by Rachael Criso & Shaun Butcher

‘Bolder, Braver, Go!’ was the theme for the 2021 online European Association for International Education Conference: #eaie2021. The EAIE has always been a compelling in-person conference over the years and the online version did not disappoint!

We saw educators who care deeply about the student experience, have an adapted international mindset to higher education in light of the Covid pandemic, and who are now forging new teaching and learning innovations. With four types of platforms with which to engage and ample opportunities to e-meet colleagues old and new, there were four jam-packed days of sharing, learning, and collaborating.

An international cast of presenters, keynote speakers, and poster contributors hailed from all over the globe and as an ensemble delivered ground-breaking projects, programming, and HE wisdom.

 

Out of the blocks

 

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, kicked off the proceedings with a timely and enlightened keynote address that centered on climate justice. The speech covered the inequalities that lead to the impact of climate change disproportionately affecting those that deserve it the least, who have not caused it and do not have the resources to combat it. Referencing the role that educators can play, she championed the benefits of collective human behaviour, the sagacity of climate experts who we must heed, and the overwhelming need for compassion and empathy as we face devastating climate change.

 

Meat & Potatoes:

 

  • Paul Blackmore of Exeter University discussed the benefits and challenges of digital approaches to education whilst weighing up the pros and cons of virtual mobility. Virtual Internships tackled a similar topic in a recent white paper entitled: Starting the Debate on Remote versus In-person Skills Gain that you can download here.
  • Leveraging alumni in terms of mentoring students was discussed and ended with a lively debate.
  • Erasmus+ experts described the new Inclusion & Diversity strategy and how that would be applied in the current cycle of funding for international mobility.
  • Expert Community sessions included the Business Education group and Elsa Zenatti-Daniels (Aston Business School, UK), who chaired a fascinating session on skills needed for a brave new world. She was joined by Robert Buttery (University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland), Michelle Greene (Fontys International Business School, Netherlands), and Mojca Maher Pirc (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia).

 

Above & Beyond Sessions

 

The Virtual Coffee Lounge was ingenious. You could wander in there, meet up with folk and have a chat! You could also make an appointment to meet someone there through the user-friendly messaging tab

The Posters were also a highlight of the conference. They were arranged by theme, making them easier to navigate. The process of looking them over online offered the chance to read and understand them – which doesn’t always happen in live poster sessions.

 

  • With the theme of IaH (Internationalization at Home) figuring strongly at the EAIE this year, Ellen Wang from the University of Leeds outlined details of her VIP: Virtual International Programme. She described bringing the world to her students at a time when travel abroad was impossible.
  • Torum Stores (W. Norway University of Applied Sciences) and Stephanie Jonathan (Adventist University of Zurchen) presented their COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) virtual exchange project.
  • Hacking the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) was a compelling poster from Kings College Summer Education about their short program where students applied critical thinking to complex global issues, learned the process to make evidence-based decisions, and solve problems creatively.

The Virtual Campfires were a big hit. With cameras on, delegates exchanged ideas and opinions on several topics, including how to implement SDI programming, how to future-proof students, and the best ways to increase internationalisation across campuses.

 

Just like Netflix

 

Immediately after finishing, all sessions were available on the On-Demand section of the site. Attendees who were watching a concurrent session had work meetings, or even dentist appointments missed nothing! These On-Demand recordings remained available even after the event was over. In addition, the On-Demand sessions included past EAIE sessions on relevant topics to add to the richness of content.

On Wednesday evening, in a first for the conference, delegates participated in a pub quiz! On Thursday, children who were sick of their parents staring at their computer screens all day were invited to join them to watch a magic show!

All in all, #eaie2021 was an excellent conference that was compelling, informative and fun! Congratulations to all the organisers who put in a fantastic effort and to all the presenters and attendees we met along the way.