Learner skills in open virtual mobility

  • Kamakshi Rajagopal imec-itec, KU Leuven, Kortrijk, Belgium; Educational Development Unit, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • Olga Firssova Faculty of Educational Sciences, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands
  • Ilse Op de Beeck Educational Development Unit, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • Elke Van der Stappen Educational Development Unit, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • Slavi Stoyanov Faculty of Educational Sciences, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands
  • Piet Henderikx EADTU, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Ilona Buchem Department of Economics and Social Sciences, Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, Germany
Keywords: virtual mobility, open education, open virtual mobility, group concept mapping, learner skills, competence framework


Internationalisation has been a key theme in higher education (HE) for decades. Multiple initiatives across the world have contributed to creating offerings of high-quality online education, with collaborations across national borders. Two of the concepts that have proved to be influential are Virtual Mobility (VM) and Open Education (OE). Virtual mobility refers to study activities that students enrolled in HE in one country undertake online in other countries without physically moving. Such activities are certified and mutually acknowledged by participating institutions. Open education covers global initiatives increasing access to free online quality education, without or with alternative forms of certification.

The research presented in this article identifies the learner skills and competences that are supported by Open Virtual Mobility (OpenVM), a new trend in online education that builds upon these two concepts. A group concept mapping study based on the contributions of experts in both VM and OE resulted in defining seven learner skills and competence areas including: intercultural skills and attitudes; networked learning; active self-regulated learner skills; media and digital literacy; autonomy-driven learning, interactive and collaborative learning in an authentic international environment and open-mindedness. The study provided input for further conceptualising of OpenVM as a bridge between VM and OE.


Download data is not yet available.


Bijnens, H., Boussemaere, M. and & Rajagopal, K. eds., (2006). European Cooperation in Education through Virtual Mobility: A Best-Practice Manual., Europace, Leuven.

Buchem, I., et al., (2018) ‘Designing a collaborative learning hub for virtual mobility skills-insights from the European Project Open Virtual Mobility’, in International Conference on Learning and Collaboration Technologies, Springer, Cham, pp. 350–375.

Blight, D., Davis, D. & Olsen, A. (1999) ‘The internationalisation of higher education’, in Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning – World Review of Distance Education and Open Learning, vol. 1, ed K. Harry, Routledge, London, pp. 15–31.

Bologna Declaration. (1999) Joint Declaration of the European Ministers of Education, Available at: http://ehea.info/Upload/document/ministerial_declarations/1999_Bologna_Declaration_English_553028.pdf

Carretero, S., Vuorikari, R. & Punie, Y. (2017) DigComp 2.1: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens with Eight Proficiency Levels and Examples of Use, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxemburg, EUR 28558 EN. doi: 10.2760/38842

Castaño Muñoz, J., et al., (2016) How Are Higher Education Institutions Dealing with Openness? A Survey of Practices, Beliefs and Strategies in Five European Countries, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC Science for Policy Report, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxemburg, EUR 27750EN. doi: 10.2791/709253

Crabtree, R. D., et al., (2008) ‘Realizing the university mission in partnership with Nicaragua: internationalization, diversity, and social justice’, in Designing Globally Networked Learning Environments: Visionary Partnerships, Policies, and Pedagogies, eds D Starke-Meyerring, Sense Publications, Rotterdam, pp. 87–103.

Cronin, C. (2017) ‘Openness and praxis: exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 18, no. 5. pp. 15–34. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3096

Daniel, J. (2012) ‘Making sense of MOOCs: musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility’, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, vol. 2012, no. 3. p. Art. 18. doi: 10.5334/2012-18

De Kraker, J., Cörvers, R. J. M. & Lansu, A. (2014) ‘E-learning for sustainable development: linking virtual mobility and transboundary competence’, in E-Learning and Sustainability, Peter Lang GmbH International Academic Publishers.

Dooly, M. (2017) ‘Telecollaboration’, in The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning, eds C. A. Chapelle & S. Shauro, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 169–183.

