My Erasmus plus project is in its second year. It has enriched the education of Landscape architecture and planning students by giving them the opportunity of "going on an Erasmus exchange from the comfort of their koselige home".
The students have engaged in cross-disciplinary work with fellow students from around Europe. They have learned to reflect on their own biases and assumptions about landscape democracy. They have been introduced to a rich foundation of theory and methods from around the world. During the summer intensive, they have spent 10 days in Zingonia [in Italy], a diverse community of immigrants from around the world helping them envision new landscapes that could help the residents build community, improve public health, create opportunities for a new economy of community-based businesses and even grow their own food.
The 80 students that participated in the course were given a pre and post assessment questionnaire to see whether the course had contributed to a shift in their awareness of democratic landscape planning and design ability to promote sustainable change. The results showed that students developed a stronger understanding of their social agency and of the need to engage residents in planning and design decisions. Their collaborative work across countries and cultures challenged them, but made them more aware of the uniqueness of their Norwegian perspective.
As a researcher and educator, I have learned a great deal from my partners from Germany, Italy and Hungary. German partners in particular taught us a great deal about online learning and how we could teach participation without physical proximity. The international project meetings were opportunities to engage with other researchers at each institution, and our professional networks have expanded and become more diverse and international.
The challenge for Erasmus plus projects and the courses associated with them is to find a place in the busy curricula of our programs at NMBU, and compete with mandatory courses in attracting students. Last year, only 6-8 students from NMBU signed up. Of the 5 fully funded student places available for the summer intensive, only three were filled.
I have suggested that NMBU creates an Erasmus curriculum for its students that could be fulfilled with Erasmus plus or with more traditional Erasmus exchanges as a requirement for all students, just like math, writing and other mandatory university-wide courses.