into the computer; • Smooth grading process; 134 • Smooth supervision process: ensuring extensive supervision for reasonable workload; • Software package management in the exam aquarium: there may be exams, in which the examinee is not allowed to use certain software. One solution could be to have several computers with different software combinations. • Sustainability is a challenge, there is no one anymore at TKK to continue the project (money issues); • Professionalisation/quality assurance is important; • The system offers true flexibility but not automatically. 5.2.3 Supporting oral exams at a distance for the Master of European Social Security – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Pilot description The Master programme European Social Security provides a specialised, highly research based study of social security from a legal, economic, social policy, administrative and philosophical perspective based on a strong comparative framework which focuses upon the provision of social protection right across Europe. This post‐graduate programme combines electronic long‐distance learning from home with two short stays of ten days each at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The programme can be followed on a full‐time (1 year) or part time (2 years) basis. The Master programme blends regular with distance learning: students receive introductory courses in Leuven at the start of the academic year after which they study from their own campus or home supported by an (e‐) coach. Assessment is also blended: open book exams take place online, written exams in a remote coordination centre and oral exams at the end of the year, back in Leuven. 135 In the academic year 2007‐2008 not all oral examinations however could be organised face‐to‐face in Leuven. Some of the enrolled students came from countries where there was no remote coordination centre while the oral defence of the paper at the end of the Master was made obligatory. A solution was found in the set up of oral examinations at a distance, supported by webconferencing. The support unit, AVNet‐KULeuven, guided the teaching team of the Master through the process of selecting the right tool, choosing a realistic scenario, and the dealing with organisational issues. In January 2008, the exams were organised through FlashMeeting. FlashMeeting is a web‐based conferencing tool that allows video as well as audio, which increases the interactivity of the meeting. Typically a meeting is pre‐booked by a registered user. A URL, containing a unique password for the meeting, is returned by the FlashMeeting server. The person who has made the booking passes this on to the people that wish to participate, who simply click on the link to enter into the meeting at the arranged time. During the meeting one person speaks (i.e. broadcasts) at a time. Other people can simultaneously contribute using text chat, the whiteboard, or emoticons etc. while waiting for their turn to speak. This way the meeting is ordered, controlled and easy to follow. A replay of the meeting is instantly available after the meeting is finished, to those with the ʹuniqueʹ replay URL. Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) The stakeholders in this pilot provided the following feedback: • The quality of the exam was considered to be the same as with a face‐to‐face oral exam. In comparison with written exams, the professor even had the impression to be able to test more in depth this way; • The possibility of watching a recording of the exam was considered to be a plus: In case of doubt, the recording allows for the teacher to make a more correct evaluation: In case of dispute between the involved parties, the recording can also prove to be really helpful; 136 In this case, students made no objection towards the recording of their exams. However, for privacy reasons, this point needs to be taken into account! • The inevitable problem of control exists. In this pilot, a creative solution was found in asking the student to show his/her environment (desk). In addition to this, students were asked to position their webcam in a way that the person is clearly visible; • It takes a considerable amount of time for both the student and the teacher to get used to the medium. Both parties had no experience with oral distance exams. Students experienced the lack of facial expressions and body language (caused by low resolution webcams) as a limitation. Making the exam preparation in front of the webcam takes some time to get used to as well; • The organisation of this oral exam was intensive in terms of time and staff, as well in the preparatory phase (planning) as during the exam itself (support): Prior to the exam, all students were contact regarding the set‐ up of the exam. A trial was done, during half a day, to get acquainted with the tool; During the exam, two assistants were present, apart from the teacher. The exam itself took half a day (for 5 students only). One assistant ensured the planning, organisation and communication towards the students: providing the exam questions through e‐ mail, providing hyperlink to the meeting place…. In case of a delay, this assistant adapted the planning. The second assistant guided the students on a technical level: entering the meeting room, checking camera and sound, control on lurking, etc. • Connectivity problems are inevitable and could be a big challenge/problem for the organisation of the oral exam: Some students needed to turn off their firewall settings; One of the students had a weak Internet connection, which caused delays and was very time consuming; • Delays and changes to the exam programme could have been a factor of stress for certain students (sometimes as an addition to the 137 ‘stress’ of the new exam approach). Different from a face‐to‐face exam where eventual delays are immediately visible to the students, explicit initiative is needed from the teacher or the assistants communicating this delay to the students in a ‘virtual setting’. Guidelines & recommendations • Organising oral exams at a distance proved to be very time consuming. Therefore it is most suited for small groups or for example only for those students who have to do a re‐examination; • Webconferencing can also be used as an alternative option for the defence of end‐term papers or to coach the student throughout the process (virtual meeting hour during the week to answer additional questions). • Webconferencing is a solid alternative for real live exam, offering the same quality (and even more possibilities, for example, recording the exam); • A distance oral exam through webconferencing is most suited for small groups & re‐examination; • Organisation of the exams is time‐consuming, division of roles is necessary. 5.3 Virtual Alumni 5.3.1 Introduction The final report of the UK Socrates Erasmus Council on Experience Erasmus states that “former Erasmus students were identified as the greatest resource of the Erasmus programme. They could be a valuable 138 factor in increasing student mobility. They are the best resources to attract others, disseminate and publicise the advantages of the Erasmus experience”. The problem of locating alumni was addressed. “There is a need to compile a list of past students. An alumni database was thought to be an important tool in lifelong learning, as it would encourage graduates to remain in contact with their former institution and perhaps even return to take refresher courses. (…) Institutions’ arrangements for keeping in touch with their former Erasmus students appeared to be patchy at best and institutions should address this.” As indicated here most exchange students lose their ‘connection’ to their host institution after they return home. Through virtual mobility and all sorts of ICT tools students nowadays can keep in touch more easily with their peers, scattered around the world, and with their host institution. VM‐BASE made a study of how to set up and support a Virtual Alumni Association as a community of students and teachers who embarked on physical and virtual mobility activities. Alumni can share experiences with each other and with newcomers, and help to shape the future of European mobility schemes for teaching and learning. The study addresses the question, how students and teachers who embarked on physical and virtual mobility activities can network and participate in a wider community after their experiences. The different case studies helped to answer some of the most important questions related to this topic: Who are the alumni? What is their profile? What are they interested in? Why do they want to network? How can ICT tools help? What are the big challenges? Can we find success factors? Also recommendations on how to set up and support a Virtual Alumni Association are outlined. The study methodology included a thorough literature search, as well as some hands‐on working with the project partners. For the case studies, a number of websites were scanned through, and one face‐to‐face interview was done. Before going into the details, however, it seems only reasonable to explain some of the unfamiliar concepts used in this study. What are virtual alumni associations, virtual alumni or virtual students for that matter? 139 The term ‘alumnus’ (pl. alumni) refers to graduates or former students of a school, college, or university, whereas an alumni association is an association of these alumni (Wikipedia). In this study, the term ‘virtual alumni association’ refers to an alumni association, of which members (virtual alumni) have attended either physical mobility programmes or virtual mobility programmes. The virtual alumni primarily interacts via communication media, the Internet, rather than face‐to‐face for social, professional and educational purposes. On the other hand, virtual communities are today’s ‘communities’ also in the alumni relations, and one of the reasons for that is internationalisation: alumni are becoming more and more globally dispersed and highly mobile, which means that they are almost impossible to reach in conventional ways. Additionally, a fundamental shift in the way students and alumni relate, communicate, decide and advocate is underway. With the help of online services and electronic communication, however, even the alumni further away can be held on to (Peterson, 2007; The Illuminate Consulting Group, 2007). One major change on the communication scene has also been the emergence of various social networks (Lundberg, 2007). The web is dynamic. When alumni relations moved from excel sheets to the web, the activities of alumni networks also became dynamic. The younger alumni are not as loyal as the generations before. A question worth thinking about and addressed by Lundberg (2007) is therefore how are the long‐term relationships with the much differentiated alumni groups kept both dynamic and attractive? 5.3.2 Alumni Associations An alumnus (pl. alumni) according to the American Heritage Dictionary is a male graduate or former student of a school, college, or university. An alumna (pl. alumnae), in turn, is a female graduate or former student of a school, college, or university. The term is sometimes shortened to alum, which stands for an alumna or alumnus. Even the plural form ‘alumni’ is often used as a singular form for both genders (Wikipedia). 140 An alumni association is an association of graduates or, more broadly, of former students. In the UK and the US, the alumni of universities, colleges, schools, fraternities and sororities often form groups with alumni from the same organisation. These associations usually organise social events, publish newsletters or magazines, and raise funds for the organisation. Additionally, such groups often support new alumni, and provide a forum to form new friendships and business relationships with people of similar background (Wikipedia). Alumni associations are mainly organised around institutions or departments of institutions, but may also be organised among students that studied in a certain city, region or country. Alumni associations can also include associations of former employees of a business (corporate alumni). An alumnus of a company is one who has formerly been employed by the company. In Anglo‐Saxon countries, membership of an alumni association often goes without saying. In continental Europe, alumni associations are only getting more popular as the universities receive less money from governments and depend more on networking within civil society for funding. According to Azri, Petrus Communication & the INTAL Special Interest Group of EAIE (2005), however, the alumni relations culture in Europe is still one of the major challenges European higher education institutions face in their alumni relations work. 5.3.3 Identity and Added Value Meeting the needs of different stakeholders What is the added value of various alumni activities then? For most people, (virtual) alumni associations are, first and foremost, the means of communication and collaboration with other students and alumni. In addition, they provide a forum for networking and sharing of experiences. Through these associations, students and alumni can also keep in touch not only with their peers, but also with their former teachers and institutions. Additionally, it is important to understand that the needs and interests of students and alumni vary depending on their prevailing life situation – 141 whether it is the time before, during or after the exchange and whether one is still a student or not. Alumni, who are already in working life, surely have different needs and interests than those, who are still studying. Nevertheless, students and alumni are not the only ones, who benefit from these associations. Institutions and teachers need them too. According to a study coordinated by the UK Socrates Erasmus Council (2005), returning and incoming (Erasmus) students are of high importance to higher education institutions: overall 70% of higher education institutions say that returning Erasmus students are used as mentors for new Erasmus students, and 60% help with the recruitment of future Erasmus students. Several institutions and departments also speak of the returning Erasmus students enriching the institution in a variety of ways: either by confirming what the institutions do or by providing insightful criticism. Returning students’ feedback to the institution is usually more critical. The involvement of returning students in student mentoring and tutoring is also invaluable. Additionally, alumni networks are of high importance in the collaboration of institutions and employers. Institutions need to work more closely with employers in promoting and developing programmes as well as in promoting mobility. They also need to recognise the need for closer cooperation with professional bodies. Employers are interested in graduates with experience of different cultures. More than a quarter of employers say that an Erasmus experience has been a factor in selecting the graduate for the job. Drivers and challenges One of the biggest challenges that most alumni associations face is, how to locate and keep in contact with the alumni. A common problem is also the lack of information about the (Erasmus) alumni, especially among employers (UK Socrates Erasmus Council, 2005). Another challenge is how to really make these networks function. Many institutions proclaim that alumni networks simply do not work for them. According to The Illuminate Consulting Group (2006), a functional network requires a long‐ term institutional vision, a well‐crafted strategic plan, effective and efficient 142 execution at an operational level, and most of all, a desire to succeed. US universities are far ahead of the rest of the world in this field. In 2005, the alumni of US universities donated some $ 7.1 billion to universities and colleges, and more than 20 US universities raised more than $ 50 million from their alumni each. For the rest of the world, these are really staggering numbers. Catching up, if possible at all, will require decades of sustained institutional development efforts – and an understanding that large scale fundraising is the end product of a long‐term, mutual relationship building process. The recent years have seen a notable increase in the attention paid to alumni networks worldwide. The Illuminate Consulting Group (2006) points out four main drivers contributing to this increase in attention: (1) mutual economic and social advantage, (2) lifelong networking, (3) internationalisation and (4) professionalisation. Hence, understanding the significance of mutual advantage is of high importance. There is a strong correlation between an alumni network serving as a source of competitive institutional advantage and value creation for alumni themselves. Another thing that is required is an understanding for the need to create a lifelong networking culture. Each institution should, thus, aim to build relationships with students from day one so that they become supporters for life. Institutions should also understand that the most relevant relationship – and network value – is created amongst students / alumni themselves. Enabling the maintenance and the creation of additional relationships within the alumni network is, thus, a key network task. By fostering such lifelong relationships, an institution will create the strongest network value proposition, which in turn drives alumni appreciation for their alma mater (The Illuminate Consulting Group, 2006) Additionally, alumni networks are increasingly becoming more internationalised. In consequence, the roles, expectations and contributions of international alumni to their alma mater have begun to shift. This also sets out new challenges to the institutions. Finally, as with most other complex social organisations, alumni networks require expert guidance, an ownership culture, a communication 143 infrastructure and a carefully assembled organisational design. These requirements, according to The Illuminate Consulting Group (2006), translate into a simple paradigm: alumni networks can only function properly and create mutual value, if they are administered professionally. 5.3.4 Case Studies Different concepts In the following case studies, the different types of alumni networks are roughly divided into four categories: (1) commission driven networks, (2) institution driven networks, (3) user driven networks and (4) student organisation driven networks. Our main focus is on alumni networks, which above all are targeted to the international exchange students. In the following pages, the different concepts, as well as their strengths and weaknesses (gathered from project partners) are discussed in more detail. Commission driven networks Alumni associations, such as the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA) and the Alumni for Europe (AfE), which are driven by the European Commission, are types of more formal alumni networks. Their mission is to serve the interests of all stakeholders of international student exchange: students, alumni, institutions, parents, employers and the European Commission. They also provide a forum for networking, communication and collaboration and promote the European educations programmes (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association & Alumni for Europe). Commission driven networks are not directly organised into any chapters by e.g. city, region, or country, but are for all exchange students under a particular programme. In most cases, the networks are also closed: for alumni only. Unfortunately, the level of interactivity among the students and alumni is quite low in commission driven networks (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association & Alumni for Europe). 