In today’s networked and globalized world, the ability to collaborate and communicate online across cultural, national and regional divides is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the global workplace. Graduates of today need to be able to operate in culturally diverse, digitally mediated environments, working both face to face and online with members of other cultures. In this light, it is important that educational institutions offer students online, intercultural collaborative experiences as part of their education, leading them to develop 21st century attitudes and skills such as empathy and tolerance, critical thinking, intercultural awareness and foreign language competences and digital literacy.
A scalable and durable way to offer participative, digitally-enabled collaborative learning to graduates is through ‘telecollaboration’ or ‘virtual exchange’. This is an innovative form of online learning which involves engaging learners in interaction and collaboration with classes in distant locations through online communication technologies under the guidance of teachers or trained facilitators. In contrast to many forms of online learning which are based on the transfer of information through video lectures and shared files, telecollaboration is based on student-centered, collaborative approaches to learning where knowledge and understanding are constructed through learner-interaction and negotiation.
UNICollaboration: Cross-Disciplinary Organisation for Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange in Higher Education
Originating from a European project (INTENT, coordinated by Robert O’Dowd, University of León) UNICollaboration was launched at the Second Conference on Telecollaboration in Higher Education at Trinity College, Dublin in 2016 as a cross-disciplinary academic organisation to support telecollaborative practitioners and to promote telecollaboration and virtual exchange in higher education.
In 2021, the UNICollaboration headquarters were moved from León to Brussels and the statutes were adapted accordingly.
Goals of the Organisation
The mission of UNICollaboration is to promote the development and integration of virtual exchange across all disciplines and interest areas in formal and non-formal educational contexts through advocacy and outreach, opportunities for professional development and personal growth, research, and dissemination.
UNICollaboration pursues this mission by:
- (co-)organising conferences on virtual exchange in formal and non-formal educational contexts;
- publishing a journal on virtual exchange research and practice;
- leveraging social media to promote virtual exchange and the Organisation’s activities;
- offering training and professional development in virtual exchange practice and research;
- providing training and support for doctoral and post-doctoral research in virtual exchange;
- maintaining and promoting the Organisation’s online platform as a central hub for virtual exchange practice and research;
- supporting members interested in preparing project proposals and starting virtual exchange initiatives;
- establishing contact and collaborating with other organisations whose activities relate to the mission of the organisation;
- coordinating common policies and approaches to developing virtual exchange with other networks and organisations across the globe;
- pursuing constructive dialogue with policy making bodies at national and international level; and
- seeking funding to support the activities above and participating in funded projects with other institutions and organisations to achieve its mission.
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