European Portal for International Courses and Services for Virtual Erasmus
From Researching Virtual Initiatives in Education
The European Portal for International Courses and Services for Virtual Erasmus (EPICS) was selected in 2008, and funded from 1 November 2008 until 31 October 2010 by the European Commission - DG Education & Culture under the Lifelong Learning programme.
The EPICS web site is at http://www.eadtu.nl/epics/
The EU Lifelong Learning Programme includes the essential but also ambitious objective of having three million individual participants in student mobility by 2012. The statistics and the research do however emphasise the limits of what can be achieved through the current mechanism.
Only by supplementing the current physical mobility schemes with institutionalised virtual mobility schemes the opportunities of achieving the goals set in student mobility can be approached.
Within EADTU, several initiatives and programmes are already running in international course exchange and Virtual Mobility. These initiatives have shown the added value of Virtual Mobility (VM) next to Physical Mobility (PM). Virtual Mobility will not only contribute to the original vision of the Erasmus programme on a truly European scale, it will also deliver a new flexibility and breadth to the ambition. Next it can offer more varied modes of study which can be shorter, time specific and place independent, more personalised and more specialised opportunities for the student. It can provide different dimensions of mobility, including the creation of virtual learning communities, virtual projects, the involvement of many universities simultaneously in a project or course and the facilitation of international collaborative learning and teaching.
So, VM is improving accessibility to other university courses European wide and enables students to individualise and specialise their study programmes. All this within a virtual learning space with in principle no restrictions of the universities to visit. VM is however still “'locked in” several isolated projects and therefore only available to a restricted number of universities and students. In this project we will now work towards mainstream provision of VM by offering international courses clearly as integral part of the university study programmes. Our main objective is to work from Virtual Mobility projects towards a Virtual Erasmus programme.
For this purpose we bring together a consortium of coordinators from major VM projects to share the expertise and experiences in this field. Our consortium of VM experts will exploit results from former initiatives and further explore opportunities and barriers of VM with a special focus on accessibility restricting factors like student admission, fee structures, assessment modes etc. This to come from project level to a mainstream provision of VM, hence a Virtual Erasmus programme.
Like the physical Erasmus we can expect the dynamic in VM to come from university staff. In a dedicated WP on expanding VM, we will combine existing networks of VM and stimulate faculties to organise pilots of exchange in VM within bi-lateral or multi-lateral networks. To institutionalise mainstream provision of VM we will develop the supporting infrastructure of a European Portal for International Courses and Services (EPICS). All existing offerings from the VM projects and new international offered courses will be included in EPICS.
Universities will be given the possibility to offer and show only a selection of courses available by EPICS via a customised “window” of selected international courses available to their students. Only a selection of international courses that fit and supplement the offerings of the university will than be made accessible to their students. Students can take these courses with guaranteed recognition of credit points based on bi-lateral agreements amongst participating universities. Of course, students and universities will also be enabled to visit the full EPICS portal directly and view and select from all courses available. EPICS therefore provides a link between universities, students and courses all over Europe.
EPICS will not only be a database but also include on-line services to offer high quality guided independent leaning and support organising mainstream offering of VM in a Virtual Erasmus scheme. In this respect, the consortium will also deliver as one of the main outcomes a study on organising Virtual Erasmus. The project EPICS for Virtual Erasmus therefore will strongly contribute to increasing the number of student mobility throughout Europe and support the realisation of a European Higher Education Area.