144 Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA) Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA) is a network for students and alumni of all Erasmus Mundus Master’s Course (EMMC) programmes. Since its establishment in 2006, EMA has constantly been working to advance the Erasmus Mundus programme, and to offer a platform where students and alumni can exchange information and experiences. All its activities are performed by members on a voluntary basis, and in cooperation with the European Commission (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association). Erasmus Mundus stands for 80 international Master’s programmes, more than 3000 students from over 50 countries and more than 200 participating universities. The mission of the alumni association is to serve the interests of Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni, by providing a forum for networking, communication and collaboration and by promoting Erasmus Mundus as a European programme of excellence in international education. According to EMA’s website, its goals are as following: • To contribute to the successful internationalisation of higher education; • To create a representative network for Erasmus Mundus graduates from Europe and third world countries; • To establish a channel of communication for students, alumni, their universities, and the European Commission; • To provide students with academic advice based on the experience of previous generations. At the moment, EMA’s main tasks are promotion, newsletter, magazine, conferences and events, information technology, jobs for alumni and students, as well as EMA policy. All members of EMA are able to find and advertise housing, find and publish scientific papers, share one’s favourite blogs, receive newsletters, find other alumni and stay in touch with their course mates through the association (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association). Some of the possible strengths and weaknesses of the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association are listed here. The list is not 145 comprehensive. Some of the attributes may also concern some other (Commission driven) networks. Some of the strengths of EMA are that it is: • Professionally run and sustainable; • Creates mutual advantage for all stakeholders; • International; • Offers a variety of services to both students and alumni (e.g. monthly newsletter and information about jobs, internships, projects and trainees, conferences, seminars); • Promotes the Erasmus Mundus programme; • Informative. Weaknesses are: • Only for the Erasmus Mundus students and alumni (which could be a strength, when there is not so much diversity); • Distant and formal, little interactivity among the students/alumni; • Only brand awareness in European top universities; • No subdivisions by e.g. institutions or countries. http://www.em‐a.eu Alumni for Europe (AfE) Alumni for Europe (AfE) established by the Tempus Public Foundation (TPF) works as an interactive network for students having participated in European training programmes (Erasmus, Ceepus, Erasmus Mundus, Comenius, Leonardo and DAAD) coordinated by the TPF. At the moment, there are some 1,800 registered members and some hundred active participants in the network (Lucas, 2008). Additionally, there are three groups of people, who can be distinguished in the network: (1) Hungarian students having been on an international exchange, now back in Hungary, (2) foreign students on an exchange in Hungary and (3) former students / graduates having participated in one of the aforementioned exchange programmes (Lucas, 2008). According to the AfE website, the Alumni for Europe network aims at: 146 • Giving assistance to Erasmus, Leonardo, Ceepus, Erasmus Mundus and World‐Language grant holders in building an interactive network; • Helping foreign grant holders in Hungary to get to know the country and to enjoy their scholarships by organising various activities and events; • Letting foreign and Hungarian students get to know other cultures and give them the opportunity to learn different languages from one another; • Contributing to the employment of graduate students by advising and establishing contact with the employers; • Helping future scholars with their preparation; • Providing information about the educational and training programmes coordinated by TPF and other potential scholarships. The strengths and weaknesses of AfE are listed here. The list is not comprehensive and some of the attributes may also concern other (Commission driven) networks. Perceived strengths are: • Financial support from the European Commission and the Hungarian government; • Professionally run and sustainable; • International; • Physical existence (office, staff, events, publications, website); • Provides lots of useful information to Hungarian students who want to go abroad, as well as to foreign students who are on an exchange in Hungary; • Organises several events. Perceived weaknesses are • Difficulties in reaching both incoming and outgoing students because of privacy protection: AfE must ask the programme coordinators who on their turn to ask the students to send their contact information to AfE; 147 • Capacity to attract more members limited to Hungary. http://newsite.tpf.iif.hu/alumni/en/index.php Other Commission Driven Networks Lately, there has also been discussion about a joint network for the Erasmus alumni. During academic year 2006 – 2007, a collaborative Erasmus Alumni Association Feasibility Study, funded by the European Commission, was conducted. The purpose of the study was to outline the need for establishing a joint network for the Erasmus alumni (CIMOn uutiskirje korkeakouluille, 2007). As a conclusion, the working group decided to recommend that an Erasmus Alumni Association (EAA) should be established with the utmost speed to take advantage of the timeliness of the 20th Anniversary of Erasmus and the launch of the new Lifelong Learning Programme. The surveys and workshops carried out within the context of the study confirmed that there is an urgent need for an EAA. There are already a range of commercial operators in the field that benefit from the fact that no such network owned by the European Commission exists (UK Socrates Erasmus Council, 2008). The alumni association could also be a valuable resource for the European Commission, national authorities, national agencies, higher education institutions, schools, employers as well as the Erasmus alumni. The working group recommends that the core of the EAA should be the database of Erasmus Alumni with a website offering a range of facilities including promotion of activities as well as social and cultural events (UK Socrates Erasmus Council, 2008). The database should easily reach a minimum total of one million within three or four years, and by 2012 it could be between two and three million. The working group also sees that the 2007 – 2008 Erasmus students should be the first full cohort of Erasmus alumni to populate the EAA. The alumni association should be an independent non‐profit organisation as well as a legal entity. The office/secretariat should be established with appropriate staffing and the current funding possibly in association with an Erasmus National Agency (UK Socrates Erasmus Council, 2008). 148 Despite the aforementioned facts, the prevailing opinion seems to be that such network will not be established. A joint network for the Erasmus alumni, owned by the European Commission, is considered perhaps a little too big and expensive to implement. However, time will tell how things will turn out. Institution driven networks As previously mentioned, most alumni associations are organised around institutions or departments of institutions. There are also alumni associations that are organised around e.g. single degree programmes (e.g. Alumni of the Master of European Social Security of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven). The OU Alumni at The Open University UK, the PoliAlumni at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and the DAAD Alumni at The German Academic Exchange Service are just a few examples (presented further on in this section). The first two consist of former university students, whereas the latter consists of former DAAD scholarship holders. Another example which was set‐up in the VM‐BASE project is VALE – the Erasmus Alumni Network of the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (presented in section 5.3.5). Azri and Petrus Communications, in cooperation with the INTAL Special Interest Group of EAIE, conducted a survey about the alumni relationship management in European higher education institutions (2005). According to the survey, alumni relations are growing in importance in Europe for many reasons. However, there is still plenty of work to do. Some of the survey highlights concerning the organisation of alumni relations and alumni relations activities are listed in the following (Azri & Petrus Communications, 2005). Organisation of alumni relations: • Most European higher education institutions have a separate alumni relations office. Nonetheless, 8% claim not to have anyone in charge of alumni relations; • The majority said that alumni relations are of strategic or high importance to their institution; 149 • Institution promotion, alumni tracking, and new student recruitment are felt to be the most important benefits to be gained from the engagement with alumni; • Generating additional funding from alumni is not seen to be an important benefit, whereas communication with alumni is. • Alumni relations activities: • Most institutions already have or plan on building an online portal or online database; • Over 20% is not satisfied with their local and international alumni networks; • Less than 35% is satisfied with their printed newsletters, but over 50% is satisfied with their online newsletters; • Over a half accept donations from alumni. However, only 20% run fundraising campaigns; • 55% feel that the alumni relations culture in Europe is one of the major challenges in their alumni relations work. The OU Alumni The Open University UK is the only university in the United Kingdom dedicated to distance learning. There are some 150,000 undergraduate and more than 30,000 postgraduate students at The OU. More than 25,000 students live outside the UK. The OU Alumni is the alumni association at The Open University UK. Currently, there are more than 2 million members in the network (The Open University, The Open University Alumni & Wikipedia). All OU students automatically become members of the OU Alumni, when they have completed their certificate, diploma or degree. The network offers various activities and services, such as events, study and career services, publications and other offers, to all its members. Networking is also made easier through the OU Alumni website (The Open University Alumni & Wikipedia). Some of the strengths of the OU Alumni are that it is a professionally run and sustainable organisation. It encourages networking through the 150 university’s existing ‘connections’. Finally, there seems to be genuine interest in keeping in contact with the former students. Weaknesses on the other hand are that there is no sorting of students – international students are just like any other students. The OU Alumni also focuses more on keeping in contact with the alumni than on helping the alumni to keep in contact with one another. http://www.open.ac.uk/alumni PoliAlumni Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) is the oldest university of technology in Finland. There are some 15,000 under and postgraduate students at TKK. The fields of education and research cover all areas of technology that are of importance to the Finnish economy, including architecture (Helsinki University of Technology). PoliAlumni is an extensive friendship and professional network, where all former students and employees of TKK can join in. PoliAlumni brings together people from TKK and aims to maintain and promote the relationship and cooperation between TKK and its alumni. At the moment, there are more than 10,300 PoliAlumni members and over 6 200 PoliAlumni network users. According to the PoliAlumni website, the members of PoliAlumni get: • The ability to use the PoliAlumni network service; • Connected with former fellow students and/or co‐workers as well as have the possibility to make new acquaintances through alumni network and events; • Information about the latest developments at TKK and in the world of science; • Invitations to alumni events, seminars and the public defence of dissertation; • The possibility to act as a mentor, sponsor or advisor for TKK students; • The possibility to use TKK Career Service’s job applicant services free of charge; • An electronic alumni newsletter twice a year; 151 • TKK’s interest group magazine Polysteekki once a year; • Discounts from TKK logo products; • Information about postgraduate study opportunities and further education at TKK; • Discounts from the TKK Open University classes and services offered by the Innovation Centre. In addition, PoliAlumni offers an interactive network service, where TKK alumni can create their own contact networks, establish groups and join in their own departmentʹs alumni clubs or associations. With the help of the alumni network, the alumni can also keep in touch with former fellow students and friends from TKK. However, this Internet‐based network service is only available in Finnish, which is not very user‐friendly towards international students (PoliAlumni). Strengths of PoliAlumni are that it is professionally run and sustainable. PoliAlumni also offers a variety of services to both students and alumni and supports the connection between former TKK students. On the other hand, online services are only available in Finnish, which was already mentioned; there is no sorting of students – exchange students are just like any other students; and visiting students are not likely to make donations. Furthermore, there are also some challenges caused by internationalisation. http://alumni.tkk.fi/en DAAD Alumni The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst – DAAD) is one of the worldʹs largest intermediary organisations in its field. DAAD supports and promotes all areas related to science, research, language and teaching, among other things. Its goals are: • To offer scholarships for foreigners: to promote young foreign elites as a means of attracting future leaders in education, science, research and culture, in business and industry, in politics and in the media as partners and friends of Germany; • To offer scholarships for Germans: to promote young German elites in order to qualify them as open‐minded future leading 152 figures in education, science and research, in culture, in business and industry, in politics and in the media in the spirit of international and intercultural experience; • To internationalise the higher education institutions: to promote the internationality and appeal of German universities to ensure that Germany remains a leading address for young academics and researchers from all around the world; • To promote German studies and the German language abroad: to promote German studies, the German language, literature and area studies at selected universities around the world in order to strengthen German as a major international cultural language and lingua franca and to advance interest in, and knowledge and understanding for Germany; • Educational cooperation with developing countries: to promote academic and scientific advancement in developing countries and in the transformation countries of Central and Eastern Europe as a means of supporting the economic and democratic reform process there. DAAD Alumni, in turn, are the former DAAD scholarship holders (alumni): students, doctoral or PhD candidates, post‐docs, lectors and teaching assistants, as well as university teachers and professors. The alumni work of DAAD aims at (DAAD Alumni): • Continuing contacts between alumni themselves, and between alumni, their German host universities and DAAD; • Maintaining professional, academic and personal ties with Germany by providing a regular information service; • Contributing to deepening and extending academic exchange between the alumni’s home country and the host country, thereby making a positive contribution to the internationalisation of higher education; • Using the experience, knowledge and insights gained by alumni during their study and research stays in Germany to 153 benefit the current generation of scholarship holders and others interested in studying in Germany in the future. Although there might exist a lack of commitment from the alumni, since they are not the principal drivers behind the network, DAAD Alumni seems to have more strengths than weaknesses. There is a large diversity among the alumni (although this is possibly also a weakness). DAAD Alumni provides a regular information service. It also supports the connection between alumni themselves, and supports the alumni to maintain their ties with Germany both professionally, academically and personally. http://www.daad.de/alumni/en/index.html User driven networks Today, there are also a great number of various social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, and their translated versions. These networks are usually more informal and more interactive than any other types of alumni networks, and most importantly they are not closed. The main purpose of these networks is to let people share their experiences and ideas, connect with other people from different countries, years and institutions, as well as to ask for and give advice to one another. The fact that these networks are usually user driven also has the effect that many important stakeholders are being excluded. On the other hand, the exchange of ideas and thoughts is, without a doubt, a lot more personal. The users are more in control. At the moment, there are hundreds of different kinds of groups related to Erasmus exchanges on e.g. Facebook. User driven networks usually have following strengths: • Exchange of thoughts and ideas is more personal; • Additional communication channels through one community; • Well‐known among the users; • Easy access: many users already have accounts in these networks, therefore “barriers to register” are almost non‐ existent; • Informal (can also be a weakness); • Interactive; 154 • High motivation and commitment; • Available also for the institutions. • Perceived weaknesses are: • Excludes important stakeholders; • Non‐professional; • Not very sustainable and predictable; • Dependent on the platform being sustained; • No censorship; • Focus on the commercial success. Some institutions have also created their own alumni groups in these online communities. According to The Illuminate Consulting Group (2007), about 20% of US institutions have set up alumni and recruiting presences on MySpace and Facebook. There are also similar groups on LinkedIn. The idea behind these alumni groups is to link the closed alumni‐only networks with individuals’ larger, non‐alumni networks. One could also imagine that the level of professionalisation increases, when a user driven alumni group becomes institution driven. On the other hand, some alumni associations have also started to create their own versions of social networking sites and emulate their popularity in an effort to keep in closer touch with former students. Many of the sites have, however, struggled to attract alumni and to keep them interacting with the devotion they show to their online profiles on other networks. So it remains to be seen, whether more institutions will create alumni groups in these already existing networks or simply build their own (Hermes, 2008). Facebook and MySpace Facebook and MySpace are online communities that connect people through a network of reliable friends. One can create a community, talk online, share photos, journals and interests with a growing network of friends (Facebook & MySpace). At the moment, Facebook is driving the development landscape, whereas MySpace is losing relevance (The Illuminate Consulting Group, 2007). 155 Facebook was launched in February 2004. It is a privately held company, which develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of peopleʹs real‐world social connections. Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet (Facebook & Wikipedia). Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know. Facebook is a part of millions of people’s lives and half of the users return daily. There are more than 67 million users, an average of 250,000 new registrations per day since January 2007, over 55,000 regional, work‐ related, collegiate and high school networks, as well as more than 500 alumni networks on Facebook (Facebook & Wikipedia). MySpace is similar to Facebook, except that it was launched almost a year earlier (2003). MySpace is a social networking website offering an interactive, user‐submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos internationally. The 100 millionth account was created in August 2006, and a news story claimed 106 million accounts in September 2006. The site reportedly attracts 230,000 new registrations per day (MySpace & Wikipedia). http://www.facebook.com http://www.myspace.com LinkedIn LinkedIn is a business‐oriented social networking site founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003. It is mainly used for professional networking. In March 2008, the network had more than 20 million registered users, spanning some 150 industries. LinkedIn is free for anyone to join (The Illuminate Consulting Group, 2007). The purpose of LinkedIn is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business. The people in the list are called connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection. This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways (LinkedIn & Wikipedia). 156 The contact network consists of direct connections, the connections of their connections (second‐degree connections) and also the connections of these second‐degree connections (third‐degree connections). The network can be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in oneʹs contact network. Employers can also list jobs and search for potential candidates, whereas job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them (LinkedIn & Wikipedia). Many professionals also advance their careers and business goals by counting on industry and professional groups, alumni organisations, industry conferences and corporate alumni groups to help them make new business contacts. LinkedIn Groups offers extra features to group‐based organisations to help their members stay in touch with one another and discover new business contacts within their groups and beyond (LinkedIn). Several academic institutions have indeed set up alumni presences on LinkedIn. Currently, there are e.g. over a hundred academic alumni organisations listed on LinkedIn (July 2008). In general, LinkedIn Groups is designed for groups with an established affinity between its members. However, LinkedIn also has the right not to accept applications from groups that do not have an existing member base or affinity, or that do not serve a business or professional purpose (LinkedIn). http://www.linkedin.com Student organisation driven networks Different student organisations, such as the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and BEST – Board of European Students of Technology, also have their own alumni associations. ESN Alumni is the alumni association of former ESN members, whereas BEST AlumniNet is for former BEST members. The most important weakness of a student organisation driven network is that not all stakeholders are included. The list with strengths is much longer. Student organisation driven networks are sustainable and genuinely based on students’ needs. There is a strong motivation to attract 157 as many alumni as possible and the students’ motivation and commitment is high. These kinds of networks are usually in close contact with the actual student organisations and also play an important role in the overall and active development of the organisations. Finally, they are also more informal (though this can also be a weak point). Erasmus Student Network Alumni Society ESN ‐ Erasmus Student Network is a not for profit international student organisation aimed at supporting and developing student mobility in Europe and beyond. ESN was founded in 1990 and is currently present in over 270 local sections at Higher Education Institutions in 34 countries that support the social and cultural integration of exchange students as well as providing practical information for incoming and outgoing students. The network is constantly developing and expanding. ESNs mission is to foster student mobility in Higher Education under the principle of Students Helping Students. They work for the creation of a more mobile and flexible education environment by supporting and developing the student exchange at different levels, and providing an intercultural experience as well to those students who cannot access a period abroad (ʺinternationalisation at homeʺ). ESN Alumni is a network composed of former regular ESN members, who share the desire to stay involved with ESN. The alumni are mainly acting as a supporting and consultative body next to the network, providing know‐how and sometimes financial sponsorship for improving and fastening the creation of a more efficient organisation. The mission of ESN Alumni is (ESN Alumni): • To enable its members to continue enjoying the ESN spirit; • To help them keep in touch and share their knowledge and experience; • To support ESN in fulfilling its mission. http://alumni.esn.org 158 BEST AlumniNet BEST – Board of European Students of Technology is a constantly growing non‐profit and non‐political organisation. Since 1989 it has been providing communication, cooperation and exchange possibilities for students all over Europe. BEST AlumniNet is the alumni association of former BEST members. Local Alumni Groups (LAGs), in turn, are the local alumni associations for the Local BEST Group (LBG) members (Board of European Students of Technology). BEST AlumniNet aims to bring former BEST members together and, thus, to help them to keep in touch with friends from the past. The community itself wishes to exchange career‐related information and contacts, among other things. In addition, close contact with the alumni plays an important role in the development of the entire network. Sharing experiences and meeting new members are among the actions that will connect the alumni with BEST and make it stronger (BEST AlumniNet). http://www.best.eu.org/alumni/welcome.jsp Other types of alumni networks A type of alumni network that could be explored but that was not addressed further is the network driven by a governmental institution or public agency, for all exchange students who studied in the same country, but not necessarily in the same institution. An example of this is SwedenInTouch.se, administrated by the Swedish Institute, a public agency that promotes interest in Sweden abroad. It is a new alumni network for international students, scholars and professionals who currently are in Sweden or have been to Sweden. The aim is to bring together the large group of international students and professionals and help them to stay updated and in touch with Sweden. The network offers members a personalised membership, the opportunity to find friends and reconnect with old friends or find new ones who share similar experiences from Sweden. Members and partners can use the calendar and networks to find or post information about Sweden, share experiences and stories from Sweden in the various forums or blogs and upload pictures from Sweden. SwedenInTouch.se went live on July 10, 159 2008 and is still in its early stages as a beta version under development. For 2009, SwedenInTouch.se aims ‐ on the one hand ‐ for complete representation of all Swedish universities through its alumni network, and ‐ on the other hand ‐ for collaboration with Swedish companies in Sweden and abroad. http://www.swedenintouch.se 5.3.5 VALE (KHLeuven Erasmus Alumni Network) – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven Pilot description For the past 20 years KHLeuven has developed a large network of partnerships with numerous institutions for higher education throughout Europe. As more and more students of those partner institutions wanted to come over and study within the framework of the Erasmus mobility programmes, KHLeuven developed a special programme for its incoming Erasmus students. It all started with some courses in English fifteen years ago, which turned into a programme of 30 ECTS ten years ago and has now evolved to a programme of one year or 60 ECTS credits. One of the results of this involvement in Erasmus exchange programmes is that KHLeuven now has a vast group of Erasmus alumni. But although KHLeuven goes to great lengths to keep in touch with its Belgian alumni, until last academic year no organised efforts were made to keep in touch with the Erasmus alumni. There was only some sporadic communication, based on individual initiatives. But these sporadic contacts sometimes proved to be very useful e.g. for getting specific information about daily student life in the partner institution, for finding a work placement abroad for KHLeuven students… And quite a few Erasmus alumni clearly wanted to stay in touch with each other and with KHLeuven, their former host institution. So the international office and the management of KHLeuven started to look for a way to turn this state of affairs into a win‐win situation. In January 2008 it was decided to go for a more structured approach and to start up a more formal Erasmus Alumni Network. As the target group, 160 Erasmus alumni from KHLeuven, was spread all over Europe, the most logical thing to do was to create a virtual network. The main aims or goals for setting up this system are the following: • To involve the Erasmus alumni in the process of getting information about the cultural, educational and practical aspects of their (former) home institution; • To keep the Erasmus alumni informed about study and career possibilities in their former host institution and country; • To include the Erasmus alumni in the recruitment of future Erasmus students from their (former) home institution; • To encourage further personal contacts between students of the 2 institutions involved in the exchange and to exchange knowledge, experience and career‐related information and contacts. To summarise: the virtual alumni network intends to support and maintain connections and to provide interesting and helpful information. It can also be seen as a means to do lifelong networking, for the alumni as well as the former host institution. Platform organisation and timing After careful consideration and lengthy discussions about the pros and cons of various systems with the partners of the VM‐BASE project, the KHLeuven finally opted for a user driven network. The student organisations BEST and ESU, which are partners in the VM‐BASE project, strongly recommended the use of the social networking site Facebook. The arguments in favour of this type of network are its openness, its informality and its interactivity. The counterarguments that such a network is non‐professional and excludes important stakeholders were taken into consideration but were not considered to be of overriding importance. Facebook is clearly not integrated in the website of the KHLeuven, but this online community is omnipresent and easily accessible; about 30 million people use it on a daily basis. The concept of the group was created and put online between March and May 2008. First of all the e‐mail addresses of the Erasmus students of 161 KHLeuven from the past 2 academic years and from the current academic year, were listed. Then those students were invited via e‐mail to join the online group VALE on Facebook. VALE stands for Virtual Alumni network for students who have come to Leuven University College on an Erasmus exchange. Vale is a Latin word, but is also used in English and means ‘farewell’. Figure 5.7 – KHLeuven Erasmus Alumni network on Facebook 162 A total of about 70 students received the following invitation: Hello to all of you Erasmus in Leuven…. Do these words ring a bell? Do they make you smile? Do they bring back nice memories? Meeting people from all over Europe, getting to know other cultures, having long drinks and long discussions… Although physically far apart now, there is still a possibility to stay in touch. We have created a forum for you, the former and present Erasmus exchange students of KHLeuven, department of Business Studies. Go and have a look at it, let KHLeuven and your Erasmus colleagues know how you are doing: are you still studying or have you found yourself a nice job? And there is so much more the forum can help you with: planning a trip, organising a reunion, exchanging interesting study opportunities or job offers in different countries. You can make this means of communication work. Stay connected, grab the opportunities. Warmest regards Carina Saelen International Relations Coordinator KHLeuven, dept of Business Studies At first the Erasmus alumni were very eager to join the group. Some 50 of them enrolled in VALE. But 2 months after the start up there was little or no activity in the virtual Erasmus alumni community. This first tryout is now being evaluated by the international office of KHLeuven. In January 2009 the project will be run a second time. The system will basically remain the same, but a new group of Erasmus alumni of the first semester 2008‐2009 will be added and the international coordinators will play a more active and guiding role. Experiences (based on feedback from stakeholders) During the first weeks the VALE group was online, the different stakeholders in the project were very positive and enthusiastic about the initiative. 163 The international coordinators, the lecturers and the KHLeuven as an institution were pleased to be able to re‐establish the contact with the former Erasmus exchange students. They also saw the large potential for exchanging study and career information, and in the longer run for promotion and recruitment. As to the Erasmus alumni themselves, they clearly saw the opportunities the system offers. First of all there was the possibility to bring back to life and to strengthen old, international friendships, but without having to move physically. Of course, not only personal information could be exchanged; the online community could also help them to find information about studying and working abroad. Although the project was well received by all parties involved and got many responses at the start, it came to a standstill rather quickly. A first analysis of this situation has already been made; the explanation and remarks can be found in the next paragraph. Guidelines & recommendations The possible benefits of a virtual Erasmus alumni network are quite obvious and have been explained in the first part of this pilot description. But still the fact remains – as our project has clearly shown ‐ that creating and especially maintaining such a network, is quite a challenge; it asks for careful consideration and organisation. A first important item when considering setting up a virtual Erasmus alumni network is the strategic plan of the institution. What are its strategic goals and how and to what extent can this alumni network help to achieve those goals? Whatever the main motivation is (provision and gathering of information, publicity and promotion, recruitment … or a combination of these elements), the initiative will not be successful if it is not integrated in the programme of the institution as such. A free and informal initiative of one or even of a couple of individuals is doomed to fail. Another element that has to be taken into account is the target group. When talking about a network for Erasmus students from all over Europe, it is obvious you have to opt for English as the lingua franca of communication. This means that a separate tool has to be developed. 164 Communicating with the Erasmus alumni cannot be done via the communication channels that are used for the own alumni students. It is also important not to overlook other important stakeholders in this virtual Erasmus alumni network, such as employers and professional bodies. The information spread through this network might also be of interest to them. Finally the infrastructure also plays an important role. This item does not only include technological tools. It also refers to human resources, people who monitor this project, and to the necessary financial means. In view of what has already been mentioned, Facebook is probably not the best medium for a virtual alumni network. Admittedly, this tool has clear advantages: it is well‐known, easily available and accessible, the communication is informal and the exchange of ideas is personal and interactive. But there are also some serious disadvantages to be taken into account: • The information is not monitored and the value of the information can sometimes be questioned: too general, too vague, not varied enough and not on a regular basis; • There is a lack of more formally organised events, activities and services; • The functioning depends solely on the input of the users and is therefore quite unpredictable and sometimes even unsustainable; • The tool is unprofessional and excludes important stakeholders such as the institution as such, employers and professional bodies. Having carefully weighed up the pros and the cons, the overall recommendation is to set up an institution driven network rather than a user driven one. This implies a strong commitment of the institution and its management and a long‐term vision, but it will undoubtedly be more successful in the long run. The possibilities of such an institution driven network are much bigger, and so will be the return on investment. What follows, are some suggestions and guidelines to get the most out of this initiative: • Store the data of your Erasmus students year by year and develop a database to feed them into. Preferably this should be done by someone working in the international office. This procedure will 165 take up time, but the database will come in very handy when you want to locate and contact your Erasmus alumni to promote the virtual alumni network. To keep the database updated an interactive interface has to be provided for. In this way the members of the network can update their personal data (e.g. a new e‐mail address) and profile (they could a.o. indicate their fields of interest, further studies, career development, subscription to the e‐ newsletter) • Don’t incorporate the Erasmus virtual alumni network into the overall alumni network of the institution. The Erasmus alumni need another language of communication (i.e. a lingua franca as English is), different events and information; • Make the network sustainable. That is why it has to be run in a professional way. An investment in time and personnel is of utmost importance. But there is also the need for a good cooperation between the IT services, which have to develop and support the technological aspects, and the International Office, which has to monitor and guide the activities within the virtual network; • Don’t underestimate the role of the person monitoring the network; he or she is of crucial importance to the survival of the network. The activities of this person will be numerous and diverse: contacting the Erasmus alumni and motivating them to enrol in the virtual network, encouraging the alumni to stay in touch and to maintain the communication (e.g. by launching certain topics for discussion, by asking specific questions…), providing interesting information concerning the institution and its alumni, monitoring and summarising the contributions of the alumni to the network, ensuring that the network is not reduced to a series of ‘private’ conversations between certain individuals, publishing an electronic alumni newsletter once a year, etc.; • Try to involve other stakeholders in the virtual alumni network, apart from the institution, the international office and the alumni themselves. This will only strengthen the network and lead to more 166 diversified information. A very interesting input could be given by employers and professional bodies. Getting and keeping them involved would also be one of the tasks of the person monitoring the network. To conclude: a virtual Erasmus alumni network can be a great tool if it is strategically thought out, if there is enough technological support and if it is carefully and continuously monitored. Instead of diminishing the workload, it will increase it. But it will provide a wealth of information and networking contacts all over the world. 