Collaborating virtually to learn English
Together with partner universities, the Language Centre ran a virtual exchange during the 2020 lockdown to help unibz students collaborate with foreign peers to improve their English.
The unibz Language Centre has found creative ways to collaborate with universities across the world through virtual exchange. The exchange was conducted with three other higher education institutions: Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (USA), Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University, (Poland) and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (USA). The project was fully supported by UniCollaboration, a research organization which studies and supports virtual exchanges in the EU.
The exchange required participating students to collaborate virtually on two tasks: learners were prepared in giving and receiving online peer feedback on writing assignments and, concurrently, they collaborated with classmates on writing tasks that would be reviewed by foreign peers. The collaborative writing tasks involved creating websites to promote the learners’ respective universities.
As the pandemic brought new challenges to the world, the project showed that virtual exchange is resilient and adaptable to extreme circumstances. Two of the strengths of the project were the use of Moodle for asynchronous collaboration and facilitated dialogues for synchronous reflections with students. Discussion forums and moderated dialogues via Zoom enabled unibz students to interact with students from around the world in English. An unplanned benefit was that the project helped students and teachers cope with remote teaching and learning during the first months of the lockdown.
The results of the project have been reported in the Journal of Language and Education.