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Virtual Global Learning

The Global Education Office encourages faculty to create virtual global learning experiences for VCU students in collaboration with partner universities abroad.  Contact our office to let us know how we can help you as a faculty member in developing virtual global learning experiences in your courses and/or as co-curricular experiences. 

What is virtual global learning?

Virtual global learning experiences include a “broad range of curricular or co-curricular experiences that happen partially or completely online, including collaborative project-based learning, one-on-one or small-group language learning practice, video conference dialogues, courses paired across institutions who work together, remote internships or group consulting projects for companies located abroad, or community engagement or service-learning projects conducted online in collaboration with a community partner overseas, and more” (definition from The Forum on Education Abroad’s Introduction to Online Global Learning Experiences).  

Although virtual global learning experiences can take many different forms and lengths, ideally they are structured and collaborative, offered in collaboration with faculty and students at partner universities abroad, and all are facilitated by technology.  “Virtual global learning” is an umbrella term that can refer to various types of experiences including:
  • Virtual exchange
    • According to the American Council of Education, ACE, virtual exchange consists of sustained, technology-enabled, people-to-people education programs
    • Video: What is Virtual Exchange?
  • Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) 
    • According to ACE, COIL is a research-based pedagogy of virtual exchange and involves faculty in two or more countries collaborating to develop a joint syllabus for students to then work together online to complete assignments that meet shared learning objectives.  Standard length of engagement between students is 4-5 weeks (within a semester-long course)
  • Teletandem
    • Virtual foreign language exchange using voice, text, and/or video
  • Virtual study abroad
  • Virtual global internships
  • Virtual global community engagement
Check out this virtual exchange typology from the Stevens Initiative for common terms and key concepts.

Why virtual global learning?


iie open doors figure

Did you know that only 1 in 10 U.S. undergraduate students studies abroad before graduation?  There is evidence that virtual global learning experiences are not only more accessible than mobility programs, but they may produce similar outcomes to education abroad programs when they are designed to deepen engagement between students of different cultures.  Students can develop intercultural agility and other skills that will benefit them academically and professionally in the future through intercultural exchange locally and virtually. 
Virtual global learning experiences can also serve as a gateway to other global learning experiences, including mobility programs, for students who otherwise might not have considered them.

VCU’s REAL Initiative
In addition to the fact that global virtual learning programs have enormous potential to impact student learning as well as academic and professional development, many of these experiences can be recognized through VCU’s Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning (REAL) initiative and fulfill VCU’s new academic regulation (to be rolled out in fall 2021) that requires all students to have a REAL experience before graduating. For guidance on creating virtual global learning experiences that fulfill students’ REAL requirements, please contact Education Abroad and REAL.



International Partnerships
VCU’s Global Education Office maintains partnerships with universities around the world and affiliations with a variety of international education organizations.  Strong international partners are key to successful virtual global learning experiences.  GEO can help you connect with our current partners to identify potential collaborators; GEO can also assist in establishing new partnerships when necessary.  

VCU Global Engagement Speakers Bureau
Are you interested in serving as a virtual guest lecturer in classes taught by VCU’s international partner universities?  Submit this form with your area(s) of expertise, possible lecture topics/titles, and bio, and we will then share it with our partners abroad and help to facilitate requests for you to speak.  Likewise, we will ask our partners abroad if they have faculty who are interested in serving as virtual guest lecturers in VCU classes, and we will connect them with relevant units and faculty as needed.  It is our hope that by connecting virtually with partners in this way, we will create opportunities for further collaboration with our international partners and deepen existing connections.  If you are interested in participating in the Global Engagement Speakers Bureau, please complete this Google form to input your information.

Course Design
Regardless of your level of familiarity with teaching online, virtual global education programs can be facilitated with technology with which you are likely already familiar such as Zoom, Google, or other similar platforms.
VCU Online provides support and resources for faculty who are interested in designing a collaborative virtual global learning course or course component.  Need help with course design?  Here are a few places to start:

What are some examples of virtual global learning experiences that already exist?

VCU Examples:
  • School of World Studies faculty:  VCU's School of World Studies Language Program has engaged in virtual global exchanges for over ten years in many languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish: 
    • Russian language telecollaboration with 2 partner institutions in Russia; contact Natalia Boykova for more information
    • Various intermediate and upper-level French courses routinely interact with the Malian English Practice Club (MEPC), the Belgian École Pratique de Hautes Études Commerciales (EPHEC), and with Mexican students learning French at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (UAEH); Dr. Kathryn Murphy-Judy has also collaborated with VCU's Robertson School of Media and Culture to set up an exchange with a French marketing class where the students collaborated on a joint project.  
  • Intercultural communication virtual exchange with Wenzao University in Taiwan, contact Robert Godwin-Jones for more information
  • VCU Globe Cultural Conversations with Shimane University (Japan), La Salle University (Mexico), and Kien Giang University (Vietnam), contact Audrey Short for more information
  • L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Trans-Atlantic Seminar in Urban Planning with University of Kaiserslautern (Germany) contact John Accordino for more information
  • School of Business International Consulting Program with Anglo-American University (Czech Republic) contact Romana Bucur for more information
Examples beyond VCU:

Want to learn more about virtual global learning?


Ready to get started?

  • What course(s) are you already teaching to which you could easily incorporate a virtual global component (5-6 weeks of a semester-long course)?
  • Are you or your department already engaged with one of VCU's partner institutions abroad, or do you know of foreign institutions with which you would like to collaborate?
  • If you would like to pursue creating a new global virtual learning program for your students, connect with us
    Email and let us know what you have in mind and how we can support you.