For students, the outbreak put them in a new situation, as they were forced to learn how to use the new digital channels – and they had to do it fast.
To the assistant professor Zsófia Ásványi from the University of Pécs and to senior lecturer Tiina Mehto from Haaga-Helia UAS going virtual with an international group was also a new challenge. Though, the educational professionals were planning virtual cooperation already last year, and that gave rise to the idea of the virtual international program (VIP).
Ásványi and Mehto met each other in April 2019. According to Ásványi, they wanted to build a new kind of internationalizing at home programs in Hungary, which would enable students to get international experiences without travelling abroad.
The new program launched on March 31st and it was integrated as a part of the HR processes course (BBA) in Finland and HRM functions & processes course (MBA) in Hungary. On a whole, 41 students attended the virtual program between Haaga-Helia UAS and University of Pécs.
The program was a success, what comes to the concept point of view. First of all, the feedback received was very encouraging. Students enjoyed doing international teamwork. Secondly, they also got more confident to work virtually in the international team set-up.
“I liked this project very much because it taught me to do a project completely virtually. The instructions were very clear and easy to follow. It was also very good that we had a common session every Tuesday. Topics were also very interesting.”
“The topics were interesting and the group work was different in a good way. Microsoft Teams were a good and very functional platform for this. The group work was not too extensive, which was good because the work had its challenges such as a language barrier and adapting the different life situations of the members to the schedule.”
During the VIP program, we used Microsoft Teams as our main learning platform. Teams were used to organize webinars and create individual team spaces. Students were also allowed to use their own communication channels such as WhatsApp.
According to study feedback, nearly 95 % of the students found that teamwork during the course was fluent and that everyone participated equally in the implementation of the project.
The same feedback also shows that 93 % of the students felt that they had learned new things about working virtually as a team. Students also felt that Microsoft Teams supported well their learning and teamwork.
“It was easy to keep in touch with teammates. We were able to talk about everything quickly and easily. It also allowed me to meet new people from another country.”
“I got some nice experience working in Microsoft Teams, which was very nice and it brought variety to my studies.
“Virtual platform worked well. I enjoyed having the international influence on the course. The project themes were interesting and the teachers were very helpful. The structure of a lecture/meeting with the whole class followed by a team meeting each week was great!”
In a whole, as many as 97,6 % of the participants would recommend the course and program to others.
In Pécs, every single participant was willing to recommend the course to other students.
“You can be anywhere with an internet connection, I learned to enjoy the concept.”
“I liked that I didn’t have to go anywhere, I could work as a part of a team from my home.”
“Learning new ways of working, and it is always a good practice to work in a foreign language.”
Due to the positive feedback from the program, Ásványi and Mehto have decided to continue cooperation in the future. Next virtual international program will start as early as in fall 2020.
Tiina Mehto is a Senior Lecturer at Haaga-Helia who teaches HRM and leadership studies.
Dr. Zsófia Ásványi is an Assistant Professor from the University of Pécs in Hungary.