Research Articles

Systematic literature review on the utilization of theoretical underpinnings in virtual exchange research




virtual exchange, theory, theoretical underpinnings, systematic literature review


Virtual Exchange (VE) research is a subset of the technology enhanced learning field that has grown exponentially in the last decade. A critical step in the growth of an emerging academic field is to reflect on past research to understand what has been done well and what can be improved. This Systematic Literature Review (SLR) contributes to this reflective process by examining if a common criticism of technology enhanced learning research in Higher Education (HE) – the under-utilization of theoretical underpinnings in research – extends to the niche field of VE research. Using a qualitative meta-synthesis methodology, 42 qualitative and mixed method articles on VE were analyzed for theoretical underpinning usage, application, and advancement. Almost half of the articles explicitly used theoretical underpinnings in the conceptualization, data collection and analysis, and discussion of results. About a third of the articles explicitly used theoretical underpinnings in the design of the VE, but not necessarily in the research design. No articles reported adding to or advancing current theoretical underpinnings nor creating new ones. The results of this study show VE research is maturing but is not yet fully mature in the application of theoretical underpinnings in research. Also, this study contributes to analysis of theoretical underpinning usage by demonstrating that theoretical underpinnings are utilized also in course design, not just research design.

Author Biography

Liz Dovrat, Lancaster University

Liz Dovrat is a Ph.D. candidate for E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University and an EPIC lecturer and pedagogical consultant at Tel Hai Academic College in Israel. Her main research interests are sustainability in virtual exchanges, internationalization at home, and teachers’ perspectives and emotions.





Research Articles