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Virtual Exchange in Higher Education: Charting the Irish Experience

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UCC and UL are hosting an online conference bringing together researchers and practitioners to share their experiences of virtual exchange

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Keynote address: Prof. Robert O'Dowd, University of León, Spain*

Virtual exchange involves internet-mediated intercultural engagement between classes in geographically distant locations (cf. Guth, Helm & O’Dowd, 2012). After more than 20 years in existence, VE is recognised as a convincing way of pursuing various pedagogical goals in the classroom, such as fostering intercultural competence (Lenkaitis, Calo & Venegas Escobar, 2019) and intercultural communication skills (Belz & Müller-Hartmann, 2003); critical thinking (Batardière, 2015; Von der Emde Schneider & Kötter, 2001); digital literacy (Helm, 2014), and still, largely, for enhancing language proficiency skills (see O’Dowd & O’Rourke, 2019). An area of emerging interest in virtual exchange has been its value as a pre-mobility endeavour to prepare students for a stay abroad (e.g. see Lee & Song, 2019), and some even advocate VE as a replacement for the year abroad itself (Hilliker, 2020).

In this conference, we are particularly interested in topics including, but not limited to, the following:

- Preparing for study abroad through virtual exchange

- Implementing virtual mobility (in lieu of physical mobility)

- Broadening internationalisation at home

- Supporting employability and developing transferable skills

- Enhancing intercultural communicative competence

- Promoting global citizenship

- Developing critical digital literacies

- Supporting critical thinking and reflective teaching practice

Early career researchers and PhD candidates are encouraged to contribute. Various methodological perspectives are welcome, and we would love to hear of any longitudinal studies shedding light on the long-term perspectives that VE offers.

*Professor Robert O'Dowd is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in the domain of Virtual Exchange. In his presentation, he will draw on recent publications from large-scale Virtual Exchange initiatives (EVALUATE, EVOLVE) as well as other key publications from the Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) literature to try and answer three questions: What do students learn from Virtual Exchange? How can we support teachers who want to become involved in the activity? And what can we identify as examples of good practice for implementing Virtual Exchange in university classrooms?

For any queries, please feel free to contact the organisers, Dr Claire O’Reilly (claire.oreilly@ucc.ie) and Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle (florence.lebaron-earle@ul.ie).

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Organiser Dr Claire O'Reilly and Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle

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