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Trends in Virtual International Collaboration

Internationalisation of Higher Education serves as an important tool in improving education and its alignment to the international society and labour market where students will find themselves after their education. In several ways higher education is increasingly becoming more international, for instance through Internationalisation at Home, a subject receiving much attention as of late. 

Internationalisation at Home

Beelen and Jones define Internationalisation at Home as the “purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments”. This has provided a tool in internationalising Dutch education. A relatively new development in Internationalisation at Home is the increasing amount of Virtual Exchanges being offered to students. 

Virtual Exchanges

In Virtual Exchanges, defined by the Virtual Exchange Coalition as “Technology-enabled, sustained people-to-people education programs”, students get together in a structured setting, as part of their education, using online and digital technology. In Virtual exchange and Internationalisation at Home: navigating the terminology, Beelen and O’Dowd note that Virtual Exchanges should not be confused with Virtual Mobility, where students follow online courses at educational institutions abroad without having to travel. By contrast, Virtual Exchanges are aimed at bringing students together into structured dialogue in an online environment in order to develop their intercultural and international competences. The core of Virtual Exchanges exists around the structured interactions, and collaboration, between students from different countries and cultural backgrounds.

Virtual International Collaboration

The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sciences builds upon this trend by supporting VIS projects, stimulating the internationalisation of Dutch Higher Education through virtual tools, using the principles and aims of Virtual Exchanges. As an additional requirement, the Ministry requires international collaboration between students based in different countries that lead to a tangible end-product based on co-creation.