Blended mobilities are currently trending in Europe; virtual exchanges and short-term mobilities are integrated into compact courses. This relatively new approach is mainly intended for students who would like to gain international experience without committing to a whole semester abroad. This winter semester, a blended mobility course was held together with our Estonian partner, TTK University of Applied Sciences. The collaboration was initiated as part of the “WELCOME” project, which is a third-party funded project that has been carried out since summer 2021 at Harz University of Applied Sciences.
The course taught by Jutta Sendzik from Harz UAS together with two teachers of TTK UAS was attended by 21 students from both universities. The joint project work was a learning experience for the students not only on a professional but also on a socio-cultural level. The international communication project focused on teaching "transferable 21st century skills" to make the students fit for the working life of tomorrow. This was realized via a hybrid approach and consisted of virtual classes throughout the whole semester, as well as two physical mobility phases in Germany and Estonia.
In the beginning of this winter semester, the Estonian students and teachers visited our campus in Wernigerode and project classes, a company tour as well as social activities e.g. a city tour were being organized during that week. During the week in October 2022, students from both universities participated together in the interdisciplinary lessons, which were conducted alternately by the three teachers from Harz UAS and TTK UAS.
During the subsequent blended mobility in Tallinn at the end of November, the teachers and students were able to build on what was already achieved in Wernigerode. Through an intense mix of classes, an enriching visit at one of Estonia’s leading start-up companies as well as social and cultural activities, the students developed their intercultural skills and learned to overcome challenges together. After a final presentation on Friday, the second part of the blended mobility came to an end (with some pending online assignments in order to complete the class).
“My highlight of blended mobility was to see how much personal contact and face-to-face interaction help students develop intercultural competencies and collaborate well with each other. Such a project offers much more than a regular class on one campus could ever do. Communicating in a foreign language for a whole week and doing all the assignments were challenges for the students, which they managed very well. Seeing how intensively Estonian and German students interacted with each other in class and spent their time together is a reward for our work.”
During the whole project course, the students have learned skills in collaboration in intercultural teams, in (agile) project management as well as in communication and collaboration online, additionally they have been able to apply and improve their English in a systematic way. All of these skills are increasingly in demand in corporate contexts today, so the course concept is clearly future- and practice-oriented, and a continuation of the joint collaboration in the context of this blended mobility course with the TTK University of Applied Sciences is the goal.
“I’m happy that the students well-received the project, and I hope we’ll be able to continue - a good start has been made,” says Jutta Sendzik.
Funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) during the past one and a half years, the programme called Internationalisation of Universities of Applied Science (HAW.International) sought to strengthen and further develop the internationalization of Universities of Applied Sciences in Germany. The “WELCOME” project targeted the improvement of the welcoming culture by implementing workshops focused on developing the intercultural skill set of staff members, students and locals. Furthermore, the team promoted efforts to implement teaching mobilities and other initiatives that enable staff members and students to go abroad.