Virtual Exchange and its role in international academic mobility: Experiences in Spanish university education

Dr. Robert O’Dowd

By Robert O’Dowd, University of León, Spain (robert.odowd@unileon.es)

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) or telecollaboration. 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.

There is no suggestion 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 universities become more inclusive and ensure that students who cannot take part in physical mobility can still develop those skills usually associated with international experiences. VE can also be used to complement physical mobility programmes through blended mobility formats which combine stages of study abroad with stages of online collaboration between students.

This presentation will outline the different ways universities in Spain are using VE in their study programmes and will identify how VE can contribute to institutions’ internationalisation strategies.

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