2020 has been a year like no other, that challenged the whole world with entirely new and difficult scenarios. The world of education has been widely affected, and forced to find alternatives to ensure continuity of education, making a quick transition to online in terms of online teaching and virtual approaches to international mobility and cooperation, rushing into it incredibly quickly.

It is worth looking at the bright side and enhancing the innovative aspects that the situation has prompted us to discover and which today are an added value for our common goals.

The restrictions due to the current COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted and strengthened the discussion around the theme of virtual mobility and on how important it is now more than ever to perfect tools and make them increasingly inclusive and systemic.

We are eager to share the main achievements accomplished during 2020.

During this troubled year, we have contributed to support Albanian Higher Education Institutions in adopting and implementing effective ICT-based internationalisation at home activities, and we have fostered academic staff skills for innovative virtual teaching and learning settings. In particular, this year we have:

    • kicked-off the project in Dresden on February 24-25, 2020;
    • held our first Expert Forum on “Innovative Virtual Teaching and Learning” on May 12-13, 2020;
    • delivered an online training to 200 participants at the European University of Tirana to support the internationalisation of higher education as a current national priority in Albania;
    • trained staff members from each partner institution on Basic Elements of Microsoft Teams;
    • published the report on “Needs assessment on Virtual Collaborative Teaching and Learning in Albania”;
    • launched an online event on the occasion of the Erasmus Days and collateral institutional events, including the prequel training where almost 100 stakeholders were trained in the usage of digital tools and their didactical implementation into an online lesson;
    • had a Monitoring Visit from the National Erasmus Office Albania;
    • presented the project at various events, such as the MakeLearn Conference 2020  and the PIConf 2020
      We are pleased to share with you some statements of participants from our training sessions on different aspects.On communication and teamwork, partnership and commitment to the project:“During this period, activities have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, however the partnership have been able to react promptly and positively and to take appropriate measures to keep the project on scope”On the content and progress of the project:“The project has large opportunities to influence the development of national and institutional policies on distance education, making virtual collaborative learning a widespread reality in Albania, supporting the internationalisation of the higher education system”

      Some concerns:

      “I guess we need to find a solution to physical meetings and workshops, to brainstorm and set clearer objectives for the forthcoming period”

      “We are living in uncertain times due to the pandemic, therefore future unknown developments and possible restrictions could affect the implementation of the project”

      Let us thank you for supporting our efforts throughout this troubled year!

      We are enthusiastic about the strong foundation of our collaborative work. During 2021 we will continue to foster the adoption and implementation of innovative virtual teaching and learning, by organising:

      • on-site staff trainings in Albania (Shkodra and Tirana), and in Slovenia (Celje) on internationalization activities and Bologna principles. Furthermore, dissemination activities and hosting internationalization activities will be tentatively scheduled for May 2021;
      • staff observation visits at TUD in Dresden and at UNIMED in Rome;
      • staff qualification courses;
      • a summer school for Albanian students who will be trained as qualified E-tutors to professionally support the planned VCL arrangements. They will be able to evaluate the group learning process in the pilot and further VCL arrangements within and beyond the project activities;
      • job shadowing for academic staff at TUD Dresden to prepare the participants in redesigning their courses introducing elements of virtual mobility;
      • facilitation of local and (in 2022) international virtual collaborative courses with undergraduate and postgraduate students from the partner universities;
      • empirical research on the impact of VCL on higher education in Albania.

      We wish 2021 will be a great year to make even more people involved in virtual collaborative learning, and even get more people participating in our activities. Whether you are an higher education manager, an educator, a researcher, a learner, or a practitioner interested in virtual mobility and virtual collaborative learning, there is a way for you to get involved:

      • by participating in our next Expert Forum at UAMD in Albania or online, or in any of our upcoming events;
      • by providing feedback on our Needs assessment report;
      • by sharing your insights, experience and research on innovative virtual teaching and learning to inform the next steps of our work;
      • by getting in touch with us, we are eager to receive feedback from others on what we are doing!

      We are looking forward to cooperating with you all in 2021, and we wish you joyful festivities, and a Happy-er New Year!