Employing Virtual Collaborative Exchanges to Expand Global Awareness
Universities commonly mention global components in their mission statements. Many governments endorse the concept of global preparedness for its industry and people, and support student and faculty mobility. Yet not all students have the resources or motivation to study abroad, though still value an international experience. This 3-year study, based in the United States and Finland, explores the use of the Internet to connect university students in equivalent classes across international borders, completing collaborative assignments requiring student-student virtual dialog and cross-cultural reflection. After 10 repetitions of virtual exchanges between U.S. and European undergraduate students, quantitative and qualitative results indicate that virtual exchanges, like actual student exchanges, can provide learning opportunities for global awareness. Students, regardless of prior international experience, recommend virtual exchanges. No single pedagogy achieves 100% success and improvements are underway. This paper identifies virtual exchange goals, describes pedagogical activities, presents results, identifies areas for improvement and offers research suggestions. The approach can apply to any discipline at any level. Faculty hesitant about either technology or interference with course structure may be motivated to try this easy-to-use, cost-effective pedagogy to broaden global perspectives that can be scaled up, down, or custom-tailored.
KeywordsCollaborative learning Virtual exchanges Global awareness International teams International collaboration
The authors wish to acknowledge participating instructors from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences of Helsinki, Finland.
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