News and Events
May 29, 2023

Teaching across national borders: the Virtual Wood University

An extremely successful project is coming to an end: The Virtual Wood University linked four European universities and brought a total of 800 students new knowledge and international perspectives on the wood industry in 12 cooperative courses. Now the final event took place at the Kuchl campus and after the great interest and positive feedback from the students, it is clear to those responsible: the Virtual Wood University is to be continued.

Translate to English: 3 Jahre, 4 Länder und mehr als 800 Studierende: die "Virtual Wood University" verband Holzstudierende quer durch Europa. Der Abschluss fand vergangene Woche am Campus Kuchl der FH Salzburg statt.
Translate to English: 3 Jahre, 4 Länder und mehr als 800 Studierende: die "Virtual Wood University" verband Holzstudierende quer durch Europa. Der Abschluss fand vergangene Woche am Campus Kuchl der FH Salzburg statt.

In a globally networked industry, education must also be internationally oriented, according to the founding idea of the Virtual Wood University, which was conceived at the "Wood Day" in Helsinki 2019. Almost four years later, this idea has manifested itself impressively: The Erasmus+ funded project connected students from Finland (LAB University of Applied Sciences), Germany (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Mosbach), Estonia (Tallinn University of Technology) and Austria (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences) and convinced with joint courses in the three core areas of wood technology, wood business & management, and sustainability.

Günter Berger

Senior Lecturer and Project Manager of the Virtual Wood University at the FH Salzburg

"Together we are stronger. We can complement each other in our different teaching competences and integrate the country-specific perspective into the classes. This is enormously important in a sector like the wood industry, which operates globally and is very highly connected. In this way, we were able to create a concept that is unique in Europe, which uses this diversity of content and prepares young people in the best possible way for a sustainable transformation with renewable natural resources and circular use concepts."

All beginnings are difficult

The start was not easy, says Ilkka Tarvainen, Senior Lecturer at the Finnish LAB University of Applied Sciences. The format of international online teaching in particular required a lot of coordination, not least because the project partners brought different digital skills with them. "We had already tested blended learning and distance learning in previous years, so we were able to bring this experience into the project. Nevertheless, the IT support of our universities often removed many obstacles from our path and gave us great support." But the successful implementation of the idea also shows how much is possible when crises make change inevitable, he says: "With Corona, we all had to switch to online teaching within a short time. That was not easy, but all of a sudden new cooperation projects were also possible, such as cross-university teaching in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)," says Tarvainen.

Representing the diversity of the wood sector

A total of four workshops took place in which those responsible for the project agreed on the curriculum and course content at one of the partner institutions. The result was courses that reflect the fields of competence of the different institutions and at the same time show the wide range of wood processing and use. These include courses such as Entrepreneurship in the Forest Products Sector, The Future Outlook of Wood Products, Consumer Behaviour & CLT / Circular Building Models or Carbon Footprint of Wood Products, a course aimed at calculating Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for wood products. Companies were also invited in the form of guest lectures, and one student wrote her bachelor thesis on the Virtual Wood University. A podcast was also created in the course of the project, the "Virtual Wood ProfCast - The Podcast around Wood and Forest Products Industries", which allows interesting guests from the forestry and timber world to have their say on current issues.

What's next?

For the project partners, the Virtual Wood University was a great success. This was confirmed by the growing number of participants, the personal discussions with students over the past two years, but also the excellent evaluations of the courses by the participants. One thing is certain: The cooperation will definitely be continued. At the concluding workshop in Kuchl at the end of May, possible continuations were sketched out, which should integrate even more European universities with their specific competences into the project. The core topics are to be wood industry and wood technology, bio-based products, circular economy and sustainability, and students of wood, biology, environmental sciences and economics are to be able to participate in the programme.

Virtual Wood University

Further information on the project, podcast, courses and lecturers.

Zur Projektwebsite