VIRTUAL PLACEMENTS: IMPROVING THE INTERNATIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE OF STUDENTS

In a context of increasing global economic connectivity and interdependence, gaining practical work experience (skills and competences) in a professional and international environment is vital. For that reason, higher education institutions, students and companies have a growing interest in cross-border student placements.

When students go physically abroad for a work placement, preparation, coaching and follow-up of students is not always optimal. Virtual mobility activities to better prepare them for the work placement will result in a more fit-for-purpose matching of students and companies. Virtual follow-up and coaching systems will enable more knowledge exchange between the higher education institutions, companies and students on tutoring issues, tasks, student performance.

These traditional physical student placements, where the learner travels to the company abroad, require a degree of flexibility (of finances, time, and motivation). Only a relatively small number of learners is therefore able to enjoy an international, professional opportunity. Likewise, smaller or more remotely located enterprises find it hard to gain access to this form of international university-enterprise cooperation. Here, the set-up of fully virtual placements, for those who cannot physically go abroad for financial, social or other reasons, could overcome this need for enlarged access and flexibility and could allow more students to benefit from an international experience, learn a foreign language and acquire intercultural communication skills in a business context.

The paper will present the activities within the EU-VIP project (“Enterprise-University Virtual Placements”). This project exactly wants to enhance the quality, efficiency and impact of international work placements by focusing on how to organize international work placements using the advantages of the newest educational technologies. The project is developing models and services for virtual mobility activities to support students before, during and after a work placement abroad but will also look into the possibilities of fully virtual placements.