Virtual programming is hot right now, and by hot I don’t just mean popular. For some, the idea that you can have a meaningful and culturally enriching experience online seems ludicrous. For others, virtual travel and programming is an exciting and innovative way to engage more students and grow program enrollment. The current conversations sound eerily familiar to other hot topic issues within international education.
Remember when short term faculty led programming seemed outrageous?
15 years ago I was attending a conference and found myself with a group of leaders discussing faculty-led programs. Supporters of short term programming believed this to be the next biggest thing in IE. They were convinced that this would increase student participation and open up doors for many who would not otherwise consider studying abroad. Detractors saw it as a trend that would quickly pass and an experience not worthy of the International Education designation.
Fast forward, and now the topic of conversation at conferences, (and virtual conferences at that) is whether or not to offer virtual experiences to students. Anyone else see the irony here?
Now I’m a believer!
Now, I could spend my energy sharing stats on how a virtual experience can increase the cultural-competence for students, break down barriers, and generate interest for future travel, but I won’t. Here’s my recommendation: Experience it for yourself. I, too, was once skeptical about short-term faculty-led programming. I didn’t believe it could offer the same outcomes or immersion when compared to a semester or academic year program. But then, I did the unthinkable and went on one myself.
All aboard to go virtually abroad!
To effectively market and successfully recruit for programs, it helps when we are excited about what we’re offering. Your study abroad story is one of your greatest tools when it comes to persuading students to go abroad. Don’t you think the same is probably true for virtual experiences? How can we expect students to want these experiences if we can’t tell them what they are like?
Practice what you preach
The IEP team recently explored an olive farm in Croatia through an Airbnb Experience. Truthfully, we were skeptical, especially since the description included an olive oil tasting. But we went along with it. After our 1.5 hour experience on Zoom, we discovered:
- Croatia is breathtaking (and now at the top of most of our travel lists)
- our online guide is our new best friend
- the olive industry of Croatia and Europe are fascinating
- how to tell whether our home olive oil is actually olive oil and whether or not we’ve been duped
- $100 for a group experience was well worth it
So it’s time to dust off your inhibitions, test your sound and audio, and sign up for a virtual experience. I promise it will give you the motivation and insights you’ll need to design and market these opportunities to your students.
Stay safe and healthy out there folks!
IEP Founder & Executive Director