5.3.6 Recommendations: Setting up an Alumni Network When setting up an (international) alumni network, there are a few fundamental aspects to be taken into account: (1) strategy, (2) target group and (3) infrastructure. (International Alumni Relations) Building network strategy, defining target groups and their needs, as well as developing practical infrastructure are all essential to avoid the early pitfalls, when setting up professionally‐run alumni networks. Similar networks / groups set up by the users, in turn, come and go all the time. Therefore, such thorough planning is not necessarily required. The different concepts of alumni networks (commission driven, institution driven, user driven, student organisation driven and others) also have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as similarities and differences, which need to be taken into account throughout the process. Failing to discuss the key issues before embarking on a new alumni programme almost guarantees that it will end in failure. Some of the key issues that ‐ in our opinion ‐ are relevant to discuss when setting an alumni network, are covered in more detail below. However, it is also crucial to understand that these recommendations are not meant to be absolute, but to help the organisations getting started. 167 Building a Strategy Despite the programme concept, an (international) alumni programme always has to be integrated into the organisation it involves and present certain advantages to it. Only then will the organisation invest in the realisation, maintenance and development of the programme. It is also worthwhile investigating the organisation’s strategy. What are the goals, and how can the (international) alumni communication endorse these goals? (International Alumni Relations) Only after thorough analysis, can the mission, vision and goals of the alumni programme be defined. (International) alumni are not primarily interested in the organisation or its alumni programme for that matter. So it is important to make the alumni membership truly profitable for them. What are the alumni’s needs? How can they benefit from the programme? (International Alumni Relations) There are different motives for an organisation to start an alumni programme. Participants should choose the type of motivation, which suits their organisation most (adapted from Sych S. et. al., 2001): • Exposure of and publicity for the organisation; • Programme promotion; • Student/staff exchange and recruitment; • Career possibilities; • Information provision; • Postgraduate education; • Feedback. In most cases, it appears that organisations are driven by a combination of motives. There are also other types of motivation than just the ones previously mentioned. The motives depend on the network concept (commission driven, institution driven, user driven, student organisation driven), among other things. Additionally, it is important to make the organisation commit to the (international) alumni programme. Cooperation between the alumni office and international liaison office, especially in higher education institutions, should neither be underestimated. (International Alumni Relations) The 168 different stakeholders will only remain involved by giving the alumni the services they want and the organisations the information they need: a win‐ win situation has to be created and maintained. Creating the extensive alumni database with statistical capacity is often one of the very first projects of the alumni office. Little by little, however, the programme can encompass also other (virtual) aspects of the alumni relations including alumni publications, extensive alumni benefits and services portfolio, as well as special events and reunions programmes (Sych S. et. al., 2001). Target group When defining the target groups, the key question is: who are the alumni? (International Alumni Relations) Are they a combination of both national and international or just international alumni? Are they mostly located in one country only or spread around the world? Institution driven networks usually have both national and international alumni, which makes the target groups and their needs quite versatile. Another important question is, whether different strategies for national and international alumni need to be developed. This is most likely, if a higher education institution wants to include non‐native‐language‐ speakers into its alumni network. In that case, at least a programme that can be run in different languages needs to be developed (International Alumni Relations). On the other hand, students and alumni are not the only ones these programmes concern. There are also other important stakeholders, such as parents and employers, who should be taken into account. Collaboration with different stakeholders is beneficial to both the organisation and its alumni. Infrastructure And last, but not least: what kind of infrastructure is needed for a successful (international) alumni programme? Once the strategy has been developed and the target groups have been identified, it is time to make 169 sure that the different ‘practicalities’ are in place. These include (adapted from the International Alumni Relations): • Means of communication; • Data‐base; • Professional staff to do the work; • Finance to pay for the programme; • Language(s) used. In virtual associations, infrastructure also plays an important role. The opportunities provided by technological tools are truly significant, but so are the challenges. Virtual associations are more communicative, more responsive, and more attuned to the needs of its members and its profession, but they also require infrastructure that is highly flexible, functional and supports the technology. A virtual association, where members can access services globally and equitably 24/7, also requires constant maintenance and development, as well as monitoring and censorship. 170 Chapter 6: Evaluating virtual mobility pilots 6.1 Introduction When teachers or support staff in student services, begin to explore new ways to support students before, during and after their experiences of studying at a university in another country, they often start with an idea that they develop into a small test bed ‘pilot’, before deciding to expand the scale to reach all their students who participate in physical mobility programmes. Designing the pilot well, then evaluating the outcomes and making any necessary adjustments, are key stages in moving successfully to full‐scale operation. The VM BASE project was designed to contain these key stages, as partners chose ideas for testing, took them through their pilot stages, and then evaluated the outcomes. This chapter describes some of the approaches taken to evaluation of pilots that may be of value to others who wish to travel the same road to supporting their physical mobility students. 6.2 General reasons to evaluate Evaluation is undertaken with a purpose, namely to improve the way in which something in done in the future on the basis of learning about what worked well and what was problematic in a current or past implementation of the same or a similar process. It is of course possible that the evaluation will tell you not to go any further with your idea! An evaluation of a pilot can be purely for yourself and colleagues, but is more often to enable you to have a better chance of persuading others to support you in a larger version of the activity. Assuming that you do wish to propose proceeding from a pilot to full scale operation, a good evaluation will give you the evidence you may need to argue for resources or commitment from other staff. 171 It is helpful to be clear from the outset about what type of evaluation is needed, as the best evaluation data are gathered if the process is planned from the beginning, rather than waiting until a late stage or the end, for then it is generally too late to go back and collect data that are missing. 6.3 Formative or summative evaluation? Formative evaluation is carried out throughout the pilot, and is intended to shape and support work being done in time for changes to be made within the timeframe of the pilot itself. For example, if two iterations are to be carried out with two groups of students, one could change the pilot for the second group in the light of evaluation findings from the first. Of course, this is largely what good teachers and support staff would do anyway, probably without thinking about it as ‘evaluation’, but knowing that this is what one intends to do makes one focus on getting the necessary information to really help design change decisions within the first iteration. Summative evaluation on the other hand is undertaken once the whole pilot process is completed, and is not intended to change the pilot process midway. Rather it is a backwards look, and a judgement, of the quality and value of the pilot, with a view to making other pilots better. This sort of evaluation is often used for government programmes and actions, and is less valuable for exploratory work such as mobility pilots. In practice, evaluations of small programmes and explorations often contain a formative and a summative component – shaping the development of the pilot as it goes along and also looking back and offering some judgement of value. 6.4 Evaluating yourself or independent evaluation? The most reliable and dependable evaluation comes from having an external independent evaluator(s). This is because it is very hard for anyone closely involved and committed to a pilot to really step away from 172 their personal view of it and ask tough questions or suggest difficult changes. Commitment to the pilot is necessary for those leading it – this does not lead to the most independent thought or critique of it! The external evaluator does not need to be from outside the university or paid to do the work. Commonly a ‘critical friend’ approach is used, in which someone who has sympathy with the pilot but who does not take part or benefit directly from the outcomes can carry out formative evaluation very well, if they understand about the methods of evaluation. Experience with evaluation is the key attribute for such an individual. If one cannot find a critical friend, or cannot afford to pay for a truly external evaluator, then self‐evaluation must be the method of choice. In this case it is even more important to address the questions of evaluation methods and data analysis before the pilot begins, as the most common mistake is to design the evaluation in the light of progress of the pilot (good or otherwise) and hence ‘tune’ the evaluation to compensate for pilot defects. The criteria to judge success by, the ways in which data will be collected and analysed need to be decided before the start of the pilot, trying to think oneself as much into the mind of an independent person as possible. 6.5 Data collection methods in evaluation Although some evaluations use only quantitative or qualitative data as their sources for analysis, currently it is most common to use mixed methods, where they each compensate for limitations in the others. In addition, generally evaluators try to source information from different participants with varied viewpoints so that the ‘truth’ of what occurred can be triangulated from these independent viewpoints. The overall quality of the triangulation is dependent on the quality of information from each viewpoint. The evaluator is aiming for two aspects of the data to be high – validity (i.e. that questions asked really are gathering the information needed) and reliability (i.e. that the answers or conclusions will be true for 173 other groups of participants). These are key questions to ask yourself and to think about when evaluating a pilot. 6.6 Quantitative methods The most common quantitative data gathering method is undoubtedly the questionnaire, which is used widely and felt to be straightforward to employ. In reality, many questionnaires are rather poor in design and distribution/collection, and the quality of the data gathered is greatly improved by a few simple precautions. • Decide what you really want to know and will act on, and eliminate ‘nice to know about’ questions to keep the questionnaire as short as possible; • Make sure each question is unambiguous and split multipart questions into separate questions; • Allow amply free text options for respondents to explain more (this is especially important for electronic surveys which do not have the flexibility of paper for additional comments); • Decide how many respondents you really need and make sure you do the ‘chase up’ to get them at the time; • Remember that good quality information is not cheap – you either pay for it or you put in work for it; • Always test the questionnaire with a small number of people of the same general group as the pilot participants (expert colleagues are not a good substitute!). This makes sure your terms are understandable. A relatively under‐used way to gather data is by observation or information recovery from objective processes, for example times and frequencies of use of online systems. These can sometimes provide a good complement to what participants say about what they did or did not do. For example, if in an online setting the tutor or one group of students is 174 found to have contributed 50% of the activity, or always initiated activity, one can draw conclusions about success in terms of expectations of what should have happened. Knowing from the outset what data can be gathered by independent and objective approaches will determine what one can gather, or will enable one to put tracking in place to allow it. You should think carefully about the ethics of this way of gathering information as it can be described as ‘spying’ – good practice is to let everyone know in advance that these data are being gathered and will be analysed. Self‐evaluators can use quantitative methods most easily, as their influence on the data is minimal. 6.7 Qualitative methods The most common qualitative data gathering method is the interview, with focus or discussion groups used instead or as a complement. These methods are most complicated for self‐evaluators as they are viewed by participants as ‘pilot leaders’, and may also be their teachers, and so a fully detached and neutral view is almost impossible to achieve for interviewer or interviewee. Interviews and focus groups can be carried out in a face‐to‐ face setting or by phone or by e‐mail/videoconferencing etc. An alternative to interviewing when self‐evaluating is to ask participants to write short answers to a set of defined questions and send them in by mail/post. This at least removes the problem of the physical presence of the pilot leader/teacher/interviewer. Qualitative data gathering is generally used for complex situations where a questionnaire cannot easily capture the depth or variety of experiences and/or feelings of participants about their experiences. As a consequence of gathering complex and deep information, analysis of it is time‐consuming and requires experience. This is probably why for many evaluators of small pilots and projects, they gather the majority of their data from quantitative methods and then use qualitative methods to carry out a ‘reality check’ (asking participants if the evaluators’ conclusions are ‘about right’), or to 175 understand better why some aspect of the pilot worked particularly well or badly. 6.8 Selecting appropriate evaluation methods to use Designing an evaluation is very much about working with reality. Given unlimited time, money, people and opportunities one could do the ‘perfect evaluation’, but no‐one ever has unlimited resources and so the evaluation of a pilot in particular has to be designed to produce enough evidence to enable decisions as to whether to move up to full‐scale operation, and if so, what changes (i.e. improvements) to put in place. The amount of effort to be put in to evaluation must be proportional to the wasted effort that will be incurred if the evaluation fails to provide adequate information about how to scale up to full operation and that subsequently does not succeed. If full operation of the process will require substantial investment of money and/or staff time or leads to a highly visible, public operation, the pilot and its evaluation must be robust. If the scaled up process is not of these types, then the pilot and its evaluation can be lower effort (‘light touch’). A rule‐ of‐thumb for the effort for a pilot evaluation would be around 10% of the effort put into the design and running of the pilot itself. By their nature pilots are small scale and so the number of participants is not large. This makes it easier to collect the views of all (or most) of them, but also demands that one does indeed do so, as otherwise the reliability of the conclusions is even more reduced. Willing participants and respondents (‘volunteers’) are much better than those who have been compelled to join in, and so encouraging honest sharing of views throughout the pilot will improve the quality of feedback data gathered. Take care with the handling of data provided by participants – honest feedback may be critical in some aspects, and so making sure data are made anonymous before release, or if this cannot be achieved, are managed in a way that is sensitive to the feelings of participants (staff and students) is vital. This is where the true value of the independent external evaluator really pays off. 176 Think in advance about the ethical code you will work by, and make sure all participants understand and agree to this (this doesn’t necessarily require formal consent forms unless personal data are involved). Make clear how you will handle and share contributions offered privately through interviews and questionnaires. 6.9 Gathering and analysing evaluation data For a short pilot, the gathering and analysis of evaluation data has to be fast enough to enable it to be done within the available time. This demands planning in advance as to what methods will be used and when and how quickly responses will be required, and when the analysis can be done. It is especially true if the pilot is to be repeated shortly after the first iteration. Remember that you need to prompt respondents to supply you with evidence as to what worked well for them as well as what was problematic. It is commonplace for feedback to be thought of as criticism, and so to ensure that you get the positive views as well as the negative ones explicitly ask for it. Ideally you will request the good points to be offered first, perhaps in two free text answer boxes on a questionnaire, or in a direct question in an interview. Respondents value hearing what information you gathered from other participants – it is part of their learning about the extent to which their views are the same as or different from their peers. Make sure you tell your pilot participants at the start that you will update them on what lessons were learned (either as you go along or after the pilot is over) so that they feel involved as partners rather than ‘guinea pigs’. They will take their part in providing feedback more seriously as a consequence. Do think about how to make the results anonymous, and take great care if using direct quotations. The smaller the pilot cohort, the easier it is for participants to identify who the others are in responses. Offering the conclusions back to the group for comment also enables them to give you their reality check and also correct any overly strong criticism they may have offered. Often in 177 such reality checks respondents see the overall lack of balance between positive and negative comments, and correct it for you. A useful way to record what and how much evaluation you intend to do, and when, is to record it in a grid at the start of the pilot, and complete the findings section as a summary. An example of a simple evaluation grid is shown below: Stakeholder / Method of gathering Scale / number of views When to sample participant views on value of to gather / % sampling / evaluation data group pilot / successes / etc problems Incoming Surveys online after All student participants Students = visiting pilot end for survey immediately students to Interviews with 5 students for interviews – after pilot ends University of selected students after face‐to‐face for survey and as X who have arrival in host Teachers responsible for soon as possible agreed to join university courses – all if possible, after pilot ends pilot Teachers of visiting sample across different for interviews students on courses subject areas if not – face‐ Teachers = can they take by interview to‐face, phone or e‐mail be during pilot IRO staff involved at IRO staff at supply or soon after end supplying universities university by e‐mail or IRO staff = as and at own university phone or f2f if feasible teachers by interviews Own IRO staff by short f2f interview Fig. 6.1 ‐ Example of an evaluation grid 6.10 Acting on the results Once the pilot is over you can close the “design‐implement‐evaluate‐ redesign” loop by making the changes that the first iteration showed were needed. It is also a good time to think about the evaluation, and what you learned from doing it (i.e. evaluate the evaluation), as this is also part of the re‐design process, and doing so will enable you to do a better evaluation next time, perhaps when the full scale implementation of the activity is put 178 into action. If you intend to use the evaluation to persuade others of the effectiveness of your pilot in demonstrating the value of your new activity, summarise all the findings and the evidence in a short evaluation report. 