Frequently asked questions (FAQ) for the International Virtual Exchange project
- What is the International Virtual Exchange project?
- Does it cost anything?
- Who runs it?
- What platform does it use? Is it email or what?
- Who will my students interact with?
- How many countries are involved?
- Can I carry out research on my students?
- How much work is involved for students?
- How much work is involved for teachers?
- My students aren't good at English. Will they be OK?
- Do the students use Skype or some other tool? Is it synchronous or asynchronous?
- How does my group of students get paired with other students?
- Which universities / schools have been participating?
- OK, I want to join. What do I do?
1. What is the International Virtual Exchange project?
The exchange has students interacting asynchronously in English as a lingua franca. The server on which it is based is maintained with financial assistance from a Japanese government Kaken grant and also with the assistance of Muroran Institute of Technology. Exchanges are carried out over 8 week periods using Moodle. Two, three or four classes from different countries are combined. Teachers from each of the participating classes send the exchange administrator a CSV file with their students’ information and this is uploaded into the system. Online groups are formed by the administrator containing approximately 25 students from each of the countries. Hence, each group would have between 40-50 (two countries) to 100 (four countries) students in it. Online communication then takes place using the Moodle forums. As groups are set to ‘separate’, multiple groups are in the exchange, but because they are ‘separate’, students only see the classmates they are paired with. Participation in the forums involves posting and replying using student created text, audio and video posts. Students can also add links and other multimedia to their posts. Almost all the students in this course are non-English majors at low-intermediate level.
Teachers are encouraged to monitor the forums and give feedback to students. They are also asked to keep in contact with their partner teacher and find out about their teaching and learning environments. Teachers are also offered resources to help their students reflect on their participation. There is no obligation to assign grades to students for their participation, but teachers are encouraged to do so. All teachers are included in a separate teachers’ course where they exchange ideas and information.
2. Does it cost anything?
The exchange is presently run with funding from a Japanese government Kaken grant and with assistance from Muroran Institute of Technology. It is therefore free-of-charge for any educational institution's students to join. Private companies/students are not allowed to join.
3. Who runs it?
Eric Hagley of Muroran Institute of Technology is the lead in this project. He is assisted greatly by Thom Rawson of Nagasaki International University.
On the Colombian side, Ruben Pulgarin Cruz from SENA headquarters is the main contact.
Individual teachers are in charge of their own classes.
4. What platform does it use? Is it email or what?
The exchange is done on Moodle - one of the most popular learning management systems in the world. It is an open source platform. We try to encourage students to do synchronous activities but they are not a prerequisite unless you and your partner teacher(s) make them so.
The basic exchange is asynchronous. As there are many different time zones, this is understandable. Classes are paired with (an)other class(es) of about 20. The bigger groups in the spring exchange in 2017 had about 100 students from 4 different countries. The smaller groups had about 40 students from 2 countries. These groups are separate so that only the students in each group can see the content posted in their forum. There is also one “open” forum where all participants can interact.
When students post to a forum or reply to a post, an email of that content is automatically sent to the students involved with that post.
5. Who will my students interact with?
At present, the main participants are from some 32 institutions throughout Japan and the SENA in Colombia. Thus, your students will be interacting with a minimum of one or both of these countries' students. Some groups will also have students from the other participating countries/regions: China, the Philippines, the UAE, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and in the coming exchanges teachers from Hungary and Egypt have also expressed interest in joining.
6. How many countries are involved?
To date, 8 countries/regions have participated in the exchange but more are coming on board every year. At present, the main participants are from some 32 institutions throughout Japan and the SENA in Colombia. Thus, your students will be interacting with a minimum of one or both of these countries' students. Some groups will also have students from the other participating countries/regions: China, the Philippines, the UAE, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and in the coming exchanges teachers from Hungary and Egypt have also expressed interest in joining.
7. Can I carry out research on my students?
You are welcome to carry out research on your own students (after attaining their consent) but if you are wanting to include the students in other countries, of course, you should attain their permission via their teacher, and also that of the co-ordinator, Eric Hagley.
8. How much work is involved for students?
For the exchange to work, students need to reply to other students' posts. We ask that students reply at least twice a week so that students receive timely interaction. Ideally, classes would take it in turns - for the first forum the students in one country could post and the other countries' students reply. For the next topic, a different countries' students post and the other students reply.
Students should be aiming to use over 50 words per post/reply. Students can also add self-made videos, multi-media and other information to their posts/replies.
9. How much work is involved for teachers?
The teacher's role in this exchange is crucial. It is one of the reasons why individual students are not allowed to participate.
The first job of the teacher is to send the csv file with their students' information to the coordinator, Eric Hagley.
Once they are partnered with other countries' teachers, they should exchange details and goals.
After the exchange begins, teachers should offer their students support and show them how to post/reply/add multi-media. They should also check that their students are posting/replying to the students in other countries. The forum report function assists teachers with this.
Teachers should also assign a grade for their students' participation in the exchange. A rubric could be used (one is available if required) or an assessment method that the teacher designs.
10. My students aren't good at English. Will they be OK?
The majority of students participating in the exchange are lower level students. The starters' course is for beginner level students. The topics are simple and aimed at developing basic language proficiency and better inter-cultural understanding. In a nutshell, yes, even if your students aren't particularly good at English, they will be fine.
11. Do the students use Skype or some other tool? Is it synchronous or asynchronous?
Students are not required to use Skype or other tools, though if you and your partner teacher agree, you can ask your students to do so. The main component of the exchange is done using this site and is asynchronous.
12. How does my group of students get paired with other students?
The coordinator generally partners groups using a combination of equivalent student numbers and an attempt at matching the majors of the students involved. It is not a precise operation! Once you are partnered, your details are shared with the partner teacher and you can make contact with them. If you wish to work with a particular teacher, the coordinator will try to organize that.
13. Which universities/schools have participated?
||Colombia||Spain||The region of Taiwan||Thailand||The Philippines||UAE||Vietnam|
||Hangzhou Dianzi University
Beijing Sports University
|SENA||University of Córdoba||Sun Yat-sen University
Shu-Zen Junior College of Medicine and Management
|Khon Kaen University
The Open University of Thailand
|The Open University of the Philippines||Al Ghurair University||The Open University of Vietnam|
14. OK, I want to join. What do I do?
If you would like your students to join in this exchange, please send an email to hagley(at mark here)mmm.muroran-it.ac.jp
Generally, exchanges begin in April or October and run for 8 weeks.
Only teachers from accredited schools/universities, and the students they teach can join this exchange. (Individuals cannot join this exchange. If an individual sends me an email asking to join, sorry, I won't reply.)
Include in the email:
- Your school's / University's name
- Its address and phone number
- Number of students you have
- Any other information you would like to include.