Originally posted: March 5, 2020
Updated: July 6, 2021 to reflect changes made to linkr Education platform.
Selecting the right tools for virtual exchange in the higher education classroom can be a daunting task. With so many technologies and platforms to choose from, it can be difficult to understand the landscape. In this brief, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get your virtual exchange technology strategy off on the right foot.
The following recommendations are based on a survey of teaching technologies drawing on our experience with teachers in our virtual exchange classroom projects. Our recommendations are divided into two parts: a list of “virtual exchange platforms,” which act as a central hub for the project, and “supplemental tools” that can help with specific tasks and activities related to virtual exchange. Read on for a set of capsule summaries and links.
We have selected virtual exchange platforms that operate as “standalone” services rather than components in institution-level Learning Management Systems (LMS) (such as Moodle or Blackboard). Other criteria include being mobile friendly, GDPR compliant, and able to facilitate student groups.
The “supplemental tools” for targeted learning activities typical within virtual exchange project learning are often linked to larger workforce preparation goals for higher education. They can give students exposure to commonly used tools that reinforce skills not specific to technology but to real time teamwork and asynchronous collaboration. This is far from an exhaustive list but we hope it will help you find the right tools for your own virtual exchange work. In contrast to the platforms, these tools are meant to enhance and facilitate the learning activities typically needed in virtual exchange projects, such as:
“Icebreaker” social tools supporting interpersonal connections and team-building essential to virtual exchange
Lightweight chat applications for collaborative work - real time or asynchronous
Project management tools for group work
Writing, creating, and editing elements of a project
Targeted uses of technology for specific elements of CLICK projects
Apart from any classroom platform you may use to organize your virtual exchange, we have identified a handful of useful “supplementary tools.” This is not an exhaustive list, but could be useful for thinking through what supplementary technologies might be useful for your virtual exchange classroom.
VIRTUAL EXCHANGE PLATFORMS
Designed explicitly for virtual exchange and college-level courses
Easy to search through and access student work across the platform
Built-in tool for finding collaborators among other teachers on the platform; individual teachers have free access
Conversation tab designed for social or academic interactions among members of the course; easily share blog-post and writing tasks
Ability to join the Gazelle International Network to access valuable resources by invitation
"Privacy first" approach minimizes security concerns
Steeper learning curve than Edmodo or similar (7/6/2021 update: Recent surveys show that students find linkr really easy to use, especially with platform updates and improvements, reducing or eliminating this learning curve)
Designed primarily for web browsers
Loading time issues, easier for teachers than students to use (7/6/2021 update: Recent platform improvements have accelerated loading times across the site. Some photo uploading remains without a tracker of upload progress, but speed has overall been greatly strengthened)
‘Open’ tag system means redundant or hard to find tags
Licensing business model means campus purchase for institutional use