Can Virtual Exchange compare to the real deal? Yes, it can!

For many students an international exchange is an exciting experience they look forward to when starting their studies. It paves the way to growing their network, exploring a new country, and learning about a new culture. The COVID-19 crisis has limited students’ opportunity to participate in such events, which has led to universities finding innovative ways to engage their students, such as a virtual exchange program.

Can a virtual program live up to the experience of an actual international exchange? Windesheim University of applied sciences absolutely thinks so and has partnered with six other universities to provide students a unique international learning environment.

Higher Education: An Opportunity to Build a Network

An international exchange provides students with a unique opportunity to travel abroad, experience another culture, and of course, meet new people which expands their network. All of this allows them to broaden their personal perspectives, become more independent, and highly adaptable as they interact with people from different cultures. On top of that many pick up a new language. This set of skills is highly valued by employers, especially due to the ever-growing global footprint of companies.

Restructuring the International Exchange due to COVID-19

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has eliminated this opportunity for students worldwide. Many universities have been challenged to come up with alternative solutions or make the students attend regular courses in their home university in order to gain credits. One of those alternative solutions have been the emergence of virtual exchange programs. To make it work several universities partner to organise such an event. The exchange students gain an opportunity of taking online courses from international institutions.

Virtual Exchange Program by Windesheim and Partners

Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, who has a track record for being an innovator, set up a virtual exchange partnership with universities: University of Lincoln, Technische Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Seinäjoki University of Applied Science, Nord University, Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences and Artevelde University of Applied Sciences. Contrary to regular exchange programs, where students follow courses from other universities, this virtual exchange partnership opted for a different approach.

Together the partner universities with the support of Inchainge are organising a 7-week exchange program spanning from November 9 to December 21. Instead of following online courses, students will be playing business simulation game: The Blue Connection. Students will be grouped together into teams of 4, with each student being from a different university. These mixed teams will be working and learning together while competing against their peers.

Can Virtual Exchange be Interactive and Engaging?

Unlike taking online courses, playing The Blue Connection allows students to apply learned theory directly into practice. Teamwork is a crucial element. To be successful, they must communicate, negotiate, and apply critical thinking which helps them develop their soft skills. Students will experience the challenges and opportunities of transforming a linear business and its supply chain to a profitable circular value chain.

With each team member representing an executive of a company’s department, effective communication, negotiation, and cross-functional alignment are key for students to succeed. To make the Virtual Exchange Program more interactive, students will be ‘meeting up’ to play the game. They will attend a series of educational and teambuilding sessions in a 3D environment – VirBELA. Each participant’s distinctive knowledge and culture will allow the students to learn from each other and experience the closest alternative to an in-person exchange. The intensive interaction throughout the 7-week period will allow them to learn valuable skills and form close connections that will last after the program is over.

In conclusion

The Virtual Exchange Program by Windesheim & Partners is a highly innovative concept. It aims to have students experience the benefits of an international exchange by immersing them in a life-like virtual 3D environment. 

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