Forthem virtual exchange: students’ perspectives

Organised by the Arqus European University Alliance and hosted by Vilnius University from 3 to 7 May 2021, the first Arqus Academy Week (2021) featured many interesting discussions, lectures, workshops and other events. Bearing the motto “shaping the university of the future”, this debut has successfully engaged the communities of the seven universities in a discussion of a renewed vision for higher education.

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Photo by MoniQue Rangell-Onwuegbuzia on Unsplash

During an interactive panel, specific examples of how virtual exchange has been used by European University Alliances and global networks to offer both students and staff international and intercultural collaborative learning experiences were presented. Particular attention was paid to the approach to multilingualism and its application as a resource in virtual exchanges; in addition, concrete proposals for Virtual Exchanges that Arqus members could join were made.

As FORTHEM has been active in cross-alliance idea exchange, our alliance had been invited to present some of our practices. Students from the universities of Jyväskylä and València co-presented a keynote presentation with Tamás Péter Szabó, Scientific Manager for Lab Actions, and shared their experiences of working in FORTHEM.

Laura Castañe Bassa (JYU) talked about her experience in a Shared Tutored Project hosted by the University of València; its aim was to explore new possibilities, combining  teaching, learning, and research. Laura emphasised that the most valuable aspects of this project were the shared experiences, as well as the provided peer-feedback on their work. In addition, she also noted that there had been individual feedback sessions in which she had  received personalised feedback from the tutor. Laura stated that, in addition to the feedback sessions, other FORTHEM universities organised various informative and practical sessions, which had proved to be very helpful for the structure and draft of her personal project. Overall, Laura found that the Shared Tutored project had provided her a great opportunity to learn from peers and the tutor, as well as improve her research study.

Thiago Craig (UV) talked about his experience in FORTHEM Alliance’s Multilingualism in School and Higher Education Lab. Thiago noted that students, be they Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD, can carry out academic work while participating in the development of certain outputs. Together with two Bachelor’s students and one PhD student, he contributed to writing a chapter for an academic manual concerning multimodality in academic genres; now, Thiago participates in the development of the Multilingual Learning Environments course for FORTHEM’s Digital Academy. He claimed that such an approach allows students to take part in a mobility that not only has a cultural dimension in terms of different nations involved, but also covers the specific working and social practices of an international academic sphere. Thiago concluded that the overall experience was very successful, personally enriching, and highly valuable, particularly for under-graduate students

Wena Ho (JYU) shared her experience of being part of the multilingual learning environment course development team. Despite being an outlier in the field of multilingualism, Wena was able to integrate her passion and experience in the arts to contribute to the course development in a safe and collaborative environment. Currently, the team is developing study materials covering multiple topics; Wena is responsible for the materials regarding museum learning.

Together with a PhD researcher, Wena also contributed to the Creative Learning Lab, a platform for experimenting with creative learning approaches within the FORTHEM initiative, by hosting a series of virtual interactive sessions on art and well-being. Wena sees FORTHEM as a growing community where teachers and students come together to exchange, learn and innovate.

Source: Vision of universities

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.