The period abroad (on Erasmus or CoOp placement) is a significant part of the Higher Education student experience. While it is crucial to increase the opportunities for students to go abroad, it is also paramount to prepare them for their stay in a foreign country. The better prepared they are before their placement, the better their experience will be. To this end, multifaceted online initiatives preparing students for their period abroad have been implemented within the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics.
A pre-mobility programme based on a telecollaboration project was initially introduced with a group of UL students of Spanish before their period abroad in 2014. Online tasks were elaborated in consultation with Robert O’Dowd, University of León, Spain, who is an expert in the field of telecollaboration and an associate member of the Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS).
“Telecollaboration refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together (…) learners in geographically distant locations to develop their foreign language skills and intercultural competence through collaborative tasks and project work” (O’Dowd, 2011, p.342).
After consultation with Dr Patricia O’Flaherty from the International Education Division, a number of relevant topics were identified and addressed in the collaborative tasks carried out by the participating students:
- Introduction and the home university
- Finding out about the host country
- Expectations about living abroad
- Comparing university life and academic systems in the two countries
The pre-mobility online exchanges have grown strength to strength since their inception, and now include partner universities from Belgium (2016), France (2017), and are expected to expand to Germany in the coming academic year. The team members at the University of Limerick behind the projects are: Catherine Jeanneau (Language Learning Hub), Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle (French section), Dr Marie-Thérèse Batardière (French section), and Dr Marta Giralt (Spanish section). Partner institutions are: Universidad de León (Spain), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and IMT Lille Douai (France).
The projects were evaluated through feedback questionnaires, students’ reflective portfolios and facilitators’ diaries. The data gathered enabled the UL team to highlight the following positive outcomes for participants: development of intercultural awareness, improvement of linguistic competence and digital literacy. These outcomes had a strong impact on students’ preparation for their sojourn abroad.
This video describes the Ready, mobility, go! project: