Our Statement on Virtual Exchange and EU support beyond 2020

Home / Our Statement on Virtual Exchange and EU support beyond 2020
July 17, 2020

Virtual Exchange (VE) is a unique and flexible form of online learning. What makes it unique is its
focus on online structured and facilitated collaborative learning sessions that bring people together and
promote intercultural dialogue. This pedagogy enables participants to develop soft skills and
transversal competencies that are essential in today’s job markets and multicultural societies. The
European Commission is piloting this methodology through the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange initiative,
an innovative action that has demonstrated its ability to engage large numbers of youth and educators
in VE activities. Since 2018, more than 24,000 young people have taken part in this project and over
250 partnerships with universities and youth organisations have been created.

As partners and stakeholders of the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange initiative, we have experienced
first-hand the benefits of taking part in Virtual Exchange activities, witnessing the impact that these
experiences have on developing cross-cultural communication skills as well as critical thinking and
empathy. Also, we have appreciated that in order to have a positive impact on participants, exchange
activities need to have a strong pedagogic design, to take place in safe online spaces, and be
supported by trained facilitators and educators.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in the demand for online learning
opportunities and in an abrupt stop of student and youth mobility, in Europe as well as globally. The
long-term effects of this crisis on education and mobility are undeniable, as Europe explores new forms
of virtual learning as well as sustainable and inclusive approaches to complement and reinforce
traditional forms of mobility. The risk is that students and youth mobility, which has been a cornerstone
both to strengthen the European identity and to foster understanding and collaboration with
neighbouring countries, will be under strain over the next few years. The relevance of Virtual
Exchange at this specific juncture
is increasing, both for institutions and for young people. On the
one hand, universities and youth organisations are searching for online learning methodologies that
can foster engagement and collaboration among learners, as well as for greater support to build
educators’ and youth workers’ capacities in online pedagogy and facilitation. On the other hand, young
people need more than ever to learn how to communicate and collaborate online and across cultures,
and to engage critically with online environments and the media.

We manifest our interest in continuing to engage with Virtual Exchange activities and we believe
that this form of online learning should be further promoted by the European Union
through the
next Erasmus+ Programme (2021-2027), offering both professional development for educators and
youth workers, and a range of Virtual Exchange experiences that bring together young people both
within and beyond Europe, in both formal and non-formal educational contexts.

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