179 Chapter 7: Guidelines & recommendations for stakeholders in student mobility 7.1 Introduction Through the development of several pilot courses and initiatives presented in the previous chapters, as well as through the organisation of awareness raising events, the VM‐BASE project has put much effort into moving virtual and blended mobility from a project level into the mainstream strategic goals of the participating institutions and networks. Measures at different levels (institutional, regional, national and European) need to be looked at now and in future initiatives. This chapter formulates guidelines and recommendations for the main stakeholders involved in student mobility. The guidelines have been derived from lessons learnt from the pilots, discussions during our workshops and events and discussions between the partners in the VM‐BASE consortium. 7.2 For Students intending to undertake an exchange Higher education institutions can set up many different kinds of virtual or blended mobility activities to prepare, support and follow‐up their exchange students. It is essential however that the exchange students themselves realise the importance of good preparation and are proactive in the whole process. They should try to make the most of their mobility experience by grasping all opportunities they are offered. As a future exchange student, you should make sure to: • Start preparing in time. This means to start preparations at least six months before. Anticipate your actions before going. Make a timeline and a “to do list” for your exchange. Look for other 180 students’ experiences and share your own as well on forums, websites, blogs; • Take a look at your host institutions’ website, since a lot of information is available there. Information on the student life and your new environment might also be available on tourism websites; • Try to get in contact with students or student organisations of your host institution. Maybe the institution has a buddy system that links you automatically to one of your fellow students. Another option is to check online social communities, like Facebook groups; • Learn or practice the (eventual) new language of the host institution and try to enrol in any of the available virtual language courses at your host (or home) institution. Other actions to think about before you leave might include a search for virtual courses that are available before the exchange, or considering the set up of your laptop and if it is going to be appropriate for the new circumstances. When returning from an exchange, opportunities exist to stay in contact with your host institution and its students or to share your own experiences with students who are preparing for their exchange. After your exchange, you can for example: • Join one of your host institution’s (online) alumni organisation. Maybe a group is active on one of the social networking sites; • Stay in contact with the International Office and make yourself available for sharing and giving advice to others. This could include the creation of a portfolio about an individual’s personal development during an exchange; • Try to improve the situation in your university/town/country based on what you learned in your exchange e.g. give feedback to professors or the university on the exchange procedures; • Enrol in a virtual mobility programme at another institution after your return. 181 7.3 For Student Associations & Representatives Several student representatives from student associations have been actively involved in the project, playing an important role in the validation of the proposed initiatives and giving recommendations from their students’ point of view. Based on their feedback, a clear role for student organisations was identified in contributing to the support before, during and after a physical student exchange. As a student association or a student representative you can: • Proactively involve exchange students. Do not take for granted that they will automatically come to you; • Make the most of existing tools and don’t reinvent the wheel. Make available all activities and information (in English) on websites; • Integrate with the other stakeholders at the higher education institution or with other student organisations; • Value the feedback, ideas, human resources, new perspectives given by exchange students as it might prove to be very useful for your association; • Encourage your own members to have an “internationalisation at home” experience by getting involved in the support of exchange students. 7.4 For Teachers & Tutors Teachers and academic tutors have been involved in the development of the pilot courses and the assessment procedures and have contributed substantially during several workshops concerning e‐coaching. They are key players in the implementation of blended mobility and e‐coaching activities in their own courses. As a teacher or tutor you can: • Follow the progress of your outgoing students and organise virtual support with academic matters if needed; 182 • Provide virtual support for both incoming and outgoing exchange students. It is important however not to neglect the importance of face‐to‐face support as well in order to develop a blended approach; • Try to become part of a team or keep in contact with people within your institution who have the necessary competences and skills to support exchange students through ICT, in case you are not that familiar with the use of ICT for educational purposes yourself; • Communicate with the International Relations Office or other student mobility coordinators within your institution; • Allow and encourage students, after returning, to share their speciality/discipline related study experience with others. 7.5 For (senior) managers in Higher Education Institutions Higher education institutions’ management staff should acknowledge the importance of virtual initiatives and methods that support physical mobility within their recognition of the importance of student mobility in general. The best way to move forward is to recognise these issues both publicly and explicitly. In order to really enhance the process towards the implementation of blended mobility activities in mainstream education, you can: • Give virtual activities and courses to support exchange students a place in the university structure and policy. Go for long term solutions as much as possible; • Link all stakeholders involved in student mobility within the institution. Teachers, International Relations Officers and IT people or e‐learning experts all have their own specific expertise when it comes to supporting exchange students. It is important to realise that if something goes wrong in the communication between the different services/departments, nothing turns out right, even when you have the best schemes and virtual platforms. Therefore, 183 facilitate and ensure coordination and communication between all, bring expertise together and pool resources. Be aware that involving all stakeholders could be a slow process requiring time; • Exchange knowledge by organising training and workshops in how educational tools and technologies can be used for the support of exchange students. Make sure that this expertise is university‐ wide available; • Be open to the ‘bottom‐up approach’. See what is already happening within your institution. However, know that the bottom‐up approach is a long road and support from the university top remains necessary; • Identify examples of good practice also beyond your own institution (including through university networks, nationally and internationally, to which you belong) and disseminate and implement them in your own university; • Recognise and value the staff at International Relations Offices who are organising virtual support activities. Also motivate teachers and reward them to be involved in innovative initiatives in the field. 7.6 For International Relations Offices and student mobility coordinators International Relations Offices are key actors and have the necessary knowledge and expertise when it comes to supporting mobile students. It seems the “natural” unit for taking up responsibilities in this respect. Staff working at International Relations Offices and student mobility coordinators are often the direct contact persons for exchange students, both incoming and outgoing, and in that sense they obviously have an important role to play. As an International Relations Officers and student mobility coordinators you can: 184 • Organise virtual preparation courses for incoming students. These courses should include some basic training of the hosting countryʹs native language; • Support mobility in all the stages of the process (before, during and after),. Also provide support for both incoming and outgoing students. In general incoming students are looked after better but there is a need for support to outgoing students as well; • Use a blended approach. It is strongly recommended to accompany virtual support activities once in a while by face‐to‐face meetings; • Offer all necessary information for mobile students in a coordinated way. Centralise information on an institutional website that is easy to access, well structured and regularly updated. Communicate to the exchange students where they can find everything; • Focus the information (preferably in several languages) on sharing academic (e.g. course information), practical and social issues. Make sure to provide “honest” information that is useful for the students, and not purely “marketing material”; • Use former exchange students and students associations as a source of information to assist the future outgoing and incoming students, especially at practical level; • Use attractive and user‐friendly tools to communicate with students. Stimulate and facilitate students’ experience sharing with the help of virtual tools and also monitor and follow online discussions; • Cooperate with IT services or e‐learning units getting knowledge about new IT tools to facilitate student communication; • Cooperate with faculty and teachers who are close to the teaching and learning process of the exchanges students and make information on incoming students (numbers, countries of origin, etc.) available to teaching staff. 185 7.7 For central support services in Higher Education Institutions Central support services in Higher Education institutions include for example e‐learning or IT services, libraries, student record offices, etc. Also they can play an important role in the promotion and the quality enhancement of e‐coaching in their institutions. They can for example: • Address the needs of mobile students by putting as much information as possible online; • Make IT services available everywhere, facilitate Internet access (and not only on campus); • Create newsletters and other methods of raising awareness on the existence of the library, IT and other services that are offered to international students; • Treat international students as local students. Give them the same access and digital rights; • Cooperate with other stakeholders involved and train them in the use of ICT. 7.8 For networks of Higher Education Institutions Networks of higher education institutions are pre‐eminently good disseminators. Through the dissemination of information via their own communication channels they can influence (e.g. stimulate, support, advise, etc.) their members in the implementation of blended mobility and e‐coaching in mainstream activities. As a network you can: • Promote awareness and distribute information about blended mobility support activities among their members; • Get your members involved: identify expertise, existing information, good practice examples, interesting projects within the network; 186 • Organise training and workshops bringing all stakeholders together (technology people, teachers, International Offices, students or student representatives) to exchange best practices, disseminate project results, etc.; • Facilitate and create links between universities (through workshops or EU projects…); • Support students who are on an exchange between network members and try to implement the VM‐BASE ideas in the member institutions; • Bring together all stakeholders involved; • Try to have an impact on EU policies, influencing European, national and regional education agencies. 7.9 For the European Commission & national and regional policy makers Policy makers on all levels (European, national or regional) play a crucial role in the promotion and awareness raising of the blended mobility and e‐ coaching concepts through a top‐down approach. They can: • Promote awareness, disseminate and distribute information on the topic, especially through the educational agencies in the different countries; • Make sure that the national agencies take information seriously that is provided by higher education institutions; • Maintain funding for innovation at appropriate level; • Signal the importance of virtual support initiatives and put them into practice; • Think about how closely related projects could be linked, bring them together in a coordinated way. Make for example a website where all the outputs of projects can be found; • Ensure that methodologies are taken up in mobility programmes with third countries. Much of the work done now focuses on 187 mobility within Europe but applied methodologies could be even of more importance to those students who are physically further away. 188 Chapter 8: Conclusions This manual explored the options for extending, supporting and complementing physical student mobility through virtual mobility activities. In particular, it gathered the outcomes and experiences of the VM‐BASE (Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges) project which aimed to improve the quality of student exchanges by offering virtual support, both before, during and after physical mobility. The first chapter of this handbook described how the mobile student of tomorrow can be supported in an efficient and effective way. Mobility of students, teachers and staff has always been one of the most important features of universities. But the growing success of Erasmus and other exchange programmes have revealed a new need for students to get more and better guidance and support. Virtual mobility and/or blended mobility therefore are becoming increasingly popular as a complement to the traditional mobility programmes in order to maximise the advantages of both. Chapter 2 elaborated on the needs analysis that was carried out to identify students’ and teachers’ needs and requirements in the different phases of international students exchange (preparatory phase, before exchange, during exchange, after exchange). Students’ needs were investigated as a whole, whereas teachers’ needs were investigated from two different perspectives: teachers’ needs concerning incoming students and teachers’ needs concerning outgoing students. The chapter furthermore presented an overview of the state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures for both incoming and outgoing students. Themes that were addressed included: information available for exchange students, selection of students, flexible assessment methods, language and cultural preparation, e‐coaching as well as evaluation and feedback of the exchange. The state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures showed that in general, there is very little e‐coaching available for both incoming and outgoing students. However, most institutions agreed that there is potential for e‐coaching. In VM‐BASE the concept of e‐coaching was 189 further explored and particular attention was paid to supporting and coaching teachers and students at a distance both before, during and after the exchange. The third chapter described some of the key issues related to e‐coaching. Getting involved in blended mobility actions changes the classic role of teachers and imposes new tasks and responsibilities in order to function as e‐coaches. Also different tools and electronic communication media have emerged in the last decades: reflective tools (e.g. e‐portfolio, blog), non‐interactive tools (e.g. streaming media, website), collaborative tools (e.g. wiki, discussion forum), communication tools (e.g. e‐mail, videoconferencing) and social networking tools (e.g. shared media, social bookmarking). They all can be used to support the coaching process from a distance. Chapters 4 and 5 specifically focused on virtual mobility before and after a physical exchange and presented several VM‐BASE pilot courses and cases. For the preparatory phase, pilots were developed in three areas: orientation guidelines, pre‐selection tests and preparative courses. For the follow‐up phase, the pilots aimed at the effective use of tools helping teachers in both the host and the home institution to evaluate and to assess a stay in another institution. Also the concept of a Virtual Alumni Association as a community of students and teachers who engaged in physical and virtual mobility activities was studied in depth. The numerous practical examples have shown that indeed a variety of technologies and tools can be used to virtually support exchange students in one way or another. In most cases however, these virtual activities have been combined with face‐to‐face experiences. It is the human factor that stands out as being one of the most important aspects and the success of activities often depended on whether or not the presence of a coach could be felt. When teachers or support staff in student services, begin to explore new ways to support students before, during and after their experiences of studying at a university in another country, they often start with an idea that they develop into a small test bed ‘pilot’, before deciding to expand the scale to reach all their students who participate in physical mobility programmes. Designing the pilot well, then evaluating the outcomes and 190 making any necessary adjustments, are key stages in moving successfully to full‐scale operation. The VM‐BASE project was designed to contain these key stages, as partners chose ideas for testing, took them through their pilot stages, and then evaluated the outcomes. Chapter 6 described some of the approaches taken in the evaluation of the VM‐BASE pilot cases. At the moment virtual mobility and blended mobility as a support to physical mobility still mainly exists on a pilot level. The VM‐BASE project has tried to go one step further and has taken the concepts to mainstream level integrating them in the strategic goals of the participating institutions and networks. The last chapter collected the results of these efforts and formulated recommendations and guidelines for the main stakeholders involved in student mobility: for students intending to undertake an exchange, for student associations and representatives, for teachers and tutors, for (senior) managers in higher education institutions, for International Relations Offices and student mobility coordinators, for central support services, for networks of higher education institutions and for the European Commission and national/regional policy makers. The recommendations have been derived from lessons learnt from the VM‐ BASE pilots, discussions during workshops and events and discussions between the partners in the VM‐BASE consortium. We hope they will be of value and give inspiration to everybody who is considering engaging in similar activities. It is only when all stakeholders recognise the benefits of organising virtual support for physical mobility programmes that they really will be integrated in mainstream education and become sustainable in the long term. 191 Annex I: Glossary of terms & tools Accreditation The recognition or certification of an institution that has been reviewed and meets specific measures of quality. Asynchronous Learning where people are not online at the same Learning/Training time and interaction does not occur without a time delay, allowing people to participate on their schedules. Examples are e‐mail, discussion groups, and self‐paced courses delivered via Internet or CD‐ ROM. Alumnus / alumni Graduate of the university. Increasingly offered an association to belong to for life. Authentication Process of proving identity and right of access, usually in digital systems by login and password. Audioconference Voice‐only connection of more than two sites using standard telephone lines. Bandwidth The capacity of a communication channel to carry information. The greater the bandwidth, the faster the data transfer. The amount of data sent or received over any given time is limited by bandwidth. Bologna Process The Europe‐wide process of bringing harmonisation to the very different degree structures in terms of credits per year per degree and years per degree level. CBT (Computer‐ Training conducted using a computer, often used Based Training) when referring to education or training presented while a computer is not connected to a network. 