Virtual Exchange: Facilitating Development of Global Communication and Language Enhancement Skills

Emma Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference poster


The proliferation of virtual communication in institutions around the world has made it possible to connect learners across the globe through technology and offer cross-cultural perspective to populations with limited physical mobility. To improve students’ cross-cultural effectiveness in the classroom setting, the project “Enhance cultural understanding through virtual exchange” was launched in June 2020.
The project was designed to facilitate person-to-person online communication between learners from different cultural, linguistic, and geographic areas for an extended period. In the first phase, 30 American students and 19 Hong Kong students were brought together through asynchronous video messaging on Flipgrid for 10 weeks. In the second phase, 120 American students, 76 Hong Kong students, and 29 English majors from India participated. These learners from three geographic regions and multiple linguistic and cultural backgrounds had opportunities to interact together online for a period of six weeks.
The participants interacted with each other synchronously through Zoom and asynchronously through Flipgrid. They also shared learning resources with each other on Padlet. Participants from Hong Kong took the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) survey both before and after their virtual exchange to measure their improvements in intercultural communication. They were also invited to join focus group interviews to share details of their experiences.
Initial findings indicate that virtual exchange successfully improves participants’ overall intercultural effectiveness. The experience helps learners to be more open to different cultures and to be more confident in their language skills. Though virtual exchange is not as effective in developing interpersonal relationships as an authentic exchange program would be, it offers advantages other overseas exchange programs do not. Virtual exchange provides wider and potentially more in-depth cultural exposure by connecting participants from multiple cultural backgrounds and providing a context for them to engage in research and discuss a range of social, cultural, and environmental issues.
The biggest advantage of virtual exchange is its accessibility. Students of all levels can be connected to their international peers through technology. Software such as Flipgrid, Padlet, Zoom, and Pear Deck which enable audiovisual telecollaborations is free and easy to use, with security features that can allow teachers to track students’ level of engagement and gate keep students’ input when necessary. Virtual exchange is especially valuable to secondary school students to whom the exchange maybe their very first exposure to another culture. The program can also be used as a preparation course for overseas exchange programs to better prepare students for encountering and negotiating cultural differences for the first time.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2022
Event5th Annual Roundtable/Poster Conference: Online and Blended Teaching and Learning : Lessons Learned – Looking Ahead - The Education University of Hong Kong , Hong Kong
Duration: 8 Jul 20228 Jul 2022
Conference number: 5


Conference5th Annual Roundtable/Poster Conference
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • virtual exchange
  • collaborative online international learning (COIL)
  • internationalization at home (IaH)


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