Virtual exchange between cross-cultural teams: A sustainable path to the internationalization of college courses


  • Massimo Verzella Penn State Erie, The Behrend College


Internationalization, intercultural competence, virtual exchange, pedagogy, English as a lingua franca, Globalization, cross-cultural virtual teams, intercultural communication, Internationalization at home


Considering that only a small percentage of students can afford the cost of study abroad programs, it is important to appreciate how collaborative projects that link classes from geographically distant places can be organized at no cost for students and institutions. The umbrella term for this type of collaborative projects is “virtual exchange.” While a certain degree of diffidence for virtual exchange initiatives is due to difficulties of integrating these projects with traditional syllabi and uncertainties on how to evaluate students who collaborate in cross-cultural virtual teams, the benefits for students have been widely documented. Among the most dynamic organizations that promote cultural exchange are the INTENT consortium (through the Unicollaboration platform at and the TAPP network. These organizations have promoted the creation of projects that have helped students develop intercultural competencies, communication skills in English as a lingua franca, and digital literacy. Importantly, projects like those developed through Unicollaboration or TAPP are not hampered by red tape and bureaucracy, and represent a more sustainable path to the internationalization of a wide range of college courses. Finally, virtual exchange initiatives foster global citizenship, intercultural awareness, and cosmopolitan open-mindedness in times characterized by a resurgence of petty nationalism and particularism.