As the world is facing a global pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear that its effects not only influence the present circumstances, but will also have longer term repercussions. Hence, solutions which are to be considered and implemented have to anticipate long term scenarios.
In the case of the project POWER, the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the implementation of student placements at start-ups and the challenges which the POWER consortium is currently facing are two-fold: on one side, they directly result from the restrictions on movement which inevitably smother the chances of physical placements, both at a local and international level; on the other side, they are arise even if remote placements can be considered as an option, due to the low adaptability of university and Erasmus+ requirements and to recognition related aspects.
To recognise or not to recognise?
Start-ups and incubators are open to hosting placements remotely. However, remote scenarios are quite challenging for students since universities cannot yet guarantee recognition of the (remote) experience. In fact, several universities have stopped implementing curricular placements not recognising remote experience as an alternative. Furthermore, considerations of financial support are also to be included in the equation, considering that only physical mobility is eligible for monetary support in the Erasmus+ programme.
With all of this in mind, we have been consulting with our partner universities in order to outline a state-of-the-art overview of the current situation. The aim is to map out decisions made by the leadership for the near future, and suggestions of possible alternatives.
Apart from very few exceptions, all universities have haltered mobilities for staff and for students. For instance, the University of Alcalá noted that even local placements have been interrupted. As a result, students who cannot finish their curricula placements risk not being able to complete the respective courses.
Moreover, colleagues from Lodz University of Technology reported on placements being postponed in most of the cases and deadlines for completing the work extended - to summer or even to next academic year.
Unfortunately, online settings are considered not suitable because of strict internal requirements which are in place to check and verify student work, such as the practical work carried out. Consequently, another challenge would be to adapt such internal requirements to an online setting scenario.
The POWER consortium remains committed to facilitating further discussion and to finding joint solutions that do not severely compromise student experience nor the chances to gain professional experience, even if remotely.
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