EHEA, n.d., European Higher Education Area and Bologna Process, Available at: http://www.ehea.info

Erasmus + Programme Guide (2018) Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/sites/erasmusplus2/files/erasmus-plus-programme-guide2_en.pdf

Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange (2019). Available at: https://europa.eu/youth/erasmusvirtual

ESCO European Skills/Competences, qualifications. (2019), Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/esco/portal

European Union. (2019) Key Competences for Lifelong Learning, Available at: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/297a33c8-a1f3-11e9-9d01-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

Flavin, M. & Quintero, V. (2018) ‘UK higher education institutions’ technology-enhanced learning strategies from the perspective of disruptive innovation’, Research in Learning Technology, vol. 26. doi: 10.25304/rlt.v26.1987

Goodyear, P. & Carvalho, L. (2014) The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks, Routledge, New York.

Goodyear, P. & Carvalho, L. (2019) ‘The analysis of complex learning environments’, in Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age, 3rd edn., eds H. Beetham & R. Sharpe, Routledge, New York, pp. 49–65.

Gosen, J. & Washbush, J. (2004) ‘A review of scholarship on assessing experiential learning effectiveness’, Simulation & Gaming, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 270–293. doi: 10.1177/1046878104263544

Green, M. F. (2012) ‘Measuring and assessing internationalization’, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, vol. 1, pp.1–26.

Helm, F. & van der Velden, B. (2019) Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange: 2018 Impact Report, European Union and EACEA, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. doi: 10.2797/668291

Henderikx, M. A., Kreijns, K. &Kalz, M. (2017) ‘Refining success and dropout in massive open online courses based on the intention–behavior gap’, Distance Education, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 353–368. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2017.1369006

Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2014) ‘Students’ and instructors’ use of massive open online courses (MOOCs): motivations and challenges’, Educational Research Review, vol. 12, pp. 45–58. doi: 10.1016/j.edurev.2014.05.001

Hollands, F. M. & Tirthali, D. (2014) ‘Why do institutions offer MOOCs?’, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 18, no. 3, p. 3. Available at: https://www.learntechlib.org/p/154185/

Inamorato dos Santos, A. & Punie, Y. (2016). Opening Up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions (No. JRC101436), Joint Research Centre (Seville site).

Jansen, D. & Schuwer, R. (2015) Institutional MOOC Strategies in Europe, Status Report Based on a Mapping Survey Conducted in October-December 2014, EADTU, Available at: http://www.eadtu.eu/documents/Publications/OEenM/Institutional_MOOC_strategies_in_Europe.pdf

Júnior, C. A. H. & Finardi, K. R. (2018) Internationalization and virtual collaboration: insights from COIL experiences’, Ensinoem Foco, vol. 1, no. 2, pp.19–33.

Kane, M. & Rosas, S. (2017) Conversations about Group Concept Mapping: Applications, Examples, and Enhancements, Sage, Los Angeles, CA.

Kane, M. &Trochim, W. M. (2007) Concept Mapping for Planning and Evaluation (vol. 50), Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Kiers, J. (2016) ‘MOOCs and their effect on the institution: experiences in course design, delivery and evaluation; research; faculty development; unbundling and credits for MOOCs’, Foro de Educación, vol. 14, no. 21. doi: 10.14516/fde.2016.014.021.007

Kiron (2019). Available at: https://kiron.ngo/en/about-us/

Knight, J. (2003) ‘Updated definition of internationalization’, International Higher Education, vol. 33. pp. 2–3.

Knight, J. (2004) ‘Internationalization remodeled: Definition, approaches, and rationales’, Journal of Studies in International Education, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 5–31. doi: 10.1177/1028315303260832

Leh, J. M., Grau, M. & Guiseppe, J. A. (2015) ‘Navigating the development of pre-service teachers’ intercultural competence and understanding of diversity’, Journal for Multicultural Education, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 98–110. doi: 10.1108/JME-12-2014-0042

Loeckx, J. (2016) ‘Blurring boundaries in education: context and impact of MOOCs’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 17, no. 3. pp. 92–121. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v17i3.2395

McNamara, J. (2013) ‘The challenge of assessing professional competence in work integrated learning’, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 38, no. 2, pp.183–197.

Nascimbeni, F., et al., (2018) ‘Exploring intercultural learning through a blended course about open education practices across the Mediterranean’, in 2018 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), ed IEEE, IEEE, Tenerife, pp. 285–288.

