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Telecollaboration[1][2] is a form of network-based language teaching[3][4] which emerged in language teaching in the 1990s. It refers to the pedagogic practice of bringing together classes of foreign language learners through computer-mediated communication for the purpose of improving their language skills, intercultural communicative competence[5] and digital literacies.[6] Telecollaboration, also increasingly referred to as online intercultural exchange (OIE),[7][8] is recognized as a field of computer-assisted language learning as it relates to the use of technology in language learning. Outside the field of language education this type of pedagogic practice is increasingly being used to internationalize the curriculum and offer students the possibility to engage with peers in other parts of the world in collaborative online projects. Different terms are used to refer to this practice, for example virtual exchange, collaborative online international learning (COIL),[9] and globally networked learning.[10]

Telecollaboration is based on sociocultural views of learning inspired by Vygotskian theories of learning as a social activity.[11]

Telecollaboration 2.0[edit]

Guth and Helm (2010)[12] built on the pedagogy of telecollaboration by expanding on its traditional practices via incorporating Web 2.0 tools in online collaborative projects. This enriched practice widely became known as telecollaboration 2.0.[12][7] Telecollaboration 2.0, being a completely new phase, serves to achieve nearly the same goals of telecollaboration. A distinctive feature of Telecollaboration 2.0, however, lies in prioritizing promoting the development and mastery of new online literacies.[12] Although telecollaboration and telecollaboration 2.0 are used interchangeably, the latter slightly differs in affording "a complex context for language education as it involves the simultaneous use and development" of intercultural competencies,[1] internationalize classrooms and promotes authentic intercultural communication[1] among partnering schools/students.[12]


There are several different 'models' of telecollaboration which have been extensively described in the literature.[13] The first models to be developed were based on the partnering of foreign language students with "native speakers" of the target language, usually by organizing exchanges between two classes of foreign language students studying one another's languages. The most well established models are the eTandem and the Cultura, and eTwinning models.

eTandem, which developed from the face to face Tandem Learning approach, has been widely adopted by individual learners who seek partners on the many available educational websites which offer to help find partners and suggest activities for tandem partners to engage in. However, the eTandem model has also been used for class-to-class telecollaboration projects where teachers establish specific objectives, tasks, and/or topics for discussion.[14] The Teletandem model[15] is based on eTandem and was developed in Brazil, but focuses on oral communication through VOIP tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts. Until recent years, however, telecollaboration has generally used asynchronous communication tools.

The Cultura project was developed by teachers of French as a foreign language at MIT in the late 1990s with the aim of making culture the focus of their foreign language class.[16] This model takes its inspiration from the words of the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin: "It is only in the eyes of another culture that foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly ... A meaning only reveals its depths once it has encountered and come into contact with another foreign meaning" (as cited in Furstenberg, Levet, English, & Maillet, 2001, p. 58). Cultura is based on the notion and process of cultural comparison and entails students analysing cultural products in class with their teachers and interacting with students of the target languages and cultures through which they develop a deeper understanding of each other's culture, attitudes, representations, values, and frames of reference.[17]

The eTwinning project, which essentially is a network of schools and educators within the European Union and part of Eramus+, contrasts with its earlier counterparts in not setting specific guidelines apropos of language use, themes or structure.[18] This model serves as a broad platform for schools within the EU to exchange information and share materials online, and provides a virtual space for countless pedagogical opportunities where teachers and students collectively learn, communicate and collaborate using a foreign language.[18] Quintessentially, eTwinning has the following four objectives: 1. setting up a collaborative network among European schools by connecting them via Web 2.0 tools; 2. encouraging educators and students to collaborate with their counterparts in other European countries; 3. fostering a learning environment in which European identity is integrated with multilingualism and multiculturalism; 4. continuously developing educators' professional skills "in the pedagogical and collaborative use of ICT".[18] eTwinning has thus proven to be a strong model for telecollaboration in recent years, since it enables the authentic use of foreign language among virtual partners, i.e. teachers and students. Not surprisingly, eTwinning projects have become increasingly recognized at various educational institutions across the continent. Each of the telecollaborative models discussed above has its strengths and weaknesses:

