Destination specialist Discova has launched a range of Virtual Educational Travel programmes to allow schools to proceed with their experiential and overseas exchanges during the travel downtime, with one group already confirmed for November.
Utilising video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Adobe Connect, depending on the customers’ preference, the programmes will invite student groups from around the world to interact in real time with South-east Asia-based expert hosts to appreciate new languages, learn new skills and immerse in a new culture.
Highly customisable, the programmes include Virtual Student Exchanges, where students will have real-time interactions with peers and experts to experience culture differences; Virtual Workshops that impart new skills; Virtual Tours by a locally-based expert guide; and Virtual Trainings that are conducted in partnerships with universities in South-east Asia.
Eileen Yee, general manager of Discova Educational Travel, told TTG Asia that the virtual products were created in response to customer demand.
“Some of our travel partners and regular clients, including schools and universities in Singapore and Australia, are looking for alternative ways to offer learning and training experiences to their students through engagement with communities and experts from another country at a time when physical travel is not possible,” Yee said.
Currently, Discova is working on a virtual training programme for nursing students in Australia who will learn remotely for credits as part of their university curriculum, through interaction with peers, teachers and professional experts from a Vietnam-based university.
Yee said live learning experiences are prioritised over pre-recorded sessions to encourage engagement and interaction. Discova will work with the participating school to ensure that all needed materials are sourced for and ready ahead of the virtual activity.
“We operate our programmes ourselves and identify every local stakeholder involved in our virtual initiatives, from the local university/school we partner with to the local expert guides and hosts. As we have been operating educational programmes in South-east Asia for more than 12 years, we have developed long-term partnerships with local educational authorities, social enterprises, communities, NGOs and other experts,” she said.
Interest from schools, universities and travel partners is strong, and Discova is now in advance stages of negotiation with some customers.
The Educational Travel programmes are part of the company’s long-standing commitment to responsible tourism.
Yee said: “We ensure that our initiatives are beneficial to everyone involved, from the participating students to the destination-based hosts and communities. All our virtual and physical educational programmes follow Discova’s robust Health and Safety standards and Child Protection policy.”
“Thanks to our new virtual initiatives, we are able to continue to support our local communities and our expert guides’ livelihoods during these challenging times for tourism- dependent economies in particular.”
While Yee recognises the value of physical educational travel, she said the virtual programmes would remain in Discova’s offerings even after international borders reopen and physical travel resumes.
“Remote experiential learning can provide a complementary experience that many will want to take advantage of,” she said.