International virtual mobility: is it an option for promoting the internationalization of higher education?

López-Duarte, Cristina and Maley, Jane and Vidal-Suárez, Marta Maria (2021) International virtual mobility: is it an option for promoting the internationalization of higher education? In: 2nd International Conference of the journal "Scuola Democratica", Online

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International student mobility is one of the hallmarks of the European Higher Education Area. So far it has mainly relied on traditional physical mobility (TPM). International virtual mobility (IVM) is a more recent alternative that implies an online cross-border experience where students remain in their own country while studying at their host university. IVM is a rapidly gaining importance because it allows overcoming the traditional social and financial biases usually shown by traditional programs. The recent health crisis caused by the COVID-19 and its consequent mobility restrictions has brought increased attention to IVM. Furthermore, part of the students that were engaged in a TPM program along the Spring semester of the 2019/2020 academic year turned their program to a virtual one due to this crisis. The aim of this work is to get an approach to the students’ valuation of IVM programs —pursued and achieved objectives, problems, advantages, etc.— and their willingness to engage on them. We have surveyed a sample of over 1,000 students from the University of Oviedo (Spain) that were engaged on or nominated for an international credit mobility program during the 2018-2019 (pre-COVID-19 crisis), 2019-2020 (COVID-19 outbreak), and 2020-2021 (ongoing crisis) academic years. Our results show that a relevant number of students think that IVM is a good alternative to TPM when contextual factors impede or seriously difficult the latter (for instance, during a health or financial crisis); but not when these restraints are not present. Overall, IVM seems to arise just as a second-best option to be considered only when TPM is not possible. The reluctance to IVM seems to be clearly due to its shortcomings in the social arena: the factors that arise as the most relevant drawbacks of IVM are the lack of social interaction in and outside the university. Furthermore, the lack of face-to-face interaction with teachers and colleagues make students feel that they are not a legitimate part of the host university and impedes them to gain cross cultural skills. When focusing on the students that turned their program to a virtual one during the COVID-19 crisis, we find that they report a lower degree of achievement related to personal development, improvement of cross-cultural competencies, upgrading of their academic CV, and enhancement of their professional options. Just on the contrary, continuing with the mobility programme through an IVM option did not harm their achievements in terms of language improvement.
Item Type: Papers in Conference Proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: International Virtual Mobility, online mobility, COVID 19 crisis
Divisions: Sabancı Business School
Depositing User: Jane Maley
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 22:19
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 09:39

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