192 Certification A valued credential awarded in several fields that proves competency upon satisfactory demonstration of particular knowledge and skills. Chat or chat room Text‐based group communication on the Internet. Multiple users can type their questions and answers for everyone to see. This form of group communication occurs in real‐time. Sounds great but fairly messy for e‐learning. Synchronous web‐casts or threaded discussions better. Classroom Training Any training conducted where the students and facilitator interact in a real, physical classroom. Unlike ʺInstructor‐led Training (ILT)ʺ which, although there is an instructor, could still take place over an Internet connection. Collaborative Learning through the exchange and sharing of Learning information and opinions among a peer group. Computers excel in mediating collaborative learning for geographically dispersed groups. Competencies / A structured list of knowledge, skills and attitudes Competency Model that are required for job performance. Competencies are used as the foundation to guide needs analyses and evaluations. Unfortunately most competencies end up in a filing cabinet to be referenced only when updating job descriptions. Used properly, they are powerful drivers of assessment and training. Chat To exchange text messages in real time through a computer network, as if having a face‐to‐face conversation. Distance Education designed for delivery where students and Education/Learning instructors not in the same location. Digital libraries Libraries that have collections with electronic materials such as e‐journals, online databases, e‐ books. Typically used to mean a library with a 193 substantial proportion of this type of material. ECTS European Credit Transfer Scheme – a transferable and transparent credit‐based system for higher education courses enabling students to move universities and have past courses recognised. E‐learning Teaching and learning facilitated via electronic media, now especially via the Internet. E‐mail Messages sent from one computer user to another. Facilitator An instructor who assists, directs, and stimulates the learning during an online course. FAQ (frequently Highly useful, a list of common questions about a asked questions) particular topic, product, or service directed primarily at new users. Firewall Specialised hardware or software designed to secure a computer or network from unauthorised access. Feedback Can be positive or negative, is used to shape behaviours, and should closely follow an action for maximum result. Free‐mover Student who visits another university as part of their studies but do so independently and not as part of an organised programme such as Erasmus. Formative Evaluation carried out throughout the pilot and Evaluation intended to shape and support work and allow for changes within its timeframe. ICT Information and communications technology based upon computers and networks. ICT infrastructure In universities this means mostly the hardware of the network, wireless network, the microcomputer labs etc. It is also the national and international network and related services that the university uses to allow Internet traffic to flow into and out of the university. Interoperability The ability of software systems running under 194 different operating systems and on different hardware to exchange information using the same file formats and protocols. Internet The global network of regional and local computer networks. Instant Messenger Software that lists usersʹ selected ʺbuddiesʺ (friends, family, co‐workers, and so forth) who are online and enables users to send short text messages back and forth to them. Some instant messenger programmes also include voice chat, file transfer, and other applications. IRO / International The university office usually tasked with Relations Office responsibility for student mobility, recruitment etc. Learning Software that automates the administration of Management training. The LMS registers users, tracks courses in a System (LMS) catalogue, records data from learners; and provides reports to management. An LMS is typically designed to handle courses by multiple publishers and providers. It usually doesnʹt include its own authoring capabilities; instead, it focuses on managing courses created by a variety of other sources. Localisation The aim of localisation is to allow students from different locations to participate on equal terms in the same course. The challenge is to create a learning environment which allows for differences and at the same time makes a coherent learning experience possible. Mixed‐media The combination of different delivery media like books, audiotapes, videotapes and computer programmes in one curriculum. Not to be confused with multimedia, where different media are integrated into one product. See blended learning. 195 Mentor A wise and trusted counsellor or teacher – for visiting students this would be an experienced senior student at the host university. Online Connected to the Internet or another computer. Offline Operation of a computer while not connected to a network. Online learning An umbrella term used to describe any education or training that occurs online. Peer support Use of classmates and friends to provide help, advice, knowledge in how to carry out tasks, find information etc. Portal A website that brings into a single locus the services of an organisation. Typically for a university this would offer a single entry point for students to the sorts of services they would use, such as library, student record, e‐learning, student association but might also allow ‘feeds’ from news organisations, TV etc. Post Used as a noun for messages ʺpostedʺ to newsgroups, blogs, etc. Podcasts Based on the name of the very popular MP3 player, the iPod, this is a mechanism to enable audio files to be accessed from the web. In some universities these are now being used to deliver audio recordings of lectures. Pilot Test Also known as an Alpha test or formative evaluation. A version of the training programme is delivered to a sub‐set of the target audience for an evaluation of its instructional effectiveness. Also known as a very simple step to help avoid disaster, which is forgotten on the majority of projects. Real‐time Communication with little or no delay; synchronous communication interaction. 196 Quality Assurance A mechanism to assure users that the quality of what they are about to use reaches suitably high standards. In higher education this implies quality of teaching, resources, assessments etc. Spam Unsolicited e‐mail. Summative Evaluation as a backwards look at a completed pilot, evaluation a judgement of its quality and value and not intended to change the pilot process midway. Synchronous Learning where people are online at the same time learning and interaction occurs without a time delay (real‐ time) and which requires them to attend at specific times. Upload A file transfer from your computer to another. Virtual community A community on the Internet where people share common interests; an online community. VLE / virtual A web browser dependant software system that learning enables online interaction between learner and tutor. environment It combines methods of online communication (such as chat room, discussion boards and e‐mail) with the ability to deliver learning materials (such as documents, articles and assessments). VPN / virtual A method of connecting to digital services of a private network university that makes the user appear to be on the campus and so entitled to the same digital services. Web 2.0 Use of the web to provide a means for users to create their own materials online, upload photographs, add comments and modify the work of others. This is in contrast to Web 1.0 which was unidirectional information flow from provider to consumer. Web page An HTML file or document; part of a website. 197 Annex II: References Introduction • Erasmus Programme. http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong‐ learning‐programme/doc80_en.htm • European Commission (2008) Interest in the Erasmus programme for students and universities continues to increase. Press Release. Brussels, 13 May 2008. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/05/190 &format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en • European Commission (2006) Erasmus@20: the Commission launches the celebrations for the anniversary of its flagship education programme. Press release. Brussels, 7 December 2006. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/169 8&format=HTML&aged=0&languag e=EN&gui Language=en • VM‐BASE (Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges) project. http://vm‐base.europace.org Chapter 1: Supporting the mobile student of tomorrow • Being Mobile project. http://www.being‐mobile.net • Bijnens, H., Boussemaere, M., Rajagopal, K., Op de Beeck, I. & W. Van Petegem W. (eds.) (2006) European Cooperation in Education through Virtual Mobility. A best‐practice manual. 2006, EuroPACE ivzw, Leuven. http://www.being‐mobile.net/pdf/BM_handbook_final.pdf • Board of European Students of Technology: courses. http://www.best.eu.org/student/courses/index.jsp • Boonen A., Bijnens H., Bijnens K., Op de Beeck I. & K. Rajagopal, The Integration of Virtual Mobility Actions in Traditional Higher 198 Education Institutions. In: Boonen A. & W. Van Petegem (eds.). European Networking and Learning for the Future. The EuroPACE Approach. 2007, Garant, Antwerp‐Apeldoorn. p. 125 – 136. • Ceepus ‐ Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies. http://www.ceepus.info • Coimbra Group Scholarships and Projects. http://www.coimbra‐ group.eu/08_projects.php • Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst – German Academic Exchange Service. Introduction to DAAD Scholarships. http://www.daad.org/?p=46362 • Elearningeuropa.info portal. Glossary. http://www.elearningeuropa. info/main/index.php?page=glossary&abc=V • E‐MOVE (An operational conception of virtual mobility) project. http://www.eadtu.nl/virtualmobility • Erasmus Programme. http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong‐ learning‐programme/doc80_en.htm • External relations programmes: academic mobility with Erasmus Mundus. http://ec.europa.eu/education/external‐relation programmes/ doc72_en.htm • ESMOS (Enhancing Student Mobility through Online Support) project. http://www.esmos.eu • Eureca (European Education Campaign). Results of the project. http://www.projects.aegee.org/eureca/resu.htm • Leonardo Da Vinci Programme. http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong‐learning‐ programme/doc82_en.htm • Marie Curie Actions. http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions • More VM (Ready for Virtual Mobility) project. http://www.morevm.org • Nordplus Framework Programme. http://www.nordplusonline.org • Programme Alßan. http://www.programalban.org/index.php?lg=13 • REVE (Real Virtual Erasmus) project. http://reve.europace.org • SUMIT (Supporting Mobility Through ICT) project. http://www.eduser.eu/02_projects_sumit.php 199 • Tempus: Modernising higher education. http://ec.europa.eu/education/external‐relation‐ programmes/doc70_en.htm • Van den Branden, J. (2004) Report on the international seminar Bologna and the Challenges of e‐learning and distance education. Ghent 4‐5 June 2004. http://www.bologna‐ bergen2005.no/EN/Bol_sem/Seminars/040604Ghent/040605_Report.pdf • VICTORIOUS (Virtual Curricula Through Reliable Interoperating University Systems) project. http://www.victorious‐project.org • VM‐BASE (Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges) project. http://vm‐base.europace.org • Wuttig, S., Understanding mobility and recognition (2006) In: Froment E., Kohler J., Purser L. & L. Wilson (eds.) EUA Bologna Handbook. Making Bologna work. 2006, RAABE academic publishers, Berlin. http://www.bologna‐handbook.com/docs/downloads/B_3_1_1.pdf Chapter 2: State-of-the-art and needs in virtual exchanges support measures • Antal, K., Bokodi, S., Klekner, B. & K. Kurucz (eds.) (2006) GenERAtion. Dissemination of results and best practices for raising the profile of Erasmus Mobility. Final report. 2006, Tempus Public Foundation, Budapest. http://english.tpf.hu/download.php?doc_name=konyvtar/books/ge neration.pdf • Amillo, J., Fuller, U., Laxer, C., McCracken, W.M. & J. Mertz (2005) Facilitating student learning through study abroad and international projects. In: ACM SIGCSE Bulletin. Volume 37, Issue 4 (December 2005). p. 139 – 151. http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/1120000/1113892/p139‐ fuller.pdf?key1=1113892&key2=6715667711&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUI DE&CFID=15151515&CFTOKEN=6184618 200 • Bijnens, H., Boussemaere, M., Rajagopal, K., Op de Beeck, I. & W. Van Petegem W. (eds.) (2006) European Cooperation in Education through Virtual Mobility. A best‐practice manual. 2006, EuroPACE ivzw, Leuven. http://www.being‐mobile.net/pdf/BM_handbook_final.pdf • Haywood, D., Haywood, J., Joyce, A., Timmis, S., Tredgold, J., Pérez, I., van der Duim, L., Mrose, N., Rajagopal, K., Verjans, S., Baldry, A., Marenzi, I., Zanca, C., Valk, A., Lappalainen, M., Devaux, A., Knudsen, I. & N. Sonveaux, (2007) Student Mobility in a Digital World – Final Report of the VICTORIOUS Project. 2007, The Scottish Centre for research into On‐Line Learning & Assessment (SCROLLA), School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh. http://www.coimbra‐group.eu/victorious/VIC%20Final%20 Report%20print%20version.pdf • Krupnik, S., & E. Krzaklewska (2007) Exchange students’ rights. Results of Erasmus Student Network Survey 2006. 2007, Erasmus Student Network, Brussels. http://www.esn.org/download_esnsurvey_report • McCoshan, A. & M. Souto Otero (2006) Survey of the Socio‐Economic Background of ERASMUS Students. DG EAC 01/05. Final report. 2006, ECOTEC Research and Consulting Limited, Birmingham. http://ec.europa.eu/education /erasmus/doc/publ/survey06.pdf • TU Exchange Programme Database of the Delft University of Technology. http://uitwisseling.tudelft.nl/index.cfm?language=en • van der Wende, M. (2006) ICT & Internationalisation: Between Expectations and Reality. SURF Onderwijsdagen 2006. Amsterdam, 15 November 2006. • Valjus, S. (2002) Virtual Mobility in Reality: Selvitys tieto‐ ja viestintätekniikan käytöstä Leonardo da Vinci‐liikkuvuushankkeissa. CIMO Publications 4/2002. 2002, Kansainvälisen henkilövaihdon keskus CIMO, Helsinki. http://home.cimo.fi/oppaat/virtualmob.pdf 201 Chapter 3: E-coaching • Baars, G.J.A. (2005). E‐coaching: Een nadere definitie. Presentatie op Werkconferentie e‐coachen en begeleiden op afstand, Utrecht, Ruud de Moor Centrum, 15 September 2005. • CiteULike. http://www.citeulike.org • Connotea. http://www.connotea.org • Delicious. Social bookmarking. http://delicious.com • E‐Tutoring: overview, November 12, 2008. http://www.warwick.ac.uk/ETS/Publications/Guides/Skills/skills.htm • Facebook. http://www.facebook.com • FlashMeeting. http://flashmeeting.open.ac.uk/home.html • Furl. http://www.furl.net • Holmes, Bryan et al. (November 12, 2008) European E‐tutors – inductive models for online lecturing in sychronous collaborative environments. http://www.elearningeuropa.info/directory/index.php?page=doc& doc_id=7111&doclng=6 • Naidu S. (February 20, 2008) Assessment, feedback, and e‐moderation. E‐Learning: A guidebook of principles, procedures and practices. http://www.cemca.org/e‐learning_guidebook.pdf • Netetiquette guidelines memo. http://www.dtcc.edu/cs/rfc1855.html • Num Sum. http://numsum.com/ • Salmon, Gilly. ‘Chapter 16. 80:20 For emoderators.’ The challenge of ecompetence in academic staff development. http://www.ecompetence.info/index.php?id=93 • SimLab of the Helsinki University of Technology. http://www.simlab.tkk.fi • SPUTNIC project. Seminars Promoting the Use of Technologies for Networking and International Collaboration. http://sputnic.europace.org • Toledo. http://toledo.kuleuven.be/index_en.php?fullPage= • VENUS seminars. http://www.venus‐seminars.net 202 Chapter 4: Virtual Mobility before the physical exchange • Boomans, V., Krupnik, S., Krzaklewska E. & S. Lanzilotta (2008) Generation Mobility – Results of ESN Survey 2007. 2008, Erasmus Student Network AISBL, Brussels. http://www.esn.org/documents/files/ESNSurvey 2007‐report.pdf • Haywood, D., Haywood, J., Joyce, A., Timmis, S., Tredgold, J., Pérez, I., van der Duim, L., Mrose, N., Rajagopal, K., Verjans, S., Baldry, A., Marenzi, I., Zanca, C., Valk, A., Lappalainen, M., Devaux, A., Knudsen, I. & N. Sonveaux, (2007) Student Mobility in a Digital World – Final Report of the VICTORIOUS Project. 2007, The Scottish Centre for research into On‐Line Learning & Assessment (SCROLLA), School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh. http://www.coimbra‐group.eu/victorious/VIC%20Final%20 Report%20print%20version.pdf • Distributed Campus. http://www.distributed‐campus.org • Drupal. http://drupal.org • Erasmus Student Network. http://www.esn.org • ESN Galaxy. http://galaxy.esn.org • Grillitsch, A., Jandl, M. & J. Pauschenwein (2005) ESMOS Enhancing Student Mobility using Online Support. Report on Work Package 4 “Needs Analysis”. http://www.esmos.eu/documents/publications/reports/wp4_final_ report.pdf • Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KHLeuven). http://www.khleuven.be • M.A.S.T.E.R. (Mobility, Assessment, Selection, Technology and E‐ learning Research) project. http://www.masterproject.info • NetACTIVE (Credit Transfer In Virtual and distance Education) project. http://www.net‐active.info • PRIME (Problems of Recognition in Making Erasmus) project. http://supernova.esn.org/prime‐problems‐recognition‐making‐ erasmus‐0 203 • Teknillinen korkeakoulu – TKK (Helsinki University of Technology). http://www.tkk.fi/en/index.html • Teknillisen korkeakoulun ylioppilaskunta. (The student union of Helsinki University of Technology). http://www.tky.fi/en • UK Socrates Erasmus Council (2005) Experience Erasmus. Practice and Perspective in Four Subject Areas. Final Report. http://www.programkontoret.se/Global/material/rapporter/slutrap port_erasmus_experience_project_2005.pdf Chapter 5: Virtual Mobility after the physical exchange • Alumni for Europe (AfE) – Interactive Student Network. http://newsite.tpf.iif.hu/alumni/en/index.php • Alumni of the Master of European Social Security (K.U.Leuven). http://www.emssalumni.bravehost.com • Azri and Petrus Communications in cooperation with the INTAL Special Interest Group of the EAIE (2005) Alumni Relationship Management in Europe. EAIE Conference, Kraków, September 2005. http://www.petruscommunications.com/resources/documents/INT AL‐Survey‐Sept‐2005.pdf • BEST AlumniNet. http://www.best.eu.org/alumni/welcome.jsp • BEST – Board of European Students of Technology. http://www.best.eu.org/index.jsp • Bijnens, H., Boussemaere, M., Rajagopal, K., Op de Beeck, I. & W. Van Petegem W. (eds.) (2006) European Cooperation in Education through Virtual Mobility. A best‐practice manual. 