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Durham University

Erasmus, Exchange & Study Abroad

Virtual Exchange For Educators

The practice of ‘Virtual Exchange’ (VE) or 'COIL' (Collaborative Online International Learning) has been developing over the past 30 years and can be defined as follows:

A model of collaborative teaching and learning using technology to create accessible, meaningful, shared, global learning opportunities for students (and teachers) without the need to travel.1

Given the interactivity of VE, it is different to other forms of virtual mobility such as MOOCs, distance learning courses, informal social media interactions, or other unmoderated, unstained, unstructured, communications.

Benefits of Virtual Exchange

Participating in a VE programme offers students the possibility to build transferable skills and develop diverse and personal relationships. VE can prepare then for future work and civic engagement in a global context and it can foster a greater interest in physical mobility programmes. From an institutional perspective, VE provides the opportunity to internationalise programmes and to build or consolidate partnerships with international institutions. In addition, VE is inclusive as it can enable any students to engage with an international experience, including those who might not have the means to participate in a physical mobility programme. For educators, VE provides an opportunity to enrich their programmes by implementing new pedagogical approaches. As well as contributing to personal, professional development, VE can provide a route to fostering broader, departmental relations with the international partner, sometimes paving the way to joint research and other forms of collaboration.

Resources - see further links at the bottom of this page, including a DU Powerpoint presentation delivered to Global Strategy Group 18.02.21

Support with partnering for Virtual Exchange

If you would be interested to find out more about Virtual Exchange, please contact Emma Moore, International Partnerships Officer: international.partnerships@durham.ac.uk who can share resources and information about training and potential, future funding for the development of VE programs.

Likewise if you are already running a form of Virtual Exchange or COIL project with an international partner, the International Office would be interested to know about it. Please contact international.partnerships@durham.ac.uk

Discussions around VE / COIL collaboration are taking place within international networks to which Durham belongs, including the Matariki Network (MNU) and Coimbra Group, as well as with Durham's strategic partner universities; Uppsala and Tübingen. Please do get in touch if you would be interested in finding out more.


[1] Decription of Virtual Exchange / COIL from University of Western Australia, one of Durham's Matariki network parnters.


Resources