Due to the pandemic, digital teaching at German universities has developed rapidly in recent months. Bielefeld University can now make particular use of this upswing for its partnership with higher education institutions in the Canadian region of Alberta, thereby pushing ahead with international virtual academic cooperation. The ‘We CAN Virtu-OWL’ project between Eastern Westphalian universities and partner universities in the Alberta region (Canada), which has been approved by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and is led by Bielefeld University, is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 210,000 euros.
The virtual exchange project, developed under the leadership of Bielefeld University together with Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences, Paderborn University, and the OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts, will be funded until October 2021. The project makes use of the cooperation between the OWL university network and four Canadian universities in Edmonton, Alberta (University of Alberta, MacEwan University, Concordia University of Edmonton, and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) that was set up in 2018 and extends it through virtual teaching and support formats. The aim is to further develop teaching in both regions in a digital and innovative way and to enable international, intercultural experiences without air travel. The plan is for teachers and students from Ostwestfalen-Lippe and the Alberta region to come together in digital teaching.
‘Virtual exchange and virtual mobility will become an integral part of global university cooperation in the coming years. We are very pleased to launch our pilot project between the OWL universities and our joint Canadian partners. Our consortium will develop a rich, accessible, and interactive online service for international, collaborative teaching,’ says Professor Dr Angelika Epple, Vice-Rector for International Affairs and Diversity at Bielefeld University.
The current digitization of teaching, learning, and working is opening up new opportunities, especially for internationalization: the participating universities are convinced that virtual exchange, especially in teaching and learning in international teams, enables intercultural understanding and ideally complements traditional forms of international cooperation.
Cooperation in internationalization and digitization is part of the OWL universities’ mission. Thus, We CAN Virtu-OWL is supported by the Campus OWL Liaison Office in New York, which has been operated jointly since 2019 and has continuously strengthened transatlantic ties and promoted OWL as a location for research and study.
For the recently announced DAAD International Virtual Academic Collaboration (IVAC) programme, 48 projects have been selected nationwide to receive a total of around 5.5 million euros in funding.