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ENVOIE first phase completed, preparing for the next

Date:24 February 2019
Author:Nadine Boon
World Literature: Topic of an exchange between Sichuan University (China), Uppsala University (Sweden) and University of Groningen (Netherlands)
World Literature: Topic of an exchange between Sichuan University (China), Uppsala University (Sweden) and University of Groningen (Netherlands)

Concluding the first phase of the ENVOIE project, which started in the second half of 2017, we look back on the evaluation results of 11 completed subprojects. These subprojects were run in disciplines varying from Cultural Geography to History and from courses focused on languages and cultures to a course in religious studies. All of the subprojects were assessed by the teachers who designed and ran them and the students from the two or more partner universities. Overall, the online international exchanges (OIE) were positively received.

To begin with, the assignments in an OIE should be authentic, adjusted to the students’ level and logically incorporated in the course. For example, students of a literature course identify several cultural and linguistic elements from a book passage. They subsequently discuss this in their mixed group and compare the original to translated works. In order to complete the assignments, the students prepare a short presentation based on their findings in their mixed groups.

It is also advised to have the students make their own appointments for meeting online rather than having in-class meetings. Most students were positive about the added value of the OIE for their experience with working in a global context. However, a fairly large group of students reported that they were not always satisfied with the organisation and integration of the exchanges, which led to varying results in overall satisfaction.

Moreover, choosing the right online tools and providing technical support are important. In the majority of the courses, students used Skype and Blackboard Collaborate for videoconferencing and WhatsApp or e-mail for other communications with the group members. The technology generally worked well and was easy to work with, but several students pointed out that they always find working in groups tricky, and that working online with students they don’t know sometimes was even more difficult.  

The teachers who designed and implemented their projects were mostly happy with the extent to which the OIE fulfilled its main objectives, some others are a bit more reserved but still mentioned that in many ways, the OIE was a success. Some teachers noted to have had some miscommunications with their partner teachers, indicating that this might require more attention in the future. Teachers acknowledge some of the difficulties their students and they themselves experienced. The vast majority indicated that they wanted to continue incorporating OIE in their courses, but also that continuing the technical and didactic assistance would be appreciated.

The most important lessons learnt from the first phase of the ENVOIE project:

  • Make students responsible for organising the synchronous videoconferencing meetings;
  • Balance input from all partner teachers when setting up the OIE (that is to say, teachers should collaborate on creating the assignments);
  • Check if the English proficiency level (or another lingua franca) of the students is sufficient;
  • Connect with students’ interests and make the exchange relevant to the other tasks in the course;
  • Prepare students for intercultural learning prior to the exchange;
  • Make sure that collaboration is necessary to complete the task, and make the interaction sustained;
  • Make students reflect individually and establish links to classroom work;
  • Choose the right tools and have technological support available for students during the exchange;
  • Do not schedule too many activities and deadlines as it can interfere with other student tasks.

On the whole, the ENVOIE team is looking back on a successful first iteration of the project and is preparing for the next phase. Currently, new exchanges are being set up and the project team is offering continued support to teachers who have run their first exchanges. We will also be providing training to other teachers interested in setting up exchanges.

For more information, please contact: s.jager@rug.nl.

See also: ENVOIE Evaluation report (access UG only)

About the author

Nadine Boon
Onderzoeks- en onderwijsassistent
/staff/n.a.boon