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Students learn culture though virtual exchange

By Christina Uptain
On March 1, 2019

Kirkwood Community College has increased its reputation by piloting a virtual exchange program in the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. Students utilized technology to interact with pupils in other countries to get to know them and learn more about culture and education around the globe. 

“Our international department is all about global learning, and our vision is that every Kirkwood student, as well as faculty and staff, has an intercultural experience as part of their Kirkwood journey in some way,” said Dawn Wood, dean of International Programs. 

 “To many, the obvious option is to study abroad, and we try to make that as accessible to as many as possible but of course that doesn’t work for everybody, so we try to offer innovative ways right here on campus in the classroom, which is one of the ways we have used virtual exchange,” Wood continued. 

Multiple faculty have already participated in the pilot, including Assistant Professor of English Sondra Gates. “This is a way to connect Kirkwood to the rest of the world… not just for students but also for faculty and staff,” said Gates. “For my class, we worked with students from France… for the most part two KCC students were paired with one French student, utilizing their phones or laptops to video chat. The value for my writing students is that in addition to the exchange, they are learning about interviewing someone, writing about someone and researching another culture,” Gates explained. 

Jane Mingot, English teacher and International Relations Officer at UIT Orsay, was the facilitator of the virtual exchange in France who worked with Gates’ class and provided comments via email. “I believe language is more realistic and easier to learn in real-life situations… this project was the perfect opportunity to allow my students to realize the importance of communication and to gain the confidence to ask their American partners for clarification to understand each other,” Mignot wrote.   

“When walking around the class, I could hear a lot of laughter and the students were genuinely interested in learning about the American education system and daily life,” Mignot added. 

Gates, Wood and Mignot all agree that much positive feedback from both faculty and students has been received and all parties have enjoyed the experience overall. With a clear vision in mind and a plan already in action, Kirkwood will continue to work toward achieving its aggressive yet possible goal of opening the door to the world for anyone who is part of the family. 

For more information on study abroad or virtual exchange opportunities, please visit the International Programs department in 1154 Linn Hall or call 319-398-5579.

French students from IUT Orsay who participated in the virtual exchange pilot with KCC students. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.


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