International Virtual Exchange

International Virtual Exchange (IVE) is a faculty-led instructional approach linking courses from universities from different global regions. Students in the courses collaborate virtually with their international peers on assignments, activities, or projects. 

The two linked courses typically share some learning outcomes, but each course has its own syllabus and is credited by its home institution. The two courses can be from the same or different academic disciplines. IVE can take many forms and vary in terms of scope, technology tools, and level of involvement, from cultural sharing activities lasting a few class sessions, to collaborative projects lasting five or more weeks. 

Virtual exchange can be integrated into courses in nearly all disciplines and is already used by faculty in more than 300 universities worldwide. The common thread connecting virtual exchange projects is the integration of intercultural understanding and cooperation using peer-to-peer connections. While the focus of the project can be discipline specific, IVE also serves as a very useful platform for interdisciplinary projects and exchanges. And because the exchanges bring together peers from different cultures and disciplines, they offer a useful platform for studying “wicked” globally relevant problems. Indeed, many of the collaborations directly or indirectly focus on one of the 17 UN sustainable development goals.


Learn More about International Virtual Exchange

Courses incorporating virtual exchange often provide High Impact experiences and a number of potential benefits for students, including:

  • Deeper engagement with course materials
  • Increased cultural awareness and appreciation
  • Enhanced communication skills
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills and the ability to work collaboratively  
  • Improved digital skills

And unlike traditional off-campus study abroad programs, courses using IVE are highly affordable and accessible to students whose schedules prevent them from extended international travel.   

Faculty enjoy working with their international counterparts and find the student engagement and learning exciting and rewarding. And because it represents an innovative, experiential pedagogy that is consistent with GVSU’s mission and Reach Higher 2025, IVE can lead to professional development opportunities and be a valuable contribution to personnel portfolios.

International virtual exchange can take many forms and vary in terms of scope, technology tools, and level of involvement, from cultural sharing activities lasting a few class sessions, to collaborative projects lasting five or more weeks. Several common approaches are described below. While the list is not exhaustive, the descriptions illustrate the adaptability of the pedagogical approach and may serve as a springboard for course and project ideas.


Participating GVSU Course: CIS 467, CS Capstone 

Length & purpose of project: Semester-long software development project

International partners: Uppsala University, Sweden; Turku University, Finland; Hochschule Hannover, Germany

Overview of exchange: The project was designed to provide students with an introduction to being a member of a global team and to give them a glimpse into what their future jobs might entail. Teams of 2-3 GVSU and 2-3 international students worked on a semester-long software development project. They collaborated on ideas and design, delivered milestones and project updates throughout the semester, and gave a final presentation at the end of the semester. Alumni of the course report that the virtual collaboration helped to smooth the way for what they do in their jobs after graduation. 



Participating Course: ENS 300, Principles of Sustainability (Fall, 2022)

Length & purpose of exchange: One class session; sharing of information about environmental policy in the U.S. & Canada

International partner: The University of Windsor, Canada

Overview of exchange: Prof. Swayamprakash initiated the interdisciplinary exchange between two online, synchronous sections of GVSU’s Principles of Sustainability and a history class at the University of Windsor. GVSU students prepared for the class session by reading about Great Lakes water policies, including those related to the Detroit River. During the session they joined Windsor history students in large group and breakout group discussions, in response to questions prepared by the instructors. Students later noted their appreciation for the opportunity to learn about environmental policies and regulations with their Canadian peers.



Participating GVSU Course #1: WRT 351 Writing for the Web

Length & purpose of exchange: Creating websites for proposed business in Hungary – 8 weeks sustained collaboration during the second part of the15-week semester.

International partner: Budapest Business University, Hungary

Overview of exchange and objectives: The collaboration project in WRT 351 is designed to increase our students’ intercultural competence while also improving their mastering of course learning outcomes and interdisciplinary knowledge. This is a three-way collaboration between GVSU students and students from Budapest Business University and the University of Washington. In this project, GVSU students work with their partner teams from the other two institutions to create a websites for the businesses proposed by their Hungarian partner team while receiving accessibility advice from the University of Washington students to ensure that the final websites will be accessible to users. The project starts with an online group meeting on Zoom and continues asynchronously via email for the rest of the semester by exchanging specifications, answering questions, providing feedback and advice during the website creation process. Students in the project enjoy the experience of working in a close to real-world work environment of globally connected teams. 

Participating GVSU Course #2: WRT 354 Writing in the Global Context

Length & purpose of exchange: Comparing job application process and documents across cultures – 5 weeks sustained collaboration during the second part of the15-week semester.

International partners: Budapest Business University, Hungary; Cracow University of Economics, Poland; Saxion University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands

Overview of exchange and objectives: The Virtual Exchange project in this course consists of asynchronous introductions on Padlet and commences to include four synchronous online meetings on Zoom between teams that are made up of a mixture of students from each university. Each meeting is highly structured with an agenda that is used to ensure the focus of discussion on all aspects of the job application process in different countries and the similarities and differences between the resumes that are used for this process. Students also create an international version of their resume suited for a specific country. Since the student population at the European partner universities is highly diverse, GVSU students can speak to representatives of many countries from several continents. This diversity allows students to really understand the complexities of our global world and appreciate the connections between culture and writing conventions.


