Combining Physical & Virtual Mobility



This was a telecollaborative exchange which took place from 2005 to 2011 between the University of León, Spain and Barnard College, New York. The project combined stages of online intercultural exchange with stages of physical mobility between the two classes. After initial online interaction, a group of students from León would travel to New York and would take part in classes with the American group for one week. Following that, the American group came to Spain to participate in classes with the Spanish class for another week. The exchange would then return to online interaction between the two classes. The content of the online interaction and the project work carried out during the physical mobility was all stored on a wiki.

Main Focus:

Intercultural Exchange

Exchange institution(s):

University of León

Project website:

The Spanish-American Cultura Exchange

Language Configurations:


Language(s) used:


Dominant form of language production:

Writing/reading synchronous

Target Competences:

Language Comptence
Intercultural Skills


The online part of this exchange was based on the Cultura exchange model which can be easily reproduced. Below you can find a presentation from an academic conference about the exchange (IALIC2005) and also some screen shots from the wiki used to house the exchange.

How long did the project last?

The project lasted one full semester each year. This involved 6-8 weeks of online contact and project work and 2 weeks of time abroad in the two participating institutions.

How was the project organized?

The project followed the following format:



&bull January-March: On-line Exchange involving the following activities:


Students in both classes create introductory videos about their home towns.

Students create autobiographies in the target language.

Students complete and analyse ‘ Cultura’ style questionnaires in their classes. They then discuss these questionnaires online together in asynchronous discussion forums.

&bull March: Group from New York visit León
The American group participates in classes with their León partners. They stay (free of charge) with their partners in their homes/apartments. They carry out presentations in different English classes at the university. They collect data for their final projects.
&bull April: Group from León visit New York
The Spanish group are accommodated in the Barnard Halls of Residence free of charge. They participate in various Spanish-language classes.
&bull April: New Materials collected/created by students are added to on-line platform
The photos, interviews and information collected by the students during their visits are added to the project wiki.
&bull April-May: On-line Exchange (2). Analysis of new materials in the two classes and online interaction between the two groups. Students write and share online their final essays reflecting on the exchange.
&bull Following year: Previous year’ s materials available for new groups of learners&hellip .


Cultura Questionnaires
Local culture presentation

Task types:

The online exchange is based on the completion and analysis of Cultura comparative questionnaires. This activity is complemented by the creation of videos, autobiographies and essays. All the materials are shared on the project wiki.

How were the students assessed?

The students were assessed based on their work during the course. They received marks for their introductory videos, their autobiographies and their final essays. They also received marks for consistent participation in the project forums.

Additional resources:

Here are some example videos made by students participating in the project: list=PL7C67DFE6F38BA5AE index=1





What worked well?

The combination of physical and virtual mobility was obviously very popular among the students. Each group received funding to cover their flights to the other country and accommodation was also covered. This meant that students could spend one week with the partner class more or less free of charge. The fact that students could first of all get to know their partners online before actually travelling and working together was also very positive.

What did students think of the project?


In their final feedback forms, many of the Americans were to make referenceto how the interaction had challenged their image of Spain. One studentexplained that she ‘ . . . was surprised with responses in the ‘ ‘ bull fighting’ ‘ topic. I thought all Spanish people liked the idea of bull-fighting but it turnedout to be the opposite.’
In their final
feedback form, the Spanish concluded that their partners were ‘ . . . leading achange towards changing traditional American stereotypes’ and that ‘ . . . notall Americans are the same  Barnard College students are tolerant and openminded’ .Finally, another explained that: ‘ There were a lot of things about theUSA that I didn’ t know, talking to the young people there cleared up manythings for me such as their way of thinking and the difference between thereality over there and how we see them.’

What challenges did you face?

Both organising teachers needed to ask their respective institutions for funding to cover the students’ flights. In the case of Barnard, the teacher also needed to ask for free accommodation for the visiting Spanish group.

What did the teachers think of the project?

What kind of institutional support did you receive?

The financial support to enable the physical mobility stage was vital to the excess of the exchange.