Practice Reports

Connecting the disconnected: analysis of a virtual exchange during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic




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.

Author Biographies

Paul Sebastian, Appalachian State University

Assistant Professor, Spanish & TESL/Applied Linguistics, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures. Dr. Sebastian teaches courses in language methodology, second language acquisition, computer-assisted language learning and Spanish as a second language. His research is rooted in the relationship between language and the constructed environment whether that be physical, virtual or hybrid.

Benjamin Souza, Appalachian State University

Professor, Spanish Linguistics, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures. Dr. Souza teaches all levels of Spanish and specializes in Spanish linguistics. He studies a wide array of second language acquisition topics and Spanish phonetics and dialectology.





Practice Reports