Blended Student Mobility (BSM) has been making waves in the world of higher education, especially during and after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, combining physical and virtual elements to provide students with unique international learning experiences. In response to the changing landscape of education and initiatives like the European University Initiatives, BSM has gained momentum, offering students the chance to engage in both face-to-face and online learning as part of their academic programs. The HIBLend consortium has meticulously mapped out the existing types and approaches of Blended Student Mobility to paint a clear picture of its current state in Higher Education across Europe.
Types of Blended Student Mobility:
Short-Term BSM: This model seamlessly blends physical mobility with virtual learning for periods of up to 30 days. Students embark on immersive short-term programs, such as summer schools or study tours, which involve traveling to a host institution and engaging in virtual learning before, during, and after the trip. By merging face-to-face interactions with virtual resources, students enrich their learning journey.
Long-Term BSM: Taking a step further, Long-Term Mobility combines physical and virtual learning experiences for a period exceeding 30 days. Students spend a module or semester at a host institution, experiencing on-site learning alongside virtual elements before, during, or after their physical stay. This approach accentuates the advantages of cross-cultural education and collaboration.
Blended Joint Degree Programs: This innovative approach allows students to pursue part of their degree at their home institution and the rest at a partner institution in another country or through virtual channels. Blended Joint Degree Programs offer a truly international education experience, granting students the opportunity to earn a degree from both institutions.
Approaches to Blended Student Mobility:
Project-Based Blended Learning: At the core of this approach lies the integration of online and face-to-face learning experiences. Project-based learning engages students in authentic, interdisciplinary projects that require them to apply knowledge to real-world challenges. Working in small groups or teams, students define problems, develop project plans, conduct research, analyze data, and present findings and recommendations to a wider audience. The online component includes various digital resources and activities, such as online discussions, video lectures, tutorials, quizzes, or simulations, providing students with the necessary background knowledge and skills. The face-to-face component involves workshops, coaching, peer review sessions, or presentations, allowing students to receive feedback, learn from peers, and refine their project. This approach cultivates critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills, equipping learners for success in their future endeavors.
Self-Blend Blended Learning: Empowering students with the opportunity to choose their mix of online and face-to-face learning experiences based on individual preferences and needs, the self-blend model offers a personalized approach. Students can take control of their learning journey, leveraging the benefits of online learning, such as flexibility, accessibility, and self-directed learning, while still accessing traditional face-to-face learning opportunities. It also allows schools and institutions to optimise their resources and expand their reach, by offering a variety of online courses and programmes that can be accessed by students from different locations and backgrounds.
A’ la Carte Blended Learning: This approach presents students with a diverse menu of online and face-to-face learning experiences, allowing them to create their customized learning path. Individualized and adaptive, the a’ la carte model caters to the diverse needs of students, while also enabling institutions to expand their offerings to reach a wider range of learners with different preferences and needs. It also allows schools and institutions to maximize the potential of their resources and expand their offerings to reach a wider range of students with different needs and preferences. However, this model requires effective guidance and support for students, a robust infrastructure for online learning, as well as strong coordination and communication among faculty and staff to ensure that the different courses and programs can be integrated and delivered effectively.
Components of BSM:
Virtual Component: The virtual component of BSM involves the use of digital technologies to support remote or online learning experiences. This can include online classes, webinars, online discussions, digital learning resources, and interactive multimedia content. The virtual component enhances the quality and accessibility of mobility programs, allowing students to engage in cross-cultural learning, build international networks, and develop digital competencies.
Physical Component: The physical component of BSM involves face-to-face learning experiences in a physical setting, such as a classroom, laboratory, or fieldwork site. This component typically includes travel to another country, allowing students to interact with local communities, institutions, and experts. The physical component is crucial for immersing students in a different cultural and linguistic context, fostering intercultural competencies, and expanding personal and professional networks.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning: BSM programs combine synchronous and asynchronous learning elements. Synchronous learning involves real-time interactions and communication among students and instructors, such as live online classes, webinars, and video conferencing sessions. Asynchronous learning allows students to complete activities at their own pace and convenience, such as pre-recorded lectures, online assignments, and discussions on forums. This combination ensures flexibility and engagement in the learning process.
Photo by Şahin Sezer Dinçer