Eric Hagley is an visiting fellow at Hosei University in Japan. He created the International Virtual Exchange Project (IVEProject) which has had some 20,000 students from 15 countries participating in Virtual Exchange (VE) over the last 5 years. The IVEProject continues to expand and is one of many VE that are changing the way communicative language teaching is being taught. He has written and presented on VE extensively. He is the co-chair and president of the Asia Pacific Virtual Exchange Association (APVEA) and was vice-president of PacCALL from 2009 to 2018. He was also head of the Quiz Quality Assurance Project for MoodleReader (mReader).
The IVEProject is a virtual exchange that has been allowing EFL students from around the world to connect via forums. It has been growing steadily and had over 3200 students participate in the autumn of 2019. A supplemental feature called ‘Photos of the Day’ was added to create a new avenue for students to learn about and discuss the countries involved. For seven of the eight weeks of the exchange, students were encouraged to upload original photos corresponding to daily themes related to forum discussion topics. Using Moodle’s database module, a total of over 3600 photos were uploaded from participants from five countries. By filtering the photos by theme and country, participants could gain a new visual perspective of various aspects of daily life in different countries. It also acted as a catalyst for both in-class spoken discussions as well as forum discussion. The presentation discusses the setup of ‘Photos of the Day’, differences in how different countries used it, and qualitative data from students’ forum posts. Furthermore, it offers lessons learned for improvement in the 2020 iteration.
Promoting cultural understanding within second language learners is typically desired alongside improving language skills in second language learning contexts. Although real cultural understanding can be a difficult target, cultural appreciation can be achieved if adequate contact with other cultures can be obtained. However, students in EFL classrooms within monocultural countries such as Japan, have the same cultural background and thus achieving appreciation of other cultures is often difficult as an international setting is lacking. Virtual Exchanges (VE) have been trialed to give students the opportunity to use English and become more culturally acclimatized. Though there are many benefits, joining such exchanges has been difficult for teachers. This presentation introduces the IVEProject which was created to allow university students to use the language learned in class, to interact with students from other countries. With almost 14,000 students and 220 teachers from 15 countries and 50 different institutions over the last 3 years, students interact online in various classroom settings (eg. communication, intercultural communication) using English as a lingua franca on a Moodle platform over an 8-week period. The IVEProject, sponsored by a Japanese government grant-in-aid for scientific research, is free for participants and easy to join. Tools addressing ease of use, connectivity for students and assessment will be outlined in this presentation along with pre- and post-questionnaires result showing improvement in students' understanding of their own culture and appreciation of other cultures. The presentation will end with an open invitation for interested teachers to join the exchange from 2020.