O’Dowd, R. (2007) ‘Evaluating the outcomes of online intercultural exchange’, ELT Journal, vol. 61, no. 2, pp.144–152. doi: 10.1093/elt/ccm007

O'Dowd, R. & Lewis, T. (eds) (2016) Online Intercultural Exchange: Policy, Pedagogy, Practice, Routledge.

Orr, D., Weller, M. &Farrow, R. (2018) ‘Models for online, open, flexible and technology enhanced higher education across the globe–a comparative analysis’, International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), Oslo, Norway, Available at: https://oofat.oerhub.net/OOFAT/.CC-BY-SA

Pickering, J. D. & Swinnerton, B. J. (2017) ‘An anatomy massive open online course as a continuing professional development tool for healthcare professionals’, Medical Science Educator, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 243–252. doi: 10.1007/s40670-017-0383-7

Rohs, M. & Ganz, M. (2015) ‘MOOCs and the claim of education for all: a disillusion by empirical data’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 16, no. 6. pp. 1–19. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v16i6.2033

Ryan, C., et al., (2017) ‘Managing the process of international collaboration in online course development: a case-example involving higher education institutions in Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, and the United Kingdom’, Innovative Higher Education, vol. 42, no. 5–6, pp. 451–462. doi: 10.1007/s10755-017-9399-6

Rubin, J. & Guth, S. (2015) ‘Collaborative online international learning: an emerging format for internationalizing curricula’, in Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities, eds A. Schultheis Moore & S. Simon, Routledge, New York, pp. 27–39.

Soliya (2019). Available at: https://www.soliya.net/

Starke-Meyerring, D., et al., (2008) Designing Globally Networked Learning Environments: Visionary Partnerships, Policies, and Pedagogies, Sense Publications, Rotterdam.

The Concept System® Global MAX™ (Build 2016.046.12) [Web-based Platform]. (2016), Ithaca, NY, Available at: http://www.conceptsystemsglobal.com

Trilling, B. & Fadel, C. (2009) 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, CA.

Ubachs, G., & Henderikx, P. (2018) EADTU Mobility Matrix, EADTU, Maastricht, NL, pp. 26, Available at: https://tinyurl.com/EADTU-mobility-matrix

Van Gaalen, A. (2009) ‘Developing a tool for mapping internationalisation: a case study’, in Measuring Success in the Internationalisation of Higher Education, ed H. de Wit, European Association for International Education (EAIE), Amsterdam, p. 77.

van Merriënboer, J. J. G. & Kirschner, P. A. (2018) Ten Steps to Complex Learning: A Systematic Approach to Four-Component Instructional Design, 3rd edn., Routledge, New York.

Slagter van Tryon, P. J. S., McDonald, J. & Hirumi, A. (2018) ‘Preparing the next generation of instructional designers: a cross-institution faculty collaboration’, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 125–153. doi: 10.1007/s12528-018-9167-3

Varghese, N. V. (2008) Globalization of Higher Education and Cross-Border Student Mobility, International Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO, Paris.

Varghese, N. V. (2018) ‘Globalization and cross-border mobility in higher education’, Educational Access and Excellence, vol. 1, p. 9.

Voogt, J. & Roblin, N. P. (2010) 21st Century Skills Discussion Paper, University of Twente, Kennisnet, Enschede.

Vrients, M. & van Petegem, W. (2016) EU-VIP: Make It Work! Integrating Virtual Mobility in International Work Placements, Available at: https://www.eurashe.eu/library/wg4-r-eu_vip-manual_online-pdf/

Wiley, D. (2010) ‘Openness as catalyst for an educational reformation’, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 14–20 Available at: http://hdl.lib.byu.edu/1877/2349

Wiley, D. & Hilton III, J. (2009) ‘Openness, dynamic specialization, and the disaggregated future of higher education’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 10, no. 5. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v10i5.768
How to Cite
Rajagopal K., Firssova O., Op de Beeck I., Van der Stappen E., Stoyanov S., Henderikx P., & Buchem I. (2020). Learner skills in open virtual mobility. Research in Learning Technology, 28. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v28.2254
Original Research Articles