Erasmus+ will become the new EU funding programme for education, training, youth and sport from 1 January 2014. It will replace current funding programmes including the Lifelong Learning Programme and Youth in Action.
Student mobility is on the rise. A previous Communiqué of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education set a target of at least 20% of those graduating in the European higher education area having participated in a study or training period abroad by 2020. While this aim is very desirable, it does beg the question: What about the remaining 80% of students who may not engage in some kind of physical mobility during their studies?
The need to expose the maximum number of students to the benefits of working and interacting with members of other cultures has led many educators to engage their students in telecollaborative or online intercultural exchange projects with partner students in distant locations around the globe. These exchanges usually involve collaborative project work using two or more languages. For example, telecollaboration may involve students learning German at an Irish university communicating on a weekly basis using e-mail and Skype with students of English at a German partner institution. Alternatively, Business Studies classes in Spain, Poland and France may use English as a lingua franca to work on collaborative projects together using an online collaborative platform such as a Wiki or a NING.
Integrated virtual mobility
While some university institutions have used telecollaborative exchange in autonomous learning contexts where students are responsible for maintaining virtual contact with their partners outside of class, the vast majority of telecollaborative exchanges are integrated into classroom-based set-ups where virtual activities and online interaction with foreign partners are closely integrated to the activities which go on in class time. For example, following a period of online intercultural interaction with partner students, students are often required to discuss and analyse this interaction in class with their teachers. They can also use their partners to carry out research projects which originate in their face-to-face classes.
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