eTandem Cultura eTwinning
  • Utilizes the native speakers' voices, making it a fundamental part of the language learning process[19][13]
  • Fosters independent learning; prioritizes learner autonomy;
  • Promotes reciprocal dependence and mutual support among partners;
  • Establishes a social platform or context for real-life communication and interaction that require higher mental and cognitive skills[19][13]
  • Provides learners with an opportunity to have clearer conceptions about other cultures;
  • Promotes cross-cultural understanding and challenges or rejects stereotypes;
  • Presents a flexible and well-structured model for telecollaboration practice.[20][17]
  • Offers a great opportunity for European schools to work collaboratively with counterparts;
  • Helps students to expand their knowledge of other European cultures and languages;[18]
  • Comprises linguistic components irrespective of the subject matter;
  • Motivates teachers and students to develop their intercultural competency and ICT skills;
  • Adds a new dimension to teaching and encourages them to develop their communication skills.
  • Encompasses variations among partners in terms of levels of enthusiasm, interests and attitude;
  • Organization choices, such as mismatching groups, may lead to some problems, e.g. when peers choose their partners rather than teachers partnering students, or in some cases having unmatched learner in one of the groups;[13]
  • Linguistic issues, such mismatching levels, may hinder effectivity of synchronous interactions and work against the success of eTandem.
  • Requires a greater deal of coordination between the two partnering institutions;[20]
  • There are risks associated with misinterpreting cultures, such as:
  1. Students may over-generalize and form rigid opinions when misinterpreting cultures;[20]
  2. Differences between cultures may become pivotal, and students may fail to note any existing similarities;
  3. A certain bias might be noticed in students’ responses, given the fact that they might see themselves representatives of their cultures.
Various issues may arise as a result of:
  • Differences in curricula and syllabuses in partnering schools;
  • Insufficient collaboration between collaborating teachers and/or students;
  • Varied levels of motivation among partners;
  • Mixed levels of language proficiency;
  • Inadequacy of equipment in schools, and/ or insufficient technical support/ know-how.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c O'Dowd, R. (2006a) Telecollaboration and the Development of Intercultural Communicative Competence. Berlin: Langenscheidt.
  2. ^ Dooly, M. (ed.) (2008). Telecollaborative language learning. Moderating intercultural collaboration and language learning. A guidebook to moderating intercultural collaboration online. Bern: Peter Lang.
  3. ^ Kern, R., Ware, P. & Warschauer, M. (2008) Network-based Language Teaching. In N. Hornberger (ed) Encyclopedia of Language and Education. Springer, pp. 1374-1385. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-30424-3_105
  4. ^ Warschauer, M. & Kern, R. (eds.) (2000). Network-based language teaching: Concepts and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Ware, P., & Kramsch, C. (2005). Toward an intercultural stance: Teaching German and English through telecollaboration. The Modern Language Journal 89(2): 190-205.
  6. ^ Guth, S. & Helm, F.(eds.)(2010) Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, Literacy and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century. Bern: Peter Lang.
  7. ^ a b O’Dowd, R. (ed.) (2007). Online Intercultural Exchange. An Introduction for Foreign Language Teachers. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  8. ^ O’Dowd, R., & Lewis, T. (Eds.). (2016). Online intercultural exchange: Policy, pedagogy, practice. London/New York: Routledge.
  9. ^ Rubin, J. & Guth, S. (2016) Collaborative Online International Learning: An emerging format for internationalizing curricula. In A. Schultheis Moore & S. Simon (eds) Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities: Theories and Practices. London/New York: Routledge, pp. 15-27.
  10. ^ Starke-Meyerring S. & Wilson, M. (eds) (2008) Designing globally networked learning environments (Educational futures: Rethinking theory and practice Book 20). Sense Publishers
  11. ^ Warschauer, M. (2005). Sociocultural Perspectives on CALL. In Egbert, J.L. & Petrie, G.M. (eds.) CALL Research Perspectives, pp. 41-52- New York: Routledge.
  12. ^ a b c d S, Guth; F, Helm (2010). Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, literacies and intercultural learning in the 21st century (Vol. 1). Peter Lang.
  13. ^ a b c d O’Rourke, B. (2007). Models of telecollaboration (1): eTandem. In R. O’Dowd (Ed.). Online intercultural exchange: An introduction for foreign language teachers (pp. 41-61). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  14. ^ O’Rourke, B. (2007). Models of telecollaboration (1): eTandem. In R. O’Dowd (Ed.). Online intercultural exchange: An introduction for foreign language teachers (pp. 41-61). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  15. ^ Leone, P. & Telles, J. (2016). The Teletandem network. In T. Lewis, & R. O'Dowd (ends), Online Intercultural Exchange: Policy, Pedagogy, Practice (pp. 241-249). London/New York: Routledge.
  16. ^ Furstenberg, G., Levet, S., English, K., & Maillet, K. (2001). Giving a voice to the silent culture of language: The CULTURA project. Language Learning & Technology, 5(1), 55–102.
  17. ^ a b Furstenberg, G. (2016). The Cultura exchange program. In O'Dowd, R. & Lewis, T. (2016) (Eds.), Online intercultural exchange: Policy, pedagogy, practice (pp. 248-255). London/New York: Routledge.
  18. ^ a b c d e Miguela, A. D. (2007). "Models of telecollaboration (3): eTwinning". In O’Dowd, R. Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. pp. 15, 85.
  19. ^ a b Cziko, Gary (2013-01-14). "Electronic Tandem Language Learning (eTandem): A Third Approach to Second Language Learning for the 21st Century". CALICO Journal. 22 (1): 25–39. doi:10.1558/cj.v22i1.25-39. ISSN 2056-9017.
  20. ^ a b c García, J. S.; & Crapotta, J. (2007). "Models of telecollaboration (2): Cultura". In O’Dowd, R. Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. pp. 15, 62. OCLC 189864747.