Virtual Exchange: Developing Critical Digital Literacies

This is a practical webinar for registered participants only.


The workshop is scheduled for 24 March 2021 at 13:00 Central European Time. Full program >>

The workshop will be open only to the registered participants of the DC4LT webinar series. The number of participants is limited. Registration >>

The workshop is scheduled for 05 October 2021 at 09:00 Central European Time. Full program >>

Join here: Zoom

The workshop will be open only to the registered participants of the DC4LT webinar series. The number of participants is limited. Registration >>


Anna Nicolaou

Cyprus University of Technology, Cyprus



The workshop will begin with an introduction to Virtual Exchange (VE) as a pedagogical approach for developing learners’ (critical) digital literacies. Reference will be made to different modes and configuration of virtual exchange or telecollaboration projects in language learning contexts. Typologies for designing and implementing a task sequence for a VE project will be mentioned along with useful tools that can mediate the online collaboration. The following typology will be recommended: O’Dowd and Ware (2009) typology: Information Exchange, Comparison and Analysis, and Collaboration tasks. The following tools will be recommended: Google Applications for synchronous and asynchronous interaction and task completion.

The second activity includes a demonstration of the UNICollaboration platform. has been designed to support virtual exchange or telecollaboration projects. On this platform, educators can find the resources and training materials necessary to learn about and to set up telecollaborative exchanges. We will look at the basic functions and features of the platform, such as the partner-finding tool, a task databank, an e-portfolio for evaluating telecollaborative projects, a databank of sample projects, a project-planning tool, as well as text- and video-based training materials. Participants will learn how to add a class on the platform. 

The third activity requires participants to work collaboratively towards brainstorming on the design of a virtual exchange project for their own language learning contexts. Participants will be given three scenarios to choose from and will draft the objectives, configurations and task sequence of a VE project, along with the proposed tools to be used during the exchange. 

The last activity requires participants to report back from the group work and discuss their proposed virtual exchange designs. Participants will provide and receive feedback.

Recommended reading

O’Dowd, R., & Waire, P. (2009). Critical issues in telecollaborative task design. Computer assisted language learning, 22(2), 173-188. DOI: 10.1080/09588220902778369

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about virtual exchange embedded in language learning contexts
  • Navigate the UNICollaboration platform
  • Design a virtual exchange project
  • Learn how to add  a class in the UNICollaboration platform


What is Virtual Exchange? A short animation video explaining the basic concepts of Virtual Exchange. Produced by the EVOLVE project.

Theoretical Background

“Telecollaboration, or virtual exchange, are terms used to refer to the engagement of groups of learners in online intercultural interactions and collaboration projects with partners from other cultural contexts or geographical locations as an integrated part of their educational programmes” (O’Dowd, 2018, p.1). Guth and Helm (2010) have defined telecollaboration in language learning contexts as an Internet-based exchange aimed at developing both language skills and intercultural communicative competence. Research studies have documented the continuing development of virtual exchange along with the benefits of this pedagogical paradigm which include the enhancement of language skills and intercultural communicative competence (Guth & Helm, 2010), critical media literacy (Müller-Hartmann, 2006); as well as social, digital, and entrepreneurial skills (Vinagre, 2016). Recently, virtual exchange has been directed towards the development of critical digital literacies that guide participants beyond the functional uses of technology (Hauck, 2019) by involving them in action-oriented, global citizenship activities.  


Guth, S., & Helm, F. (2010). Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, literacies and intercultural learning in the 21st century (Vol. 1). Peter Lang.

Hauck, M. (2019). Virtual exchange for (critical) digital literacy skills development. European Journal of Language Policy, 11(2), 187-210. DOI: 10.3828/ejlp.2019.12

Müller-Hartmann, A. (2006). Learning how to teach intercultural communicative competence via telecollaboration: A model for language teacher education. Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education, 63-84. URI:

O’Dowd, R. (2018). From telecollaboration to virtual exchange: state-of-the‑art and the role of UNICollaboration in moving forward. Journal of Virtual Exchange, 1, 1-23. DOI: 10.14705/rpnet.2018.jve.1

Vinagre, M. (2016). Developing key competences for life-long learning through virtual collaboration: Teaching ICT in English as a medium of instruction. In Handbook of research on foreign language education in the digital age (pp. 170-187). IGI Global. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0177-0.ch008