Resources for Virtual Exchange Collaboration

Resources for virtual exchange collaboration

Defining virtual learning and internationalization at home

Below are some useful definitions for those seeking to set up an online program that will help us to foster global learning from on campus.

Internationalization at home

Internationalization at home (IaH) is the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments (Beleen & Jones, 2015).

Internationalization of the curriculum

The incorporation of international, intercultural, and/or global dimension into the content of the curriculum as well as the learning outcomes, assessment, tasks, teaching methods, and support services of a program (Leask, 2015).


Collaborative online international learning

Collaborative Online International Learning fits under the virtual exchange umbrella and is an approach to teaching that brings students and professors together across cultures to learn, discuss and collaborate as part of their class. Professors partner to design the experience, and students partner to complete the activities designed. COIL becomes part of the class, enabling all students to have a significant intercultural experience within their course of study (The State University of New York).

Virtual exchange

Telecollaboration, or Virtual Exchange (VE) refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together classes of learners in geographically distant locations with the aim of developing their foreign language skills, digital competence and intercultural competence through online collaborative tasks and project work (O’Dowd, 2017).

This online learning tool involves the engagement of groups of learners in extended periods of online intercultural interaction and collaboration with partners from other cultural contexts or geographical locations as an integrated part of their educational programs and under the guidance of educators and/or expert facilitators (O’Dowd, 2018).


The State University of New York states that virtual exchange:

  • Can be used in any discipline.
  • Should be undertaken to encourage group work that encourages cross-cultural teamwork, understanding, and problem solving.
  • Is part of the integrated technology tools that exist the institution(s).
  • Be a graded component for all participating groups.
  • Can include activities that are synchronous and/or asynchronous.
  • May last from 5 - 15 weeks in length.

Successful international online learning

To serve as inspiration, below are examples of successful virtual online learning opportunities offered by UCalgary, and other institutions.

  1. Astrophysics project with Beijing Normal University, using the Rothney Telescope remotely

    UCalgary students in the ASPH 307 Observational Astrophysics course paired with students from Beijing Normal University to constantly remotely monitor the telescope (and data) at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory.

  2. Haskayne School of Business – X-Culture Global Business Week

    Students in the SGMA 409 Cross-Cultural Management course work in virtual teams with students from around the world to solve real-life problems presented by real-life companies as part of X-Culture.

  3. Masters of Planning through the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

    Masters of Planning students finish their degrees in Winter 2020 thanks to their professor’s quick pivot to online collaboration programs so that they could continue to work in consultation with the NE Calgary community of Crossroads.

  4. Marine Invertebrate Tracking with University of South Alabama and University of Maine

    A group of 73 students in ZOOL 401 Introduction to Invertebrate Zoology participated in DNA sampling and barcoding of marine invertebrates sold for consumption with peers at University of South Alabama and University of Maine.

  5. Collaborative Assessment of Orchid Species

    22 students in PLBI 541 Taxonomy of Seeds and Plants participated in collaborative assessments two species of orchids, comparing their vulnerability to climate change with peers at the University of New South Wales.

  1. University of British Columbia

    Impact Evaluation Analytics – Indonesia. The 2020 version of LFS302D presents an opportunity for students interested in a career in international development to come to terms with the challenges of gathering information, analyzing data, and doing field-work during a pandemic – and beyond.

  2. University of Guelph

    Experiential Learning Through Remote International Partnerships. This course explores the challenges associated with engaging with development practitioners in the real world and equips students with the necessary skills for successful engagement.

  3. MacEwan University

    Internationalization at Home in Science Education. Professors and instructors explore new ways of internationalizing course content and learning experience for Alberta students through existing or new partnerships with institutions, professors and students in a partner country

  1. State University of New York

    The COIL Institute for Globally Networked Learning in the Humanities. This document examines a variety of COIL courses undertaken at SUNY over the course of 18 months. SUNY has made this document analyzing their own successful programming in hopes that it serves as a guide for other institutions hoping to establish their own programs.

  2. Purdue University

    Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). EPICS students gain long-term define-design-build-test-deploy-support experience, communication skills, experience on multidisciplinary teams, and leadership and project management skills. They gain an awareness of professional ethics, the role of the customer in engineering design, and the role that engineering can play in the community.

Step-by-step how to set up a virtual exchange

1. Identify your virtual exchange opportunities

Whether you are restructuring an existing course or designing a new one, considering the ways in which the key topics of your course could be enriched by exploring them through a virtual exchange lens is a great place to start.

2. Find a partner

Using your existing connections abroad, establish a partnership with another institution or organization. If you don’t think you have the right contacts for the goals of your course, you may also find these through research, networking or other means.

