Virtual exchange allows students to interact with other students from around the world without leaving Hong Kong. During the pandemic, our knowledge of the benefits of virtual exchange programs expanded greatly. The biggest advantage of virtual exchange is its accessibility. Students of all levels can be connected to their international peers through technology. Software such as Flipgrid (now Flip), Padlet, Zoom, and Pear Deck which enable audiovisual telecollaborations is free and easy to use, with security features that can allow teachers to track students’ level of engagement and gate keep students’ input when necessary. Virtual exchange is especially valuable to secondary school students to whom the exchange maybe their very first exposure to another culture. The program can also be used as a preparation course for overseas exchange programs to better prepare students for encountering and negotiating cultural differences for the first time.   

This talk would share the experience of a virtual exchange program that was launched two years ago to improve students’ cross-cultural effectiveness in the classroom setting. The project was called “Enhance cultural understanding through virtual exchange”. It was designed to facilitate person-to-person online communication between learners from different cultural, linguistic, and geographic areas for an extended period. In the first phase, 30 American students and 19 Hong Kong students were brought together through asynchronous video messaging on Flipgrid for 10 weeks. In the second phase, 120 American students, 76 Hong Kong students, and 29 English majors from India participated. These learners from three geographic regions and multiple linguistic and cultural backgrounds had opportunities to interact together online for a period of six weeks.

The participants interacted with each other synchronously through Zoom and asynchronously through Flipgrid. They also shared learning resources with each other on Padlet. Participants from Hong Kong took the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) survey both before and after their virtual exchange to measure their improvements in intercultural communication. They were also invited to join focus group interviews to share details of their experiences.

Initial findings indicate that virtual exchange successfully improves participants’ overall intercultural effectiveness. The experience helps learners to be more open to different cultures and to be more confident in their language skills.

(length: 47:07)

Outline of this Sharing Session:
Virtual Exchange: Facilitating Development of Global Communication and Language Enhancement Skills

Presenter: Dr Emma Zhang


00:00 – 00:59

Outline of this sharing session

Part 1: What is virtual exchange

01:00 – 03:15

What is virtual exchange?

03:16 – 06:16

How do virtual exchange programs develop during the pandemic

06:17 – 07:16

Who are the primary participants of virtual exchange programs

07:17 – 09:34

Institutions that designed their own virtual exchange programs

Part 2: Why use virtual exchange in a course

09:35 – 12:40

Advantages of using virtual exchange in a course

12:41 – 15:12

Impacts of virtual exchange courses on student success

Part 3: How to use virtual exchange in a course

15:13 – 20:58

Virtual exchange program framework sample

20:59 – 23:17

Virtual exchange facilitators’ responsibilities

23:18 – 26:01

Using virtual exchange in a course context

26:02 – 26:50

Online exhibition as alternative assessment

26:51 – 30:18

Flipgrid for facilitating asynchronous discussions

30:19 – 30:52

How to set up groups and topics on Flipgrid (tutorial video)

30:53 – 31:19

How to record and publish videos on Flipgrid (tutorial video)

31:20 – 32:48

Padlet for sharing resources with students

Part 4: Research findings

32:49 – 37:03

Effectiveness of virtual exchange courses

37:04 – 39:24

Students’ comments and feedback

39:25 – 42:15

Conclusion and virtual exchange resources


42:16 – 44:59

How to find virtual exchange partners?

45:00 – 46:59

If students are unwilling to turn on their cameras during the Zoom lessons, how do you encourage them to use Flipgrid? 

47:00 – 47:15

Closing and thanks

For more talks and topics, here is the full list of links to both Parallel Sessions: