Life-writing and virtual exchange: An exploration of the impact on students’ learning experiences

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O'Reilly, Claire
Arnold, Maik
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Irish Association for Applied Linguistics (IRAAL)
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While we find ourselves immersed in a virtual society, the opportunity to use digital technologies for dialogue and understanding is still not well represented at third-level, despite the dramatic move towards teaching online during the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper presents a web-based Virtual Exchange (VE) between Cork (UCC) and the Fachhochschule Dresden (FHD) with a focus on life-writing and biography, developing qualitative research skills and speaking the foreign language (FL). Each student was tasked with conducting three interviews with their designated peer in the FL and producing a website (blog) or e-portfolio to present and reflect on findings. The first iteration of the module took place in 2020-21. This paper discusses students’ learning experiences during the updated, follow-up course in 2021-22. Findings show that they learned most in the interaction with their peers, learning through self-disclosure, sharing meaningful experiences, negotiating (difficult) life experiences and expanding their FL skills. The findings also point to evidence of transformational learning in the sample group. We conclude with some insights regarding the future development of the VE and include important limitations of the study.
Life-writing , Virtual exchange , Thematic analysis , Transformational learning
O’Reilly, C. and Arnold, M. (2022) 'Life-writing and virtual exchange: An exploration of the impact on students’ learning experiences', Teanga: The Journal of the Irish Association for Applied Linguistics, 29, pp. 13-38. doi: 10.35903/teanga.v29i.2786