Practice Reports

Combining virtual exchange with challenge-based learning: the experience of the “Virtual Environmental Challenge”




challenge-based learning, transferable skills, virtual exchange, pre-mobility exchange, interdisciplinary approach


This practice report presents the use of Virtual Exchange (VE) (O’Dowd, 2018) and Challenge-Based Learning (CBL) (Gallagher & Savage, 2020) as a means to enhance an Internationalisation at Home (IaH) (Beelen & Jones, 2015) experiment. The present study focuses on the “Virtual Environmental Challenge” (VEC) which brought together 10 different universities from 7 different countries, in the context of an Erasmus+ project. Now in its third iteration, the VE is focusing on the VEC in tandem with Challenge-Based Learning. The CBL approach can be considered as Project-Based Learning (PBL) (Fleming, 2002) with the students in charge of defining their own project. Explaining the conceptual framework of CBL allowed for the transmission and communication of the complex elements of the VEC in an easy to understand format. This article reports back on the experience, feedback and learning experiences of the VEC in order to map out the future perspectives of the project. The contribution of this report is to ground CBL as a pedagogical new approach in the form of experiential learning (Kolb, 2015). This report also aims to inform practitioners about the value of VE, CBL, and IaH focused projects and the rewards these projects can bring.

Author Biographies

Christine Evain, LIDILE (Linguistique, Ingénierie, Didactique des Langues), Université Rennes 2

Christine Evain is a Professor of Didactics and Language Acquisition at the University Rennes 2 in France. Christine’s research involves the design and evaluation of learning systems. With a background in literature (PhD in Canadian literature) and commercial studies, her publications include more than a hundred articles on a wide range of subjects, several volumes of Margaret Atwood’s poetry translated into French, several books on Canadian authors, and the publishing industry. In her current research, Christine Evain focuses mainly on pedagogy, ICTE, and language acquisition.

Michael Moore, LIDILE (Linguistique, Ingénierie, Didactique des Langues), Université Rennes 2

Michael Moore is a Research Engineer and associate member of the research unit Linguistique Ingénierie et Didactique des Langues (LIDILE) at University Rennes 2. In the year 2010, Michael qualified in Clinical Hypnoanalysis, Psychoanalysis, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy before embarking on a specialised BA in Creative Writing, English, and Classics; and an MA in Writing with the National University of Ireland. Michael currently works within the domain of pedagogy, project-based learning, language acquisition, computer science, and computational linguistics.

Spencer Hawkridge, LIDILE (Linguistique, Ingénierie, Didactique des Langues), Université Rennes 2

Spencer Hawkridge is a second-year PhD student. He is also an English, Culture, and Business Environments teacher at the Centrale Nantes School of Engineering. Formerly a History teacher in a secondary school in the United Kingdom, he has an interest in cultural, historical, and literary activities. Spencer has collaborated with Audencia Business School and University Rennes 2 on workshop projects through an association he co-founded called “BookHoof,” where he organised and led workshops to create children’s books; and he has also co-authored several articles on the subjects of language learning and digital humanities.