Supporting Academics to Design and Deliver Virtual Exchanges: A research design proposal

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Collaborative OnLine International Learning, referred to hereafter as virtual student exchange, is an emerging practice that is gaining importance as a tool to internationalise home curricula. Lecturers need special skills to appreciate / understand which educational, cultural and language related processes are at work in on line collaboration virtual exchange between students. How do lecturers collaborate to facilitate online interactions between students? Which forms of training for designing and facilitating virtual student exchange have been found effective?
    The idea of providing students, lecturers, researchers and non-academic staff members with opportunities to travel abroad and spend time – from just days to whole academic years – at other institutions has arguably been the dominant approach to date in internationalisation strategies and policies in the education sector. As a mechanism for Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC), international mobility is expected to help students develop valuable competences and attributes (e.g. to support graduate employability and global citizenship) after being exposed to different pedagogical practices, collaborating and building relationships with peers from dissimilar backgrounds and, more generally, living in unfamiliar socio-cultural contexts.
    Over the last two decades, the possibility of embedding opportunities into the curriculum for virtual exchange between students based at different countries has attracted the interest of educators, institutional leaders and policy-makers as another possible approach to internationalising the curriculum. Whereas mobility is being considered as the gold standard for IoC, in most institutions the proportion of students engaging in these kinds of international experiences is considerably smaller than those who do not do so. Universities need to adopt policies and practices to ensure they are not disadvantaging students, for whom international mobility is less feasible due to, for example, financial constraints or carer responsibilities. In addition, it is imperative that the higher education (HE) sector adapts to accommodate the diverse needs of disabled students. Virtual student exchanges offer the promise of a more equitable and inclusive approach to IoC, which could play a key role within a broader mix of Internationalisation at Home (IaH) initiatives aimed at benefiting all students, not just the travelling elite. Likewise, they can provide students with scenarios akin to those they are likely to face in their future professional lives.
    In order for the potential of virtual exchanges to be realised, it is essential to address important challenges and build evidence-based knowledge on suitable pedagogical models, infrastructures, discipline-specific needs and the actual impact of such learning experiences on student development. One of the most crucial aspects relates to the capabilities that academics need to have in order to be able to successfully design and deliver learning activities aimed at internationalising the curriculum through student online cross-institutional interactions.
    This paper shares some preliminary analysis of data collected from examples of virtual exchange evaluated at Coventry University and presents a research design that could help shed light on the key attributes that academics facilitating virtual exchanges need to have and how institutions can build that capacity. The proposed study aims to generate findings that could be relevant for theory-building purposes – in both the field of IoC and educational technology – as well as have important practical implications for institutions wanting to support their staff by means of academic development opportunities and other mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Sep 2017
    EventThe Development of Lecturers: The Missing Link in Internationalisation’ conference. - The Hague University of Applied Sciences , The Hague, Netherlands
    Duration: 19 Sep 201720 Sep 2017


    ConferenceThe Development of Lecturers: The Missing Link in Internationalisation’ conference.
    CityThe Hague


    • Online international learning


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