Global Virtual Exchange

Intercultural dialogue through the broad reach of technology


SUMMARY: The Center for Global Engagement develops a global virtual exchange program focused on combining the deep impact of intercultural dialogue and exchange with the broad reach of digital technology.

The global pandemic not only forced JMU to go exclusively online with many educational activities, but also provided opportunities for innovation in the area of global education.  As a leader among peer institutions with the number of students who study abroad, JMU’s Center for Global Engagement (CGE) adapted quickly to broaden the reach of global learning through global virtual exchange. This expanded programming allowed the CGE to include an even greater number of students and faculty by developing and testing innovative ways of engaging in deep intercultural learning. 

Student_quote_image.jpgGlobal Virtual Exchange (GVE) is a research-supported practice that is technology-enabled, facilitated, people-to-people learning sustained over a period of time (Helm, et al. 2020).  Through constructive dialogue and collaborative projects between groups from different backgrounds, participants gain intercultural skills, global awareness, and frameworks for approaching entangled global problems. GVE combines the deep impact of intercultural dialogue and exchange with the broad reach of digital technology.  You can learn more about different types of GVE by viewing this brief video.

The current shifting landscape of global higher education has brought focus and urgency for the development of dynamic resources that can facilitate meaningful dialogue and reflection in any online learning environment--addressing the pressing need for deep interpersonal connections around topics of emotional well-being in uncertain times.  With the support of grant from Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP), and in collaboration with Elon, Kansai University, and Crossing Borders Education (CBE), CGE and partners developed methodology to address a number of key challenges of online interactions by supporting students to overcome isolation and address fears by connecting deeply across differences.  This brief video offers a glimpse of what we have learned from one aspect of our project that features Crossing Borders Education’s use of authentic peer video prompts to model and facilitate self-awareness.

The summer and fall of 2020 provided opportunities to further develop and apply the methodology for globally connecting faculty and students using digital technology.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, CGE engaged over 400 students from JMU and international partner universities in global virtual exchanges during the 2020.  Students who participated in global virtual exchange recognize multiple values this pedagogy brings to their learning and well-being:

  • Addressing isolation in times of global pandemic when physical and social distancing is prevalent across the world
  • Recognizing the need for and power of relationships for global learning to happen
  • Recognizing a profound effect of global virtual exchanges to understand different perspectives and develop empathy
  • Developing critical thinking skills through deeper understanding of self-perception and others’ perception of them, and the difference between the two
  • Understanding why someone may hold different beliefs from their own
  • Opportunity to learn about a personal experience on topics that are presented in a distanced way via media
  • Understanding different ways of knowing
  • Opportunity to learn about impact of global and local events on individual human beings vs. how they are presented in media or learned about at a cognitive level from textbooks and lectures

With the emphasis on development of 21st century skills, GVE has the promise to be an integral part of the higher education experience in an increasingly complex local, national, and global context.  Along with study abroad experiences, GVE can enhance students’ global learning and access to global connections with peers in a dynamic environment.

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Published: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2022

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