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Consortium blog: Marleen Oosterink

In this series, we interview the people behind VIS in higher education: Marleen tells why she joined the consortium and what she thinks the added value of VIS is.

Marleen Oosterink works at CINOP as an education expert and is involved in the VIS project as project leader. She is responsible for the smooth running of the project, cooperation between the partners and coordination with the project’s client, OCW.
The VIS consortium consists of: Sharing Perspective Foundation, University of Groningen, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, UNICollaboration and CINOP.

Personal development of students

With Virtual International Cooperation (or VIS), gaining international experience becomes available to a larger group. And that is important, because international experience is very enriching for students. At the live VIS event in 2022, I spoke with some students who participated in a VIS project and I really liked what participating in a VIS project had given them. Students learn that other cultures have different customs. A great example that stuck with me was an enthusiastic story from a student: ‘when you work with students from Indonesia, the internet can go down when it rains hard.’ Always having the internet and being able to be online is not something everyone can take for granted’. Students learn how to deal with this. Facilities are not the same everywhere, but you still have to work together. This allows you to put yourself in other perspectives and that is very valuable. This personal development and enrichment of students triggers me enormously. VIS ensures that more students can become richer in knowledge, experience, perspectives and commitment, all without burdening the ecological footprint. I think that is a very beautiful mission and I am happy to contribute to it from CINOP.

The right person in the right place

As project manager, my role is to ensure that the VIS subsidy support programme runs well. How can we help institutions set up and implement VIS projects in the best possible way? I try to make the project run as smoothly as possible by properly deploying and aligning the forces of the consortium. The consortium has a lot of substantive expertise around virtual exchange, but also around international exchange. These people are very good in terms of content, but they are also practical experience experts, which makes it very nice to work together. The team also includes experts in training: how to get people enthusiastic, how to transfer knowledge. But also how do you facilitate dialogue between institutions/people, so that not everyone has to reinvent the wheel and people learn from each other? Content and experience are powerful pillars in our consortium.

Goals for VIS

I am very impressed with the support programme that has been put in place. There are training sessions for different stakeholders, walk-in consultations, intervision opportunities, an online question desk, information sessions for management and we even have a Live VIS event. I am already looking forward to chatting with all different kinds of VISsers again on 9 November and hearing their experiences.

With VIS, I would also like to help people involved in VIS projects understand the value of enriching your programme through the various support options.

People are quick to think they want to and can do it all themselves, but when I explain what we can do for them, I notice that they do appreciate the support and find it useful. What is your goal with VIS? How does it fit with the goals from your organisation? Who do you involve in this process? How do you set it up and also, how do you make it sustainable so that it is also permanent after the subsidy ends. Sparring with each other, exchanging experiences and being able to present your case to experts by experience can help enormously to learn from each other, because everyone goes through the same phases. Therefore, my appeal to people involved in a VIS project is: be open to the support we can provide. If you don’t know what is suitable for you, get in touch by calling or emailing, and we can offer tailored advice. I think it is important that the wheel is not reinvented over and over again and projects are quickly at an even higher level, so that institutions, and eventually therefore students, can benefit more.