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Transforming challenges into resources? What the coronavirus outbreak could teach us.

A group of VID university students walking outside as a close group.
With the COVID19 outbreak, the questions on how you can transform challenges into resources and how you can ensure that you leave no one behind suddenly became very relevant and very close. But the questions nevertheless, became relevant in a whole new way. Our everyday life, including the working day, was suddenly radically changed. Would we be able to handle this?

I know I am proud to say that during these times, we at VID have managed to maintain much of our standard activity, but in completely new ways. Public PhD defenses are carried out 100% online, who had even thought about it? Now we know that it is possible.

Still it has been days and weeks now with many questions and answers, and new ways to be innovative. I do think many of us has tried our best, maybe without even realizing we are tackling the two questions I raised in the beginning: how you can transform challenges into resources and how you can ensure that you leave no one behind?

Ensuring inclusion in education during pandemic

I have seen some examples of this: A group of educational tool developers in Finland wanted to reach out to help all those teachers and students in danger of being confined in their homes without access to daily education, so they offered free apps and resources to support distance learning in schools affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition, a dedicated group of teachers and staffmemmbers of HEIs in Norway introduced a Facebook toolbox for educators who now within days had to change their teaching from standard classroom teaching to online interactions. The group is intended to be a resource for teachers within higher education in order to share tips, advice and instructions on how to transfer physical education and guidance to digital platforms, as this is new to so many. I see it as a toolbox in order to leave no one behind.

A chance to build virtual mobility?

After spending a few days on travel insurance guidance and Force Majeure applications for students with interrupted mobility stays abroad, I also had time to think about what todays struggle means for international cooperation in the future.  How can we maintain a positive and active interest in internationalisation from both students and staff, so that the many plans and project we have for the future can still be kept, as we do believe that this will pass, eventually.

I’ve considered if it’s time to think differently, and maybe now it is time to really go into the virtual mobility implementation process? We have during the last weeks, seen that virtual engagement has sort of been a push towards more engagement. Greater access to all support systems online for all students, and those who normally study remotely, suddenly have the same opportunities as everyone else, as they are all online now. So when I ask myself the question: Will we be able to run a normal semester mobility program next fall, starting from August? I have to say that I doubt it. Even if somethings are back to normal, I am sure we are fare from “normal” all around the world. But are we ready to turn our mindset also in terms of internationalisation and mobility?

Let’s share what we have learned this spring

It has been a radical shift in the academic way of teaching the last weeks, how do we turn that challenge into a resource? One thing is teaching students online and giving them guidance, but how to evaluate them? Do we have any good alternatives? Has anyone come up with a best practice?  Which might be the possible alternatives to replace internships? Is it possible to think about “virtual” traineeships or other similar activities?

I am not asking because I believe we have to stop thinking about international mobility in its standard form, but I am asking because we have to think that we have to offer this to everyone, in order to leave no one behind. Maybe this situation will also change the way the different actors in higher education interact. Do we manage to make this challenge into a resource?


About the author

Maria Tendenes, Advisor Internationalization at VID Specialized University

About the blog

3IN blog offers perspectives on Inclusion, Integration and Involvement. The writers come from the alliance of seven diverse higher education institutions across Europe, sharing a goal: a world where no one is left behind.

The core purpose of the 3IN Alliance, and our ambitious long-term objective, is to co-create an innovative European University. Read more from our website.

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