Through innovative new virtual exchanges, students from the UGA were able to work with students from partner University of Aberdeen (Scotland) despite living over 2,000 kilometers apart.
French students preparing a professional tourism management degree at UGA’s Institute of Technology of Valence worked with a group of Aberdeen students learning French as a foreign language on tasks and activities that they were likely to be confronted with in the workplace. Students were asked to role-play as international relations personnel and create written media to promote their universities and their regions.
Working with peers to produce this material motivated students to commit to the project and “be on par with, and honor the other group”. Indeed, initial concerns over differences in language levels were soon swept away, as each group was “impressed with fellow students’ work”. These positive results confirm the possibilities for virtual exchanges, which are designed to encourage students to be “actively involved and not passively learning”, according to their teachers Roger Ravet (University of Aberdeen) & Marion Amblard (UGA).
Building on Institutional Relationships
Before the virtual exchange, the two teachers met during an Erasmus+ Staff Week exchange to create this innovative learning experience. “You need that sort of interaction to brainstorm and have a feel for the project,” says Dr. Ravet, describing the value of this type of international staff exchange. Working together in person contributed to the program’s success as it helped the teachers go over their requirements and course plans to see where and how their classes could be integrated into the project.
Both teachers are interested in renewing the interaction and making it grow. Virtual Exchanges (also sometimes called Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL) are increasingly being used by universities that seek to bring a “hands on approach” to their teaching, and to incorporate international experiences into their classrooms.