2006, EuroPACE ivzw, Leuven. http://www.being‐mobile.net/pdf/BM_handbook_final.pdf • CIMOn uutiskirje korkeakouluille (2/2007) Syntymässä eurooppalainen Erasmus‐alumni‐organisaatio? 24 August 2007. http://cimo.uutiskirje.fi/newsletter/korkeakouluyhteistyo/2_2007/si vu4.php 204 • DAAD Scholarship Holders/Alumni. http://www.daad.de/alumni/en/ index.html • Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst – DAAD. http://www.daad .de/en/index.html • Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA). http://www .em‐a.eu • ESN – Erasmus Student Network. http://www.esn.org • ESN Alumni. http://alumni.esn.org • Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/about.php • Helsinki University of Technology (TKK). http://www.tkk.fi/en/ index.html • Hermes, J.J. (2008) Colleges Create Facebook‐Style Social Networks to Reach Alumni. In: The Chronicle of Higher Education. 25 April 2008. See also: http://onlinesocialnetworks.blogspot.com/2008/05/che‐colleges‐ create‐facebook‐style.html • The Illuminate Consulting Group (2006) Four Drivers for Alumni Networks – Mutual Advantage, Life‐Long Networking, Internationalization and Professionalization. Strategy Perspective. http://www.eaie.org/INTAL/paper2006.pdf • The Illuminate Consulting Group (2007) Utilizing Networking Platforms in International Recruiting and Alumni Networks. EAIE Conference, Trondheim, September 2007. http://www.eaie.org/trondheim/pdf/702.pdf • International Alumni Relations (INTAL) – European Association for International Education. http://www.eaie.org/INTAL • Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KHLeuven). http://www.khleuven.be • Laurea International Relations Management System (IRMS). http://redlabs.laurea.fi/IRMS • LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=company_info&trk=gfoot_abo ut 205 • Lucas, G. (2008) Interview with Mariann Veress, programme Assistant, Alumni for Europe (AfE) – Internal Interview Report. • Lundberg, J. (2007) Facebook – Competitor and/or Compliment? Blog run by Mira Network. 8 November 2007. http://www.mira.se/nordicalumni/2007/11/facebook‐competitor‐ andor‐complement.html • Mira Network. Alumni Relations. http://www.mira.se/public/ solutionsER/alumnirelations.asp • MySpace. http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc .aboutus • The Open University UK. http://www.open.ac.uk • The Open University Alumni. http://www.open.ac.uk/alumni • Peterson, H. (2007) Alumni e‐Networks: Using Technology to Engage Net Generation Alumni. In: Innovate – Journal of Online Education 3(4), April/May 2007. http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=383 &action=article • PoliAlumni. http://alumni.tkk.fi/en • SwedenInTouch.se. http://www.swedenintouch.se • Tempus Public Foundation (TPF). http://english.tpf.hu • UK Socrates Erasmus Council (2005) Experience Erasmus. Practice and Perspective in Four Subject Areas. Final Report. http://www.programkontoret.se/Global/material/rapporter/slutrap port_erasmus_experience_project_2005.pdf • UK Socrates Erasmus Council (2008) Erasmus Alumni Feasibility Project – Executive Summary. • Sych, S., Williamson, K. & L. Visser (2001) The International Alumni Relations Model – Creating and Developing an Effective International Alumni Relations Program. EAIE Conference, Tampere, December 2001. http://www.eaie.org/pdf/conf2001/19.pdf • Wikipedia. http://wikipedia.org 206 Chapter 6: Evaluating virtual mobility pilots • The Evaluation Blanket. Evaluation Resources. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/centres/cset/eval‐blank/index.htm • Evaluation Capacity Building in Widening Participation Practice. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/events/capacitybuilding/toolkit/index.htm • Harvey, J. (1998) Evaluation Cookbook. 1998, Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative. Institute for Computer Based Learning. Heriot‐Watt University, Edinburgh. http://www.icbl.hw.ac.uk/ltdi/cookbook/contents.html or http://www.icbl.hw.ac.uk/ltdi/cookbook/cookbook.pdf • Saunders, M. (2000) Beginning an evaluation with RUFDATA: theorising a practical approach to evaluation planning. In: Evaluation. Volume 6, no1, pp. 7‐21. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/centres/cset/eval‐lank/docs/rufdata.doc Chapter 7: Guidelines and recommendations for stakeholder in student mobility • Victorious Project, E‐learning Task Force Coimbra Group of Universities Brussels (2006) Tartu Seminar “Erasmus Students: Moving between Universities in a Digital World”. University of Tartu, 18 May 2006. http://www.coimbra‐group.eu/victorious/PDF/Victorious%20‐ %20060518 %20‐%20Tartu%20‐%20SeminarReport.pdf 207 Annex III: Further Reading Projects on Virtual Mobility MoreVM - Ready for Virtual Mobility The MoreVM project (2007‐2009, coordinated by College of Business DOBA Maribor) aims to facilitate virtual mobility, encourage participation and enhance efficiency of virtual mobility in higher education. It addresses the needs of two main target groups: potential virtual mobility students and (smaller) colleges/universities. Core objectives of the project are enhancing students’ performance in virtual mobility students for virtual mobility, raising awareness of the importance of virtual mobility, provide support for colleges/universities in organising virtual mobility, strengthen the cooperation among them and encourage them to develop joint programmes. The MoreVM project will produce four main outcomes: • Pre‐virtual mobility support phase (including introductory course for potential virtual mobility students, cultural survival kit and preparatory course for virtual mobility coordinators) which is dedicated to testing, initiation of virtual mobility and preparation of the two target groups; • Virtual mobility coordinator profile which covers roles, functions and responsibilities of university/college staff in order to provide efficient support for potential virtual mobility students; • Virtual mobility supervision scheme which will help colleges/universities to exchange information about studentsʹ performance in order to prevent drop‐outs and increase their performance by using appropriate counselling and motivation techniques; • Project portal allowing content update by students and participating partners and containing among others the pre‐virtual mobility courses. 208 http://www.morevm.org E-MOVE – An operational conception of virtual mobility The E‐MOVE project (2006‐2007, coordinated by EADTU) focused on four separate types, models and scenarios for organising virtual mobility: (1) organising a pool of international courses: choosing courses from different foreign institutions, (2) building a Virtual Community: creating virtual mobility in the framework of an international learning experience by ICT within a course, (3) creating an international virtual space for joint courses and joint programmes with international partners and (4) facilitating European access to suitable and relevant courses for continuing professional training and development. The project explored the critical success factors of these four types of Virtual Mobility and implemented these in real Open and Distance Teaching courses. It worked on two interrelated and parallel running action lines: ‘Observatory’ and ‘Implementation’. The result of the implementation action line (test‐beds and case studies) is an overview of possibilities, constraints and good practice within the implementation of the four models of virtual mobility. The observatory, consisting of experts in distance education and virtual mobility, analysed, harmonised and integrates these results in examples of good practice and actual implementation. In supporting the implementation of virtual mobility also a European information sharing portal was established for library and information support to students and staff operating in virtual mobility. Project results are gathered in a “Guide to Virtual Mobility”. http://www.eadtu.nl/virtualmobility http://126.96.36.199/Portals/0/documents/The_Guide_to_Virtual_Mobility.pdf BEING MOBILE – Disseminating Virtual Mobility for Students and Teachers Being Mobile (2005‐2006, coordinated by EuroPACE ivzw) aimed to raise awareness amongst representatives from all teaching and training sectors about how European cooperation in education can be heightened through 209 virtual mobility. The take‐up of virtual mobility was promoted through making available the results of previous European Commission funded projects and similar initiatives in this field, fostering international collaboration in education and motivating others to follow their example. The project managed a targeted dissemination activity, in the form of a workshop, a conference and the publication of a best‐practice manual “European Cooperation in Education through Virtual Mobility”. The manual includes short summaries of innovative and model projects or initiatives with a specific focus on replicable outcomes. http://www.being‐mobile.net http://www.being‐mobile.net/pdf/BM_handbook_final.pdf REVE – Real Virtual Erasmus The REVE project (2005‐2006, coordinated by EuroPACE ivzw) aimed to enhance the impact and efficiency of traditional Erasmus programmes through the development and support of Virtual Erasmus actions. For this purpose, two main actions were undertaken by the collaborating partners: • Virtual mobility course actions, in which ‘Real Virtual Erasmus’ is implemented on the basis of new as well as improved existing courses and programmes, with the right blend of virtual and real collaboration between students, teachers, and other knowledge workers across institutional and national borders; • Horizontal support actions that enable and provide the necessary services to the first action line: development and implementation of the necessary technological, organisational and pedagogical tools, techniques and services, models and procedures, training. The main output of the REVE project is the “Virtual Mobility Manual” that introduces Virtual Mobility with all its aspects and advantages to teachers in higher education, to support them while implementing this new aspect of mobility in their course and thus giving students the opportunity to broaden their learning experience. Therefore the manual includes practical examples of Virtual Erasmus courses with best practices, information on working collaboration models and implementation procedures including 210 those related to key aspects such as localisation, accreditation and agreements. http://reve.europace.org http://reve.europace.org/drupal Projects on Blended Mobility SUMIT – Supporting Mobility Through ICT The SUMIT project (2006‐2007, coordinated by UNICA) project aimed at supporting the objective of 3.000.000 Erasmus students by 2011 through the organisation of a seminar on virtual aspects related to mobility in one of the new member states (University of Warsaw, Poland). The SUMIT partnership envisaged setting up a seminar which highlighted and exchanged best practices on virtual aspects related to mobility during three stages: before, during and after (mobility). The objective was to show universities in the targeted countries how ICT can be used to enhance the quality of the student and the university experience of exchange, which, eventually, will help to increase numbers (in and out) of Erasmus students. The main activity of the project consisted in the organisation of the seminar as such targeted towards university staff involved in International Relations, Erasmus Coordination, e‐Learning, libraries and IT services as well as to student associations. The outcomes of the seminar were published in the conference proceedings: “Enhancing Student Mobility In A Digital World. Sharing experiences in An Enlarged Europe”. http://www.eduser.eu/02_projects_sumit.php http://www.unica‐network.eu/docs/eu‐SUMIT‐publication_BW_to_print.pdf ESMOS – Enhancing Student Mobility through Online Support The aims of the ESMOS project (2005‐2007, coordinated by the University of Salford) were to develop, evaluate and model the usage of Virtual Learning Environments and online technologies to support students in mobility situations (study exchanges and work placements) throughout the European Union. 211 The ESMOS project hoped to improve the quality of student’s mobility experience by providing them with a high level support through the means of Virtual Learning Environments and other online technologies. The partnership has firstly carried out an in‐depth analysis of existing practices of mobile students’ support, use of technologies, the factors that affect students on placement and an understanding of the relationships which need to be developed between the universities and their placement organisations in order to identify where and how virtual learning environments (VLEs) and other online technologies can be utilised effectively. Based on this needs analysis, a methodology for international mobility has been developed using a variety of technologies and online tools, such as blogs, wikis, SMS, MMS and virtual classroom applications along with VLEs. It is elaborated to become a Model for the Virtual Support of Mobility Students, with protocols and guidelines for each type of technology. These guidelines and protocols were also being tested in a number of real‐life case studies, alongside online tools for staff and students to help them to overcome pedagogical barriers when entering new learning situations. http://www.esmos.eu VICTORIOUS – Virtual Curricula Through Reliable Interoperating University Systems The Victorious project (2005‐2006, coordinated by Coimbra Group) was an in‐depth analysis consisting of feasibility tests in three different areas that are key to opening the door to large‐scale implementation of virtual mobility: Quality, Interoperability/Open Standards, and Digital Repositories and Resources. The Victorious project used physical mobility in a digital world as a proxy for virtual mobility. It researched how mobile students and university staff can deal with varying organisational systems and ICT facilities at different European universities. This was investigated through two surveys and feasibility tests (pilots). The student survey probes the student’s experience of differing ICT facilities when on exchange. The survey has been followed up by a 212 university survey which focuses on the institutions’ view on and priorities in ICT facilities. The pilots deal with six possible solutions to identified issues, which include: (1) quality of information about the host university, (2) making courses more ‘visiting student friendly’, (3) interconnections between virtual learning environments, (4) making course choice from remote universities easier, (5) sharing digital identities between universities and (6) remote access to the full digital services of the home university. The outcomes of the Victorious project are gathered in the final report ”Student Mobility in A Digital World” including an extensive report on the surveys and the pilots and guidelines for students, universities and policy makers. http://www.victorious‐project.org http://www.coimbra‐ group.eu/victorious/VIC%20Final%20Report%20print%20version.pdf Projects supporting the exchange of experiences of mobile students Europe Now Europe Now is an initiative of the Central Ceepus Office. The project is also supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research, the OEAD (Austrian Exchange Service), and ARGE Europäisches Forum Alpbach und Zentrum für Soziale Innovation. It is a new web platform (launched in 2008) for European mobile students and alumni of a wide range of European exchange programmes. “Europe‐now” is focused on European themes: visions of a future Europe, ideas, experiences and recommendations can be communicated and discussed via different communication channels: discussion boards, blogs and photoblogs, testimonials and a competition on the subject “How Exchange Changed My Life” are waiting to be used. Various community 213 functions such as “Let’s meet” or chats complement the options of “Europe‐now“. http://www.europe‐now.eu Mobi-Blog - The European Weblog platform for mobile students The Mobi‐Blog project (2007‐2009, coordinated by Virtual Learning Centre of the University of Granada) is developing a weblog service for European mobile students, which enables students to tell their story and read about others’ experiences during their exchange programme. The weblog contains all aspects of mobile students, like motivation, social issues, communication and cultural issues, organisational and administrative problems. Mobi‐Blog will produce: • A self‐sustaining web‐based multi‐lingual European service for mobile students. It will support a growing number of weblogs about the experience of studying abroad, with positive examples of overcoming motivational, social and cultural barriers to mobility; • An online guide for students which outlines their real life experiences of barriers to mobility and how they got around them, linked to the compelling first‐person testimony in the blogs; • A community network of universities in Europe using the product developed within their mobile studies information services. By producing these outputs Mobi‐Blog envisages to increase students’ motivation for doing mobile studies in Europe, to provide structured information for actors in higher education, to raise awareness about the topic, and to provide a model for an adequate use of weblogs and peer‐to‐ peer software in general for learning and education. http://mobi‐blog.eu Let’s Go! A project Making Mobility a Reality for All Students and Staff The Let’s Go project (2007‐2008, carried out by Education International and ESU) was launched to ensure that the issues that teachers and students face 214 when going abroad to study, teach or research are brought to the centre of political debate. While the higher education community is aware of different problems, action is required from (governmental) institutions dealing with immigration, employability and social security. The results of successful projects surrounding mobility therefore need to be communicated to a wider public. The Let’s Go Campaign promoted mobility of students and staff to provide momentum for change and provided information on the benefits of mobility as well as push for the removal of barriers to mobility. The project activities comprised: • Campaign materials and national campaigns carried out jointly by teacher and student unions; • An interactive wiki‐style website in which students and staff can exchange knowledge on mobility and share good and bad practices; • A mobility barometer, featuring the different mobility situations for both students and higher education and research personnel in each country within the European region; • The “Let’s Go! – Where to now?” Mobility Campaign Conference (Lille, France) finalising the campaign. http://www.letsgocampaign.net http://data.ei‐ie.org/Common/GetFile.asp?ID=5756&mfd=off&LogonName=Guest http://data.ei‐ie.org/Common/GetFile.asp?ID=5754&mfd=off&LogonName=Guest 215 Annex IV Background of the handbook The VM-BASE project VM‐BASE ‐ Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges, was a two‐year project that started 1 October 2006. The project was carried out with the support of the European Commission, Directorate‐General for Education and Culture, under the Socrates/Minerva programme. The VM‐BASE project aimed to raise the quality of student exchanges by