David Bair, Educational Foundations

Participating GVSU Course: EDF 316, Global Perspectives on Education (S/S 2023)

Length & purpose of exchange: Cultural conversations related to education systems over 8-week course

International partner: Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Germany 

Overview of exchange and objectives: GVSU’s EDF 316 course explores the inter-relationship between socio-cultural contexts and education in multiple countries, looking at patterns of success and challenges in several countries around the world. Students in the course were partnered with a college student from Germany. Instructors from the two institutions facilitated three whole-groups meetings, to introduce the experience and provide more context for learning about one another’s experiences. Partners then met via Zoom once each week for a 30-60 minute conversation. Topics were suggested for each weekly meeting, but students also initiated other topics of conversation.  These weekly “Cultural Conversations” helped GVSU students meet the goals of our course, including gathering information and learning about the German education system from their partners. The student from PH Schwäbisch-Gmünd were able to practice their English-speaking skills which helped them meet required oral practice hours for their college program. Many of the GVSU students found the exchange program to be the most effective and enjoyable element of the course. 

Max Counter, School of Interdisciplinary Studies            

Participating Course: LAS 210, Exploring Latin America (Winter, 2023)

Length & purpose of exchange: 4-week intercultural communication project

International partner: Rosario University, Bogota, Columbia

Overview of exchange and objectives: This project gave students the opportunity to engage in an asynchronous intercultural communication project with peers from Rosario University in Bogota, Columbia. Prior to the project, students read scholarship on Columbian history, politics, and art. Each GVSU student was then paired with one or two partners from Rosario University. Over the course of four weeks, student groups recorded one weekly video using FlipGrid software in which they explained a “cultural artifact” (i.e., an object they determined to hold cultural significance), and then asked and answered a series of questions related to the object. Students found the new connections meaningful, with one student in particular stating that it was the first time in his life he had spoken to someone from another country.

Will students register for the course at GVSU or the partnering institution?  
Students from both universities register for the courses through their home campus.  

Will IVE work with my course?
The short answer is almost always yes – it is a highly adaptable pedagogical approach that has been used successfully in nearly all disciplines. The only requirements are an international partner and at least one assignment that is conducive to student collaboration. 

Can IVE be used with English-speaking classes?
Absolutely! Most exchanges in non-language courses are conducted in English. 

When should I begin planning?
Because IVE requires significant planning and preparation, we usually recommend beginning at least 1 semester before you would like to implement IVE, to allow you enough time to find a teaching partner, design the project, identify ways to prepare students for the intercultural experience, and work out logistical issues. 

How can I find an international teaching partner?
There are a number of strategies you can use to find an international teaching partner:

  • Use existing professional contacts: If you have international academic contacts, that’s often a good place to start. 
  • Seek out a partner using a global network: GVSU is an institutional member in two global networks, COILConnect and the SUNY COIL Center.
    • COILConnect : COILConnect features searchable listings of courses seeking partners, from more than 300 institutions worldwide.
    • SUNY COIL : SUNY COIL introduced the COIL (collaborative online international learning) model in the early 2000s and has been a leader in virtual exchange. They offer a variety of virtual meetings and workshops and facilitate partner matching with quarterly virtual partnering fairs. They also have a useful guide for establishing partnerships.
  • Connect with one of GVSU’s international partner institutions: GVSU has formal partnerships with universities in nearly 20 different countries. Staff in the international studies offices can help identify potential teaching partners in relevant disciplines.
  • Rely on “cold calling”: Consider which academic disciplines may offer a good match for your project or course. Identify global regions of interest and search for potential universities in those regions, then send personal emails to individual faculty members, academic departments, or the international education office. 


Note that GVSU is particularly interested in developing exchanges with faculty in the Global South and with our International Partner Institutions. Also note that there are potential funding opportunities through the Stevens Initiative for exchanges with partners from the Middle East and North Africa.

Contact IVE coordinator Ellen Shupe ([email protected]) if you would like help finding a partner. 

What support is available at GVSU?
There are a number of internal and external resources to support you throughout the planning, design, and implementation process, including a designated IVE coordinator ([email protected]), IVE faculty mentors, and a university-wide IVE team consisting representatives from the faculty, the Padnos international Center, Instructional Design and e-Learning (IDeL), and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center. 

Is there funding available to support IVE course development?
Funding from FTLC-sponsored Teaching Innovation and Sandbox Learning Innovation grants and from the Padnos International Center’s Internationalization  and Faculty/Staff Exchange grants can be used to support faculty activities related to virtual exchange course development.

We are in the process of developing more GVSU-specific resources for faculty interested in developing virtual exchange courses. In the meantime, you may find the following list of curated resources helpful.


O’Dowd (2018). From telecollaboration to VE: State of the art and the role of UNICollaboration in moving forward.

Introduction to what instructors and support staff need to know about COIL virtual exchange.  Chapter 11 in The Guide to COIL Virtual Exchange (Rubin et al., 2022) 

SUNY COIL guide for facult y



What is COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning)?

10 keys to success for collaborating online 


Non-GVSU examples

The universities below have comprehensive, searchable databases with descriptions of courses incorporating IVE. 

GVSU faculty experiences with IVE

Ramya Swayamprakash, ENS

Robert Adams, Computer Science

Zsuzsanna Palmer, Writing

Max Counter, Interdisciplinary Studies

Questions? Contact

Ellen Shupe ([email protected])

Virtual programs

Page last modified December 5, 2023