Virtual Student Mobility

Virtual Student Mobility

In this project, UNESCO IESALC is studying the effects of COVID-19 on student mobility and looking ahead to the future prospects for mobility across regions. Specifically, the project is examining the potential of virtual student mobility (VSM), an activity that uses information and communications technology to support cross-border collaboration and to enhance intercultural and knowledge exchange. We are identifying models of VSM that are being developed as a result of the pandemic as well as pre-existing models that are now being refined. The project is also studying how VSM can be used to promote quality education that is equitable and accessible, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The findings from the project will include policy briefs, recommendations, reports, and online events. Check this page for updates.

UNESCO-IESALC Working Definition of Virtual Student Mobility (March 2021) 

Virtual student mobility (VSM) is a form of mobility that uses information and communication technologies to facilitate cross-border and/or inter-institutional academic, cultural, and experiential exchanges and collaboration. VSM can be embedded as part of the regular delivery of exchange and collaboration and/or be deployed as a response to emergencies that temporarily restrict physical mobility.

Examples of VSM

VSM category



  • Cross-border/Inter-institutional: Studying for a course at another HEI. Usually credit-bearing.
  • Cross-border: Studying for an entire program at an HEI in another country. Always credit-bearing.


  • Cross-border: Obtaining work experience at a company or organization based in another country. Sometimes credit-bearing. 


  • Cross-border/Inter-institutional: One-off and longer-term projects/activities/events/programs to support students to learn more about another setting. May be credit-bearing
  • Cross-border: Build skills (e.g. confidence, language, intercultural) ahead of a physical mobility experience confidence ahead of a physical trip. May be credit-bearing.


  • Cross-border: Temporary switch of academic activities from in-person mode due to physical travel/health restrictions. For international students who had to return to their home country or could not leave to start a new program, or local students who are currently outside their home country.  Always credit-bearing. 


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