3. Consider your participants

There are a number of things that are important to consider socially and logistically regarding your students and partners when designing a virtual exchange course. They may include:

  • The goals of each group.
  • Differences in times zones.
  • The language the groups will be operating in.
  • What resources are available for both groups.
  • If you will be using a traditional or flipped classroom model.
  • If the activities will be synchronous or asynchronous.
  • Available technology for all parties.

Some of these can be related to power imbalances that might exist between your students and those of your partner, so it is crucial to consider them in advance.

4. Design the activities

Collaborating and completing joint tasks is challenging enough when students are working in the same space. With added factors such as of geography, language, and culture, potentially separating your students from their international classmates, the types of activities the groups work on together will have to be thoughtfully considered. You can use the activities in the databases listed below as a starting place. Tailor them to the needs of your course or use them to inspire new ones.

Tasks Databank UNI Collaboration

Sample syllabi SUNY COIL

Cross-culture experiential rubric activity guide International cross cultural experiential learning evaluation kit

Intercultural Competence Tool Kit University of Washington Bothell

5. Make arrangements for technology

Determine what resources and technology you will be using to implement your course and how you plan to use them. UCalgary has many resources and programs available and a number of coaches at the Taylor Institute that can guide you on incorporating new technology into your virtual teaching practice. eLearn @ UCalgary has training videos on how to use the UCalagary supported software as well. As mentioned above, the access of your students as well as any partners involved should be considered before moving forward with planning. Some suggested resources are listed below.

Group Work: Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Asana, Padlet, Trello

Video Conferencing: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect Meeting, Skype, Google Meet, Facetime, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber

Learning Management Systems: Desire2Learn, Blackboard

Video Editing: Yuja, IMovie

Podcasts: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts

Student Response Systems: Top Hat

6. Assess and reflect

To assist you in evaluating your students with respect to their virtual exchange competencies, you may consider using a rubric. Below are a few examples of what they might look like.

Assessment Rubric International cross cultural experiential learning evaluation kit

Global Learning Value Rubric and the Intercultural Knowledge and Competence Rubric Association of American Colleges and Universities

In addition to evaluating your students, after your virtual exchange course is finished, assessing the success of your course is a valuable exercise to engage in. Having the tools to formally reflect and acknowledge your successes challenges will help you improve your course outcomes in future iterations.

Outcomes-Based Assessment Toolkit University of Western Ontario

Additional resources

Below are resources that may be of use when incorporating virtual exchange into your courses.

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. (n.d.). Virtual Exchange Tool Kit [PDF].

Beelen, J. (2018, March). How to Implement Internationalization at Home [PowerPoint Slides]. The Hague University of Applied Health Sciences.

American Higher Education Aliance. (2019, July 3). New Outlooks on Internationalization at Home: The Co-Curricular Dimension.

Tecnológico de Monterrey (n.d). Transform your course into a flexible and digital model for academic continuity.

University of Southern California: Center on Public Diplomacy. (2020, July 28). Highlights from CPD’s Virtual Roundtable on International Exchange. 

Intentional design for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Programmes

Purdue University webinar series

Published every other Friday beginning in mid-April

The Intercultural Learning and Inclusive Teaching for the New Virtual Paradigm (Virtual ICL) webinar series supports faculty and staff at Purdue and beyond by showcasing strategies for inclusion and examples of intercultural learning adapted to the virtual learning environment.

Cost: Free

Virtual Exchange and Summer 2020: Ideas and Resources (Responding to COVID-19 #4), from The Forum on Education Abroad

Panelists: Kris Acheson-Clair (CILMAR, Purdue University) & Mary Lou Forward (SUNY COIL)

Slide with resources available here


Agnew, M., Kahn, H. E. (2015). Internationalization-at-Home: Grounded practices to promote intercultural, international, and global learning. Metropolitan Universities: An International Forum, 25, 31-46. Article link

Beelen, J., & Jones, E. (2015). Redefining Internationalization at Home. In A. Curai, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi & P. Scott (Eds.), The European higher education area: Between critical reflections and future policies (pp. 67-80). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. Article link

Lowes, V., Goldman, A., McMahon, C. (2020). How to adapt experiential learning activities in the time of COVID-19 Article link


Leask, Betty (2015). Internationalizing the Curriculum. Routledge.

University of Calgary International

UCI is available to support you and provide guidance in the development or restructuring of your courses to incorporate virtual exchange. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Advising on best practices when working with partners and students abroad.
  • Consult on intercultural competencies, as they relate to your course.
  • Helping connect you to existing international partners in our network.

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning has a number of pedagogical experts and resources that may be helpful in integrating virtual exchange into your courses:

Learning Technologies

Learning Technology Coaches

Learning and Instructional Design Help

The University of Calgary Experiential Learning Plan maps four key elements for consideration when developing global learning experiences: Pedagogy, Experience, Assessment and Reflection.