Getting Started with Virtual Exchange

Computer with travel picture on screen

Incorportating Virtual Exchange into Your Course

There are many different ways to incorporate Virtual Exchange (VE) into your courses. Below are some examples of how VE could look and how it may progress and develop as you become more comfortable with it. 

Best Practices & Tips

CIP has researched some best practices and tips to help get you started with VE. Review the information below and download the tips and tricks here for future reference.

Planning A Virtual Exchange Course

  • CurriculumWhich aspects of your curriculum would be enhanced if students could discuss their subject with peers in another part of the world? Are there existing group tasks that could include outside presenters or students to bring international views and different cultural experiences to your subject? (UCoventry)
  • Interdisciplinary – Consider partnering with a professor(s) from a different field of study to examine a topic from multiple perspectives.
  • Facilitation – Develop a clear and effective facilitation plan with your partner in advance.  The students will need clear guidance and leadership from the faculty members during this new type of academic experience.
  • Timing – Include both synchronous and asynchronous course time.  Synchronous time can be for lectures, discussion, sharing of text and photos.  Students also need asynchronous time to reflect and prepare what they want to say during synchronous times.
  • Collaboration – Build in specific course projects and activities that will require the students to interact and collaborate in order to succeed in the course.  Seek equity and active participation from all students.  Think of creative ways that the students can collaborate such as working together to find a solution to a proposed problem, having a debate, making a video, or engaging in shared research.
  • Intercultural competency – Include internationalized/intercultural learning outcomes for the course. Provide initial training for students to prepare them for engaging with students from another culture, and continue some intercultural training and reflection throughout the course. Keep in mind that classrooms in any country may be very multicultural and not represent just one cultural perspective. Think of activities that will provide deeper intercultural engagement and reflection.  
  • Community – Endeavour to create a sense of trust and community amongst the group. In the beginning, casual ice-breakers are a great way for the students to get to know each other in a non-intimidating way.  As you go along, include sharing activities that enable the students to share on a deeper level.   Students can be encouraged to share artifacts, practices and/or perspectives that are meaningful to them.
  • Activities - Decide on which activity(s) you will use to promote collaboration and intercultural sharing, such as: Critical discussion / debate/ case study, Time-constrained activity (task, game, simulation, debate)Role-playInterview, Q&A sessionData analysis / modelling / testingCollaborative document building, research or designPeer review (UCoventry).
  • Netiquette’ – Clearly outline acceptable and inacceptable behaviours concerning students interacting virtually, and encourage students to report problems or concerns.
  • Feedback & Reflection – It’s important to have check-ins and feedback throughout the course, as a means for students to reflect and troubleshoot any problems or concerns about the content or process. It’s also recommended that faculty and students monitor the number of hours they are engaged in course activities, both synchronous and asynchronous. Everyone should also have an opportunity to debrief their experience at the end of the course. All these types of feedback will help faculty to assess the impact and success of the VE experience, and to refine it for future courses. 

Things to be Aware Of

It is important to keep in mind that when implementing a Virtual Exchange opportunity being flexible and adaptable will be key. Those experienced with VE have provided the following advice:

  • Time Allocation: Adding a virtual exchange component(s) to your course will require more preparation and engagement throughout, compared to your regular course. However, the benefits most often outweigh the extra effort.
  • Networking: It is essential that you take the time to build relationships with your partner(s). You will need to work closely with them during the planning stages, as well as facilitation and check-ins throughout the duration of the course. The time spent building these relationships will make subsequent interactions and potential challenges easier to handle. 
  • Technology: Be sure you have a technology plan and a backup plan.  Decide on and test in advance which platform(s) will work for all partners.  Technology is great but it can also fail (internet interruptions, quality of video calls, etc.)   Having a backup plan (alternate technology or substitute activity) will ensure you don’t end up scrambling if things don’t go according to plan. Check this guide to collaborative technology to determine what technologies might be best for your course. If you are considering Microsoft Teams or Webex, this CCS guide outlines the features and differences.
  • Flexibility: being flexible is important because of unexpected challenges such as technological difficulties or time difference issues. Situations in which both faculty and students need to be adaptable are also learning opportunities.
  • Manageability – Incorporating a VE component into your course doesn’t have to be a huge step.  It can be as simple as asking a colleague you know at a university abroad to give a virtual guest lecture in your class, or having a class from a university abroad discuss and analyze one case study with your students.  It’s better to start small and then add on other virtual components with time.
  • Privacy and Security: it is important to consider the technology you are using during your VE programming and the privacy policies they have. Student and participant safety are key and you can find some safety tips to consider when planning your VE here.

Support Available

  • Centre for International Programs (CIP):
    • Partner Universities: The Centre for International Programs has a vast network of 100+ exchange partner universities in nearly 30 countries. Within the network, several international partners have expressed interest in developing VE. Faculty interested in finding a potential partner should contact the CIP office.
    • Training, integration, and support for offering virtual education courses
    • Intercultural training - CIP has developed a course module on Intercultural Effectiveness which can be used during VE courses.  CIP staff have extensive experience giving intercultural training workshops and are available to give presentations or workshops for classes.
  • The Office of Open Learning: technical support for the virtual component of your course 
  • International Colleagues: if possible, start by trying to work with people you already know and have collaborated with in the past
  • Privacy Information: when working online and asking students to share information it is important that everyone feels safe and secure. The privacy information outlined by the University of Guelph can be found here and will help assure everyones privacy is maintained. 

VE Expression of Interest Form

The role of this form is to determine which faculty are interested in VE and how the Centre for International Programs (CIP) may be of assistance. If you are interested in incorporating a VE element into your course, please use the button below to complete and submit the form. 

Expression of Interest Form