Virtual internationalisation in times of covid-19

Category: Englisch

Digital exchange with Asia and Greece

Through the covid-19 global crisis, most international student mobilities have had to be cut short, cancelled or postponed at Aschaffenburg UAS, too.

Remote collaboration with Japan and Taiwan
To allow her students in the courses “International Competences: Intercultural Cooperation and Communication” (part of the master programme “International Management”) and “Business Seminar Germany” (elective for incoming students) to still benefit from authentic cross-cultural experiences, Prof. Dr. Renate Link and two colleagues Prof. Dr. Eriko Katsumata from the Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo/Japan and Prof. Dr. Siao-Cing Guo from the National Taipei University of Business/Taiwan (the latter being one of Aschaffenburg’s partner institutions) designed a virtual cultural exchange project connecting their regular and international students. The project consisted of a collaborative digital pre-meeting task familiarizing students with each other’s cultures, cities, campuses and each country's handling of the covid-19 crisis. During the first virtual meeting, students analysed critical incidents taken from the three cultures involved and continued the discussion online in between the first and second remote meeting. For an even more intense digital cultural exchange, the second video conference was joined by international students from Aschaffenburg UAS who completed the same introductory task through their cultural lenses. After establishing this broad cross-cultural basis, the three student groups played an intercultural game in breakout sessions and were given a post-meeting debriefing task to stay connected even after the two live webinars.

Online visit to Greece
In addition, the master students from Aschaffenburg UAS also went on a remote visit to one of Aschaffenburg’s most recent partner institutions, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens/Greece, where they “met” Greek students from the Department of German Language and Literature and their professor, Dr. Anna Chita. During this digital session, the students engaged in a workshop designed to train their language and cultural mediation skills in line with the sixth competence only recently defined in the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Key takeaways
Overall, the roundabout 60 participating students from a dozen different countries did not only benefit from a rich cross-cultural experience changing their intercultural mindset but, thanks to the application of varied tools, also improved their digital competencies. All attendees also got to experience teaching and learning styles that widely differ from culture to culture.
Initiatives for accompanying research have already been started and there are plans for extending both remote exchanges into a regular COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) module in the aftermath of covid-19 with studying abroad becoming more uncertain than before the crisis.