Robert O'Dowd – Plenarvortrag II

"Contact=Learning? Reviewing Learning Outcomes of Virtual Exchange in Foreign Language Education"

‘Virtual Exchange’, also referred to in foreign language education as telecollaboration, refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together classes of language learners in geographically distant locations with the aim of developing their foreign language skills and intercultural and digital competences through collaborative tasks and project work. Many studies have explored the potential of this activity for supporting collaborative language learning and developing intercultural competence in learners (Guth & Helm, 2010; Kern, 2015; Lewis & O’Dowd, 2016; O’Dowd, 2013, 2015).

However, Virtual Exchange is also an activity which has received its fair share of criticism in the literature, and at times there is a clear scepticism amongst commentators as to its effectiveness in developing intercultural awareness (Kramsch, 2014; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013). With this in mind, this presentation will review the results of various recent research studies which have looked at the impact of Virtual Exchange initiatives on competence development. We will also explore the main criticisms and concerns which have been expressed in relation to online intercultural exchanges and will then reflect on how both practitioners and researchers can react and learn from these critiques. Critical incidents from recent exchanges will be used to illustrate the difference between merely establishing intercultural contact online and actually bringing about contexts for intercultural learning.


Guth, S., Helm, F., & O’Dowd, R. (2012). University language classes collaborating online A report on the integration of telecollaborative networks in European universities. Retrieved from

Kern, R. (2014). Technology as Pharmakon: The promise and perils of the internet for foreign language education. Modern Language Journal, 98, 340–357.

Kramsch, C. (2014). Teaching foreign languages in an era of globalization. Introduction. The Modern Language Journal, 98(1), 296–311.

Lewis, T. & O’Dowd, R. (2016). Online Intercultural Exchange and Foreign Language Learning: A Systematic Review. In R. O’Dowd & T. Lewis (Eds.), Online Intercultural Exchange: Policy, Pedagogy, Practice. Routledge: New York.

Liddicoat, A., & Scarino, A. (2013). Intercultural language teaching and learning. West Sussex, GB: Wiley-Blackwell.

O’Dowd, R. (2013). Telecollaboration and CALL. In Thomas, M., Reindeers, H. & Warschauer, M. (Ed.), Contemporary computer-assisted language learning (pp. 123–141). London: Bloomsbury Academic.

O’Dowd, R. (2015). Supporting In-service Language Educators in Learning to Telecollaborate. Language Learning and Technology, 19 (1), 63-82.

O’Dowd, R. (2016). Learning From the Past and Looking to the Future of Online Intercultural Exchange. In R. O’Dowd & T. Lewis (Eds.), Online Intercultural Exchange: Policy, Pedagogy, Practice (pp. 273-298). Routledge: New York.