offering virtual support, both before and after the physical mobility. Virtual support was used to prepare and follow‐up the mobile student, as a complement to the existing exchange programmes. In this way, the project supported teachers in coaching exchange students at a distance (e‐ coaching). The project started with a study giving an overview of the state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures and a needs analysis, making an inventory of student and teacher needs. The major activity of the project consisted of several pilots focusing on the orientation and selection of students, preliminary courses for students preparing for a physical exchange and examination facilities at the end or even after the exchange. Next to the pilots the need and feasibility of a Virtual Alumni Association for Erasmus students was being investigated. All project results are presented in this manual. More information on the project is also available at http://vm‐ base.europace.org. Partnership VM‐BASE project partners are: 216 EuroPACE ivzw (BE) EuroPACE ivzw is a European non‐profit association of universities and their partners in education and training, e.g. private companies, international networks and governmental institutions. The main objective of EuroPACE is to foster networked e‐learning for virtual mobility, for internationalisation of higher education, for knowledge creation and sharing and for lifelong learning. Its main interests are innovation in education, new educational technologies, quality in e‐learning and e‐ learning competences and skills. Its target groups are higher education institutions, private companies and policy making bodies. The main activities of EuroPACE are research and development through projects, networking, expert advice, events and publishing of reports, papers and presentations. http://www.europace.org AVNet ‐ Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BE) The AVNet Department of the Catholic University of Leuven, K.U.Leuven, is a university interface that aims to support networked e‐learning in an international context, i.e. to support local university teachers in the internationalisation of their education by using ICT. It does this by providing advise, design, development, implementation, and training services. AVNet also assesses (inter)national trends in order to encourage local university teachers to participate in (inter)national activities and to translate (inter)national initiatives to the local and/or regional setting. AVNet has participated in a number of research projects on virtual education, e‐learning and technology‐enhanced learning in general. http://www.avnet.kuleuven.be Coimbra Group (BE) Founded in 1985, the Coimbra Group is an association of long‐established European multidisciplinary universities of high international standard committed to creating special academic and cultural ties in order to promote, for the benefit of its members, internationalisation, academic collaboration, excellence in learning and research, and service to society. It 217 is also the purpose of the Group to influence European educational policy and to develop best practice through the mutual exchange of experience. The Coimbra Group Office coordinates activities among Coimbra Group universities and manages cooperation with other similar organisations at European as well as international level. http://www.coimbra‐group.eu Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (BE) The Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven consists of four departments that merged more than 10 years ago. In 2003 KHLeuven became a member of the association centred around the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, one of the top universities of Europe. The department of Business Studies (ECHO) has 1,350 students for a professional bachelor in the disciplines Business Management and Office Management. It has a history of high‐quality education, enjoys a very good reputation and has many valuable partnerships all across Europe. On the regional level ECHO aims at playing a role in the lifelong learning process and in the development of commerce and industry. Many projects are carried out in cooperation with or by order of regional enterprises, public organisations and European partner institutions. The main fields of expertise are: entrepreneurship, sustainable development, use of IT and international cooperation. http://www.khleuven.be ESU (BE) ESU – European Students’ Union is the umbrella organisation of 49 national unions of students from 38 countries and through these members represent over 10 million students. The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at a European level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Council of Europe and UNESCO. http://www.esib.org 218 Tartu Ülikool (EE) The University of Tartu is a public university committed to high level research, teaching and providing services to the society. Consisting of ten faculties (Theology, Law, Medicine, Philosophy, Science and Technology, Education, Exercise and Sport Sciences, Economics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Social Sciences), five regional colleges and eight research and development institutions, UT is the only broad‐based classical university in the region. There are six high‐level research directions ‐ the Centre of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, the Centre of Excellence of Chemistry and Materials Science, the Centre of Basic and Applied Ecology, the Centre of Excellence of Gene and Environmental Technology, the Centre of Behaviour and Health Sciences and the Institute of Physics. UT is an active member of international associations such as the European Universities Association, the Utrecht Network, the Baltic Sea Region University Network, and the Coimbra Group of Universities – an association of long‐standing and internationally recognised European research universities where Tartu is the only member from the Baltics. UT has been involved in e‐learning since 1997. Estonian e‐University, a consortium of universities and applied higher education institutions which was established in 2003, contributes to educating lectures of universities to compile and practice quality and efficient e‐courses. http://www.ut.ee TKK Dipoli (FI) Teknillinen korkeakoulu (TKK) (Helsinki University of Technology) is the oldest and largest university of technology in Finland. Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli (TKK Dipoli), an adult education unit of Helsinki University of Technology, is one of the largest continuing education providers among universities in its field in Europe. Making use of its international networks, the technological know‐how of the university staff, and the business experience of industries, TKK Dipoli seeks to support business management, technological development and lifelong learning. TKK Dipoli is also a major contributor to internationally recognised 219 learning and research programmes. By developing methods and utilising e‐ learning technologies, TKK Dipoli has established itself as a forerunner in the field of continuing education programmes on national and international levels. http://www.dipoli.tkk.fi Laurea‐ammattikorkeakoulu (FI) Laurea University of Applied Sciences is the fourth largest university of applied sciences in Finland, and operates in the Greater Helsinki Region in eight units. Laurea produces new competences in the field of service innovations and carries out professionally orientated education, regional development and R&D activities by following the Learning by Developing (LbD) operational model. Laurea is profiled particularly as a developer of regional development influence, R&D linked to cluster development, network and business competence, related operating models, the welfare sector and welfare entrepreneurship. Laurea is at the forefront of its field, having been appointed as a centre of excellence in education and regional development by the Higher Education Evaluation Council of the Academy of Finland. Laurea has developed swiftly as a university of applied sciences, coming up with innovative teaching methods that benefit students. Laurea employs approximately 500 personnel and 8000 students, of which about 1200 study in the adult education programmes. http://www.laurea.fi BEST (FR) BEST, Board of European Students of Technology is a constantly growing non‐profit and non‐political organisation that provides communication, cooperation and exchange possibilities for students all over Europe, since 1989. More than 70 local BEST Groups (LBGs) in 29 countries are currently creating a growing, well‐organised, powerful, young and innovative student network. BEST strives to help European students of technology to become more internationally minded, by reaching a better understanding of European cultures and developing capacities to work on an international basis. Therefore BEST creates opportunities for the students to meet and 220 learn from one another through our academic and non‐academic courses and educational symposia. Through its Educational Involvement, BEST participates in numerous educational programmes in order to connect students of engineering with their educational process. The Educational Involvement, consisting mainly of Events on Education, is the responsibility of the Educational Committee of the organisation. The aim of such involvement is to give regular students the opportunity to share their ideas and visions on higher education and to have their voice heard at a higher level. http://www.best.eu.org University of West Hungary (HU) Nyugat‐magyarországi Egyetem (University of West Hungary) is one of the most significant centres of higher education in the Transdanubia region. It consists of ten faculties which are spread across five cities of Hungary. The Faculty of Geoinformatics in Székesfehérvár, the partner institution in the VM‐BASE project, is a leading institution in Hungary in continuing professional education on Land Surveying, Geoinformatics and Land Management. The Faculty is involved in various flexible education programmes for land management giving professional development services to engineers, technicians, and executives. The Faculty has accumulated significant experience in the UNIGIS and similar international networks of universities, which offer common courses by open and distance learning to in‐service professionals in the area of Geographical Information Systems and Land Management. International cooperation of the Faculty is oriented towards the development of education. The Faculty has participated in several projects aimed at issues relating to the interactive use of GIS, development of distance learning courses, education for continuing professional development, development of knowledge in land administration matters, and development of networking between universities. http://www.geo.info.hu 221 University of Edinburgh (UK) The University of Edinburgh is one of the oldest in the UK having been founded in 1583 and with a long tradition of providing high quality first and higher degrees in most subjects, including all professions. It has a very substantial level of research in all subjects with almost all staff active in research at national or international levels. This is reflected in the standing of the university in the top six in the UK in research, and top in Scotland, in both quantity and quality. The university has very strong international relationships in both teaching and research, and draws staff and students from all countries of the world. It is an active member of such international groupings as LERU, Universitas 21 and the Coimbra Group. http://www.ed.ac.uk *** The VM‐BASE team organised the project activities under various work packages. A project management team, consisting of representatives of all project partners, was set up to foster maximum collaboration. The targeted activities of VM‐BASE include a needs analysis, an overview of state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures, a study for a Virtual Erasmus Alumni Association, the organisation of pilot courses and activities, the organisation of events such as student seminars and symposia and e‐coaching workshops, dissemination, evaluation and management activities. All project results are collected in this manual. Project coordination The project was managed by EuroPACE ivzw, a network organisation with a long history in the coordination of international research projects. Project management was done in a ‘blended’ way, using both modern technology 222 tools such as e‐mail, wiki and FlashMeeting to coordinate and communicate as well as face‐to‐face meetings to motivate partners. Mutual knowledge The “mutual knowledge” work package was lead by TKK Dipoli and included: • An overview of the state‐of‐the‐art in virtual exchange support measures for incoming and outgoing (Erasmus) students in the project partner institutions; • A needs analysis with an inventory of student and teacher needs and requirements in the different phases of international student exchange (preparatory phase, before exchange, during exchange and after exchange); • A study for a Virtual Erasmus Alumni Association that addresses the question of how students and teachers that embarked on physical and virtual mobility activities can network and participate in a wider community after their experience. Organisation of pilot courses The major activity of the project consisted of several pilots focusing on the orientation and selection of students, preliminary courses for students preparing for a physical exchange and examination facilities at the end of or even after the exchange. In the work package on pilots for the preparatory phase – lead by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven – following seven pilots were identified, developed and implemented: • Virtual Buddy System – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven; • TKK multimedia presentation and virtual student interviews – TKK; 223 • Virtual Exchange of Students Mobility Experience ‐ University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics; • Multilingual Survival Kit in GIS ‐ University of West Hungary, Department of Geoinformatics; • Online education and evaluation tool of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; • Virtual Window for Study Abroad ‐ University of Tartu; • Go abroad ‐ Laurea University of Applied Sciences; • In the work package on pilots for the follow‐up phase – lead by University of Tartu – four pilots were carried out: • Supporting oral exams at a distance for the Master of European Social Security – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; • Exam aquarium ‐ TKK; • Virtual feedback and information system ‐ Laurea University of Applied Sciences; • Virtual Alumni – Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven. Organisation of student seminars & symposia During the course of the project four student symposia and seminars were organised by the student organisations BEST and ESU. The symposia and seminars had a double purpose: they were both meant for internal project evaluation, feedback from experiences, problems encountered, advantages & solutions found, but also acted as dissemination events. The following events were organised: • ESIB Seminar, May 2007, London, UK; • BEST Student symposium, September 2007, Sofia, Bulgaria; • ESU Seminar, June 2008, Brussels, Belgium; • BEST Student symposium, July 2008, Iasi, Romania. 224 Organisation of e-coaching workshops In the second year of the project two workshops on e‐coaching were organised. Project activities, cases and pilots were presented and used as a starting point for discussion and the exchange of ideas on key issues with regard to e‐coaching. Among other things issues such as the needs of (exchange) students and teachers, support of exams at a distance, virtual alumni, selection of students, preparation and coaching of exchange students…were discussed. Special attention went to practical and useful ‘tips and tricks’ for teachers on how to coach exchange students at a distance for preparatory and return initiatives. Feedback from the workshop participants were used as input for this manual. Two workshops were organised: • Coimbra Annual General Meeting, May 2008, Jena, Germany; • EADTU Conference, September 2008, Poitiers, France. Dissemination Dissemination activities were coordinated by Coimbra Group. The project activities and outcomes were and still are promoted at national and international educational events and through mailings and publication of press releases in major educational portals, newsletters and websites of the supporting partners and networks. Evaluation The University of Edinburgh managed the evaluation process that covered both the process through which goals were achieved (monitoring the internal progress of the project and quality assurance plan for the project process) and the assessment of outcomes and impacts. 225 Publication The VM‐BASE project finally included the publication of this manual with concrete guidelines, validated procedures and recommendations for blended mobility activities as well as good practices in e‐coaching. Executive summaries of the manual are also available in English, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish and Hungarian. The VM‐BASE manual and summaries can be downloaded for free at http://vm‐base.europace.org. 226 Editors This manual was edited by Katrin Bijnens (AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leu- ven, BE), Ilse Op de Beeck (EuroPACE ivzw, BE) and Wim Van Petegem (AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven & EuroPACE ivzw, BE). Authors The manual is compiled from the VM-BASE partnership’s experience. The fol- lowing people contributed in one way or another to the content of the manual (in alphabetical order): Eline Bezemer (AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE), Helena Bijnens (EuroPACE ivzw, BE), Veronika Bleyerova (University of West Hungary, HU), Machteld Boussemaere (AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE), Andrei Bur- suc (BEST, FR), Anthony Camilleri (ESU, BE), Anneleen Cosemans (AVNet – Ka- tholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE), Johannes De Gruyter (AVNet – Katholieke Uni- versiteit Leuven, BE), Vasilis Georgilas (BEST, FR), Denise Haywood (University of Edinburgh, UK), Jeff Haywood (University of Edinburgh, UK), Anna-Kaarina Kairamo (TKK Dipoli, FI), Laszlo Kottyan (University of West Hungary, HU), Inge Knudsen (Coimbra Group, BE), Grégory Lucas (University of West Hungary, HU), Arja Majakulma (Laurea University of Applied Sciences, FI), Christine Michiel- sens (EuroPACE ivzw, BE), Catarina Moleiro (Coimbra Group, BE), Nicki Mrose (AVNet – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE), Irma Mänty (Laurea University of Applied Sciences, FI), Ulla Rintala (TKK Dipoli, FI), Carina Saelen (Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven, BE), Raisa Saviaho (Laurea University of Applied Sciences, FI), Ülle Tensing (University of Tartu, EE), Klaas Vansteenhuyse (Katholieke Ho- geschool Leuven, BE), Sandis Zuciks (AVNet - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE) We would like to thank all the staff and students at our universities who gave of their time with such enthusiasm to help with the pilots. Design The layout was done by Catarina Moleiro (Coimbra Group, BE). The VM-BASE logo was designed by Sandy Claes (AVNet-Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE). This publication explores the possibilities of extending, supporting and complementing physical student mobility through virtual mobility activities. It presents the main results of the activities carried out by several European higher education institutions, networks and student organisations during the lifetime of the EC-supported project VM-BASE (“Virtual Mobility Before and After Student Exchanges”). The VM-BASE project aimed to improve the quality of student exchanges by offe- ring virtual support, both before, during and after physical mobility and supported teachers in coaching exchange students from a distance (e- coaching). The VM-BASE project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.