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There has been extensive research on the effectiveness of language exchanges, also referred to as “telecollaboration”, “tandem learning” or “Virtual Immersion”, as a method to promote cross-cultural awareness and language development (Belz, 2002; Thorne, 2006; Ware, 2008). Technical advances have made communicating with others around the world via text, voice and video for free extremely common as well. Skype, the largest voice over IP service, reached one third of all international phone traffic in 2012 and continues to grow at the expense of traditional carriers. Despite these advances, classes that integrate real-time communication with native speakers are still clearly more the exception than the rule.
At Dickinson College, we first tried to organize exchanges for our students by looking for class-to-class partnerships with other institutions abroad. With our own study abroad programs, we figured we were in a better position than most to find contacts, but we were largely unsuccessful. While there were some technical difficulties, by far the greater problem was organizational. Initially finding potential partners was time consuming, and very few partnerships even began once each side compared time zone differences, semester schedules, class sizes, and lab availability. For those telecollaboration projects that did start, continuing them became difficult as the professors and course times changed each semester. More often than not, one side or the other cancelled the partnership after the first or second semester citing primarily issues of time but also reliability of the other side.
Bryant, Todd. "Connect Your Students with Native Speakers Today." The FLTMAG (Article published online July 26, 2016).