Connecting the disconnected: analysis of a virtual exchange during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:Spanish, pre-service, pandemic, connection, synchronous exchange, virtual exchange
This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion about the use of virtual exchange for the teaching and learning of languages. The project was designed as a Spanish language conversation exchange that connected students via synchronous Zoom sessions. Following a pilot semester that took place in spring 2019, the exchange was then repeated with a new group of students during the spring 2020 term, the same semester during which the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world. The exchange took place over a two-week period and pairs were formed between students enrolled in a graduate level pre-service Spanish language program in Spain and undergraduate intermediate Spanish students in the US. Groups were asked to complete five topic-based conversation sessions. Individual exchange sessions were recorded and transcribed. Exchange participants also completed a survey about their experiences. Findings from the recorded sessions, transcript analysis, and surveys show that the virtual conversation exchange was successful and that difficulties such as technology and scheduling, both recurring issues that have been noted in previous studies of telecollaboration (Helm, 2015), were not significant barriers. Because the virtual exchange took place during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary focus of this study was to examine how students utilized the exchange as a way to stay connected during a time of mass disconnection.
Copyright (c) 2022 Paul Sebastian, Benjamin Souza
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