|Physical and digital student mobility offers advantages:
|• To students
|• To institutions
Benefits for students
Both physical and digital mobility bring benefits to students, with an international academic experience at the heart of all mobility. In addition, physical mobility provides an immersion in another country with specific benefits for students. Digital mobility also leads to international skills and attitudes and contributes to personal development and to living and working in an international context.
An international academic experience
The core of all mobility is an international academic experience. Physical and digital mobility programs expose students to different views, knowledge, teaching and research methods, and work practices in the field. They contribute to the development of transversal skills such as communication, language, intercultural problem-solving skills and research skills.
Mobility can also increase students’ motivation to participate in and attend future education or training.
Students increase their employability and active participation in society, as well as European citizenship and awareness of EU values.
An immersion through physical mobility
Physical mobility involves staying in another country, resulting in personal development with specific benefits such as self-confidence, greater self-empowerment and selfesteem, improved foreign language skills, networking with friends (for life), enhanced intercultural awareness and skills, and the ability to adapt to new situations.
The development of international competences
Research on teachers’ expectations of digital mobility has led to dimensions of skills and competences acquired by students, enabling them to meet the challenges of today’s society (Rajagopal, K.et al., 2020):
• Intercultural skills and attitudes: gaining cultural knowledge; understanding cultural perspectives; enhancing own cultural identity; enhancing and demonstrating cultural understanding; applying intercultural awareness in culturally challenging circumstances
• Networked learning skills: learning to work and cooperate in an international setting with the use of ICT and social platforms; learning about dealing with complex situations; learning about dealing with ambiguity;
• Active self-regulated learner skills: being able to plan and organise their own learning process; being able to self-reflection on learning experiences; demonstrating ownership and self-discipline in learning;
• Media and digital literacy: are proficient in searching for good quality courses and resources; are digitally literate; are proficient in using digital platforms;
• Autonomy-driven learning: demonstrating self-directedness in decision-making on own learning; demonstrating independent learning;
• Interactive and collaborative learning in authentic international environments: enhancing teamwork skills; collaborating with peers from different discipline; collaborating with peers within the context of an international learning experience; Interacting with authentic international resources in a foreign language;
• Open-mindedness: being open- minded and tolerant; demonstrating self-confidence in interaction with peers and teaching staff; showing willingness to improve proficiency in foreign languages.
The Erasmus Impact Study 2019 provided evidence that there is a direct correlation of an international experience to enhanced employability prospects through improved soft skills, intercultural competencies, confidence, and adaptability (European Commission, 2019). Mobility is also increasing the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.
The study showed “that Erasmus(+) graduates found their first job quicker after graduation (79% did within three months from graduation, compared to 75% of non-mobile graduates), were happier with their jobs than non-mobiles and worked abroad more often. They ranked their jobs well in terms of valuable aspects such as job security and career prospects. They reported significantly higher levels of social recognition in their jobs than non-mobile graduates and around two thirds (rather) agreed that their job was characterised by a high income. 72% of Erasmus+ graduates considered that their Erasmus+ experience had been beneficial or highly beneficial for them in finding their first job and 82% for their overall career development –the results being even stronger for Southern European and Partner countries. 40% of graduates who undertook an Erasmus+ traineeship reported to have been offered a position in the company where they did their traineeship, suggesting a strong contribution to their labour market integration”.
University ecosystems are increasingly hybrid and international, combining physical and virtual spaces (EUA, 2021). Next to individual universities, the alliances of the European University Initiative strengthen this development (European Commission, 2021. The virtual campus makes the university ubiquitous and truly international. It promotes academic collaboration and improves access for all to international education and research through physical and digital mobility schemes.
Offering all students an international academic experience
In these new university ecosystems, digital mobility is a key enabler to deliver mobility at scale. Large-scale mobility cannot be achieved without offering a combination of physical and digital mobility options. As a result, all modes of mobility will grow, reinforcing each other.
By integrating digital mobility, universities can offer more than 50%, if not all students, an international experience tailored to their study career, interests and preferences as currently planned in EUI alliances.
By integrating virtual mobility, mobility will be also more inclusive, opening up new opportunities for students who are limited in physical mobility due to a disability, socio-economic background, work or care responsibilities. Mobility will becoming affordable for everyone, in line with the Resolution of the European Parliament of 23 June 2022 (European Parliament, 2022).
Making internationalization flexible
Digital mobility through the use of synchronous hybrid, blended or online distance learning formats promotes flexible internationalization of courses and curricula by organizing:
• short digital mobility components embedded in a course or programme, e.g.
collaborative webinars, learning communities, projects, blended intensive programs.
• digital exchange mobility for individual students between partner universities
• structured digital mobility windows as course packages / minor programs in networked
• digital mobility processes embedded in joint programmes.
In all these trajectories, digital mobility can be organized in the short or long term or at intervals.
Due to the independence of place and time (synchronous, asynchronous) and tempo, digital mobility opens up the possibility of multi-campus education and it can guarantee maximum scalability of internationalization by facilitating access for all.
Organizing complementary offerings and sharing teaching capacity
Especially through mobility windows in networked curricula and by mobility pathways in joint degrees, university can broaden their academic offerings to students. At the same time, they share the teaching capacity within the partnership.
By participating in global partnerships, universities can organize mobility programs at all levels, making global teaching and learning more affordable, as physical mobility can be organized as a smaller part of a collaborative curriculum combined with digital mobility.
This also applies to collaborations with the South.
Cooperation with universities in crisis situations can also benefit from such approaches, for example the war in Ukraine, for an entire curriculum or specific parts of it.
Collaborating in networks and alliances
Digital mobility creates new opportunities for educational collaboration within university networks and EUI alliances, supporting common ambitions, for example by organizing joint courses, micro-credentials, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral programs, connected with joint research.
Benefits of physical and digital student mobility Within the framework of these networks and alliances, research institutes and partners from outside the academic world can be more easily involved, for example for international internships.
A combination of physical and digital mobility formats is the cornerstone of an integrated international campus, facilitating course and curriculum collaboration and multi-campus education for all (UNA Europa, 2022).
Collaborating in international continuing education and lifelong learning
Digital mobility creates new potential for synergies in continuing education and lifelong learning. By collaborating and networking, partner universities can share or co-develop MOOCs or micro-credential courses and programs. They can be delivered online for students to take anywhere, supported by the universities in the network, involving at least all the countries they serve.
Enhancing the international attractiveness and competitiveness of the university
Digital mobility creates new opportunities to make European higher education programs more attractive and competitive for international students, as demonstrated for example by Australian universities.
Integrating digital mobility pathways would be an asset for joint curricula, targeting high participation of international students (but Erasmus Mundus joint masters require physical mobility).
Digital mobility pathways could also make doctoral programs more feasible and affordable, especially for students in the South who have teaching and research assignments at their home university.
Enhancing the quality of courses and curricula
Physical and digital mobility contribute to the quality of courses and curricula by adding an international learning experience, which is of great value to participating students (see above, benefits to students).
Moreover, international collaboration and the use of technology-enhanced pedagogies increase the accessibility, interactivity and personalization of international curricula, even when courses are delivered in virtual spaces.
The combination of physical and digital forms of mobility makes international education accessible to 50% of students and even to everyone, which is an unprecedented asset for international higher education.
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