In the context of language and intercultural learning, telecollaboration refers to using the power of the internet to connect learners in diverse geographic locations, such as learners of each others’ languages or learners of the same language from different backgrounds. As with study abroad, this contact is frequently assumed to promote language and intercultural learning, but research paints a more mixed picture of the outcomes.
At UNM, I’ve worked to integrate three main telecollaboration projects into the classroom. The first involved an exchange between Egyptian university students and my fourth semester Arabic class funded by a Teaching Allocations Committee Grant. You can read about the successes and challenges of this project in my chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Arabic Second Language Acquisition. We now use TalkAbroad in our second and third year classes, thanks to funding from the Language Learning Center. I also incorporated an eight-week telecollaboration into the faculty-led study abroad trip to Jordan I designed Spring 2016 as a way for students get to know Jordanian peers prior to their arrival in Jordan.
In telecollaboration, as in study abroad or any other form of intercultural contact, a key component is not only arranging contact, but also facilitating participants’ abilities to reflect upon this contact in ways that allow for intercultural and language learning. Coordinating the components of a telecollaboration project across time zones, participant schedules, technology, and bureaucracy is a challenges, but students have generally appreciated the linguistic and cultural insights they gained from these projects.