Virtual Exchange and its Role in Internationalising University Education

Written by Robert O’Dowd, University of León, Spain ([email protected])

In universities around the world, more and more teachers are engaging their students in intercultural collaborative projects with partners from other countries using digital technologies. This is commonly known as Virtual Exchange (VE) or Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). VE has great potential to foster a range of 21st century employability skills which include media and digital literacy, communication skills, global awareness, empathy, critical and analytical thinking, foreign language skills and intercultural competences.

Nobody is suggesting that VE should ever replace physical mobility programmes. But many institutions are now considering how to use VE to prepare students for physical mobility or how it can function as an alternative to physical mobility for those students who are not able to travel abroad for medical, financial or personal reasons. This will help your university become more inclusive and ensure that students who cannot take part in physical mobility can still develop those skills usually associated with international experiences.

The article A Transnational Model of Virtual Exchange for Global Citizenship Education, reports on the findings of an Eramsus+ European Policy Experiment – Evaluating and Upscaling Telecollaborative Teacher Education (EVALUATE). This project brought together researchers, educators, university senior management, and public authorities from five different European countries and autonomous regions in an initiative to provide large-scale evidence of its impact as an international learning practice and to inform educational policy based on this evidence. In particular, we focused on a case study of an autonomous region in Spain that enabled us to illustrate how researchers, university management and public authorities collaborated to upscale this internationalization activity and integrate VE in educational policy at both institutional and regional levels. Based on the findings of the case study, we identified a series of institutional and cultural ‘blockers’ that hindered the upscaling of VE and we also proposed a set of criteria for successful implementation of VE in university education.

Read the full EVALUATE report.

For more information on Virtual Exchange, visit the UNICollaboration organisation website or Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange.

A short video introducing Virtual Exchange.

Robert O’Dowd is Associate Professor at the University of León, Spain and has been engaged in researching and training projects related to Virtual Exchange for over 20 years. He was the project coordinator for the EVALUATE project.

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