Developed over the past 30 years from experience in the field of educational exchange and study abroad – and evolving rapidly with the explosive growth in new media technologies and platforms – Virtual Exchange has been integrated at all levels of education from kindergarten through university and is distinctive in its use of new media platforms to enable deep, interactive social learning.
By employing a wide variety of technologies and educational pedagogy, Virtual Exchange makes it possible for every young person to have meaningful, transnational and intercultural experiences.
Virtual Exchange distinguishes itself from other forms of online learning in several ways:
- The focus is primarily on people-to-people interaction and dialogue whereas the primary focus in many e-learning programmes is on content.
- The learning goals or outcomes include soft skills that are often not formally recognized, such as the development of intercultural awareness, digital literacies, group work, etc.
- It is primarily learner-led: following the philosophy of dialogue where participants are the main recipients and the main drivers of knowledge; learning through dialogue means that participants will be seeking mutual understanding and co-creating knowledge, based on their own experiences.
Finally, a key tenet of virtual exchange is that intercultural understanding and awareness are not automatic outcomes of contact between different groups/cultures, and virtual exchange programmes explicitly address intercultural understanding and engaging with difference. Virtual Exchanges function in a synergistic and complementary way with physical exchange programmes. They can prepare, deepen, and extend physical exchanges, and, by reaching new populations and larger numbers, fuel new demand for physical exchange.