Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange project (youth)
In 2018, the European Commission launched Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange, a pilot project which is aimed at enabling youth in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to engage in meaningful intercultural experiences online, as part of their formal or non-formal education. It defines Virtual Exchange as “technology-enabled people-to-people dialogues sustained over a period of time” for individuals and groups which are geographically separated and moderated by trained facilitators and/or educators using structured activities. The project targets both academia (professors, administrators, students) and youth (youth workers, young people).
Exchange in this context is different from exchange as in the exchange mobility scheme in the Erasmus programme. Here, exchange is not necessarily related to a formal course or curriculum at partner universities, although some of the Interactive Open Online Courses (IOOCs) are networked cooperations between universities (see below).
Also, in the case of this pilot action for the Youth programme, exchange rather means exchange of ideas and values, while in the Erasmus KA1 context, exchange refers to the exchange of students.
Facilitator Training: The majority of Erasmus+ Virtual Exchanges involve synchronous video sessions moderated by trained facilitators. Training covers the knowledge necessary to guide dialogue and solve conflicts in intercultural contexts, including observing for and addressing power dynamics; listening actively; asking critical thinking questions; encouraging students to share personal stories; preventing false dialogue; and understanding region-specific political and cultural sensitivities.
Training for university educators and youth workers to develop their own Erasmus+ Virtual Exchanges: Basic training provides an introduction to and experience of virtual exchange whereas advanced training guides participants through the various steps and various pedagogical and technological considerations they need to design and implement a successful virtual exchange which will meet the specific needs and interests of their locally identified target groups and international partners.
Debate team leader: a 6-hour training aims at equipping the Debate Leaders with the necessary tools to train their local teams in debate skills and allow them to play a leading role in moderating and facilitating an online Debate Exchange.
Online Facilitated Dialogue: programmes ranging from 4 to 8 weeks with weekly online facilitated synchronous sessions that create opportunities for young people to connect together and to discuss current issues that matter to them.
Interactive Open Online Courses: topical programmes (e.g. Countering Hate Speech, Refugees in Europe, Gender In/Equality in Media and Journalism, Culture and Politics in Europe, Newcomers and Nationalism) ranging from 4 to 12 weeks that give young people engaged in traditional MOOCs the opportunity to learn both with and from their peers across cultural contexts and national boundaries through regular interaction in facilitated online meetings and collaborative assignments.
Debate Exchanges: led by youth who have been trained as Debate team leaders, this activity brings together young people to engage in parliamentary style debates in intercultural teams in a virtual environment.
Transnational Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange Projects: small-scale, project-based Virtual Exchanges jointly developed by youth workers and/or university educators from two or more different countries who have completed the training.
In all cases, learning activities are mainly about:
asking good questions
major festivals in each country
Recognition for successful completion of all trainings and exchanges is offered through open badges, the value of which depends on the endorsement by universities and employers. Individual institutions determine the number of ECTS students receive for participation in the various activities, ranging from 3 ECTS to 12 ECTS.
EVOLVE (Evidence-Validated Online Learning through Virtual Exchange) is a KA3 project led by the University of Groningen which aims to mainstream Virtual Exchange (VE) as an innovative form of collaborative international learning across disciplines in higher education institutions in Europe and beyond.
The project aims to support higher education institutions in implementing virtual exchange as part of their internationalisation at home offerings. It will do this by providing an evidence-base to support implementation,
The project offers training and support in the design and implementation of this model of virtual exchange, which is in line with Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange.