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Adapting to the Post-Pandemic Future of Education through Virtual Mobilities

25 June 2020
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The University of Bucharest hosted the first meeting on virtual mobilities within the CIVIS alliance. The meeting gathered representatives trained on this matter from the eight universities of the CIVIS alliance.  

The debate focused on many aspects regarding virtual mobilities, how to balance and blend virtual and physical mobilities, the assessment of current mobilities, and instances of good practices, already in place and working at the universities within the CIVIS alliance. 

Virtual mobilities are currently under the keen debate of higher education institutions since the pandemics caused the academic communities to switch the greatest part of their activities to the online environment. It was on this wider context and its consequences, that the event on the 3 June 2020 was focused. The international academic community thus needs to further debate the mobilities, the switch from the physical to virtual mobilities, and the best balancing of the two types of mobilities

Professor Lucian Ciolan, Vice-rector of the University of Bucharest for Development Projects, Continuous Learning and Educational Infrastructure, stressed that the current situation forces CIVIS to face four major challenges in developing virtual learning solutions: a conceptual challenge, a multilingual challenge, a technological challenge and a didactical challenge. The success of this initiative depends on how the eight universities will answer to these challenges.

The representatives of CIVIS member universities discussed the best practices of technology-assisted teaching and made an inventory of challenges associated with the switch to the virtual learning environment. Among the current challenges, there are the problem of the teaching methods, the academics willingness to switch to virtual teaching solutions, the access to these online teaching methods, the multilingual issue, and the fact that more and more students aim to enrol in study programs taught in English, but also in other programs or workshops taught in other European languages.

Another challenge of technology-assisted learning which was brought up at the meeting is about enabling interactivity and building some real communities assisted by the virtual platforms. Universities should identify and apply those virtual solutions that enable interaction within the academic communities. In this respect, a proposal from the Autonomous University of Madrid identified as a possible solution to the development of some combined mobility programmes, by blending virtual and physical mobilities. 

The attendants to the meeting agreed that the current context could in fact be an opportunity to identify innovative and creative solutions to switch certain activities to the digital environment and to tackle the virtual mobilities issue.  

Professor Radu Gramatovici, Vice-rector for Students and Information Technology of the University of Bucharest, stressed the importance to find those practical solutions for technology and certain equipment able to improve virtual interaction methods into the academic environment, given that people are still reluctant to switch from physical to virtual frameworks. Further on, he asserted that the virtual learning methods lack interaction with fellows of the academic community and interaction with certain laboratory equipment that enable completion of practical tasks, which are fundamental for teaching and learning certain sciences. Immersive virtual reality and augmented reality solutions could thus fill in this need to develop technology-assisted learning methods. 

As a conclusion of the discussion, professor Sorin Costreie, Vice-rector for University Networks and Public Relations of the University of Bucharest, showed that the debate succeeded to identify the main issues regarding virtual mobilities. Moreover, he also stressed that this debate established the main challenges faced by CIVIS in the field of virtual mobilities and that this meeting is merely the first of many future meetings, attempting to find innovative and creative solutions to exceed these challenges.