Virtual placements: improving the international work experience of students


ABSTRACT 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 work 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 work 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. 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. The EU-VIP project ("Enterprise-University Virtual Placements") exactly wants to enhance the quality, efficiency and impact of international work placements by focusing on how to organise 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. Finally, the paper will give an overview of the advantages but also the challenges related to the implementation of virtual components in work placements.


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May 29, 2014