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Supported by Erasmus + Programme

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Open Digital Europe

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Out of the Box International develops a tailor made open data model and policies based on open digital environment which is transparent, accountable and secured.

Social Businesses

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Out of the Box International works with already existing hubs, various local and national stakeholders and social entrepreneurs in order to further develop and promote successful social entrepreneurship policies and practices.

Solidarity Europe

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Out of the Box International delivers expertise in the field of cohesive policies by using cross-sectorial approach and non-formal  education, in a global perspective.

European Project

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Out of the Box International  works further to enhance current cooperation in South East Europe region and actively supports the integration of all European countries in common European project.


  Out of the Box International


Friday,28th of April, 2023


Distance learning as it is experienced by its users

Based on 6[1] countries’ reports[2] (including desk research, focus groups and mobile ethnography)


In recent years, education has seen a shift from physical spaces to online learning, or e-learning. While this new type of learning comes with its own set of benefits, there are also some disadvantages. Nonetheless, e-learning was quite positively met by the academic community until the time when most of the world had to turn to distance learning due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. During the crisis, many academic institutions, students and teachers went through a turbulent experience switching fully to online education.

The PLACEDU research explored the impact of online learning in 6 different countries, highlighting the need for a variety of solutions to choose from.

Country specific context

While all countries share quite similar challenges and possibilities related to distance learning, some unique features could be perceived as country-specific:


During distance teaching, higher education institutions (HEIs) in Belgium developed well-being policies[3]. The stay-at-home order implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased academic demand and decreased peer support among HEIs students. This situation was strongly linked with the occurrence of depressive symptoms[4]. Cooperation and synergies between the three language-based communities are needed to allow for the exchange of good practices. The three communities in Belgium are likely facing the same challenges. Regarding educational reforms, the Flemish community is the one leading the way. Through the exchange of best practices, the other language-based communities could potentially benefit from knowledge spillovers.

PLACEDU project will form a platform where a variety of challenges in remote education will be addressed. Additionally, training will be created to enhance teachers’ competencies.

  • Although some measures have been taken, it is obvious that teachers need more training for e-teaching and students need more training for e-learning.
  • It is important to rethink classes in a new setting and understand that some features that have been working during face-to-face classes, may not work in a virtual environment.
  • Inevitably, one should strive for all classes (if this is possible) to be more interactive and encourage active student participation. Online classrooms should not be used only as a repository for materials and as support but also as an interactive learning environment.

PLACEDU will strengthen digital skills as a transversal topic of the curriculum. The switch to online learning has exacerbated existing educational inequalities resulting both in learning losses and educational disengagement. Support is needed for academic and administrative staff at educational institutions on how to replace on-site teaching with online delivery. Teaching methods, textbooks, etc. need to be adapted for distance education, and a qualitative upgrade at many levels of teaching, use of technology, etc. is needed.

However, the focus will be on teachers and students’ physical and mental well-being. As regular contact between students and teachers can help improve motivation and engagement in the learning process, it is key to foster a more direct exchange between educators and learners.

So what will be the next normal in education? How will it look and feel like?

Are demotivated students and teachers staring at a black screen the NEXT NEW NORMAL in education?

PLACEDU will do its best to tackle the drawbacks of distance learning.


The PLACEDU Project Coordinator, Zemartas Budrys:

The project aims to draw attention to the drawbacks of distance learning and address them. By providing a range of tools and methods designed to combat isolation, facilitate communication and social interaction, and support the mental and emotional well-being of both students and teachers, PLACEDU has the potential to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of online learning. This is an important development that will help to ensure that students have access to high-quality education, regardless of their location or circumstances.

OTB Director Marko Paunovic noted that “the last few years revealed a need to innovate and adapt to include, for example, remote learning models. The research of the PLACEDU project is a step forward to an evidence-based higher quality of remote education”.

The PLACEDU project is implemented by 7 partners from 6 countries: Lithuania (XWHY and Vilnius University), Slovenia (University of Ljubljana), Cyprus (CSI), Belgium (OTB International), Iceland (University of Island), and Greece (SOCIAL POLICY ACADEMY).

The project is co-financed by the Erasmus+ KA2 Programme of the European Commission.


[1] Lithuania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Belgium, Iceland, Greece

[2] Different country reports can be reached on our platform

[3] Education and Training Monitor 2021, Belgium; (23.06.2022) https://op.europa.eu/webpub/eac/education-and-training-monitor-2021/en/belgium.html

[4] DE MAN, J., BUFFEL, V., VAN DE VELDE, S. et al. (2021) Disentangling depression in Belgian higher education students amidst the first COVID-19 lockdown (April-May 2020). Arch Public Health 79, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-020-00522-y

Why Out of the Box International

The seemingly ever-lasting depression of European economies has shaken the very foundations of many European societies. The shear rate of unemployment in Europe and the omnipresent environmental crisis coupled with the often frustratingly slow process of decision making in the EU, are calling for civil society actors to step in and fill the void.

In the aftermath of the 2008. economic crisis, the apprehension of falling under the spell of apathy of economic depression across the continent has not been easy to shake off. However, pinpointing the culprits for the current state of affairs on any particular EU decision maker is not the answer. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the current approach to the economic and environmental crisis hasn’t yet shown the affected citizens the light at the end of the tunnel.

As representatives of the civil society we feel the need to make our voice heard in the midst of the current debate on economic crisis. Being a social enterprise we offer new and feasible ideas in education and community work, creative cross-sectorial cooperation among different actors and strong networking coalitions to turn these dire economic challenges into possibilities through social entrepreneurship initiatives which aim at benefiting wide range of citizens, particularly vulnerable groups and those affected by the economic crisis.

Social entrepreneurship is a simple concept that has been put into practice by civil society actors for the benefit of a specific social group or people, and this is precisely what we want: to create projects and initiatives with fresh ideas in different policies, educational programs or tools, support businesses, empower cultural initiatives and offer different solutions to individuals, corporate bodies, everybody who believe that we can have more Creative, Innovative and Cohesive Europe.


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