Remote Global Learning: The Role and Use of Virtual Exchange for U.S. and Irish Graduate Students


  • Katherine C. Aquino
  • Elizabeth Tobin
  • Seaneen Sloan



higher education, virtual exchange, e-learning, learning environments


The importance of internationalization and effective online collaborative learning is well established, and the recognized value of cross-cultural exchanges by higher education institutions has resulted in a diverse range of initiatives including the use of virtual exchanges. Virtual exchanges are global online learning experiences for students enrolled in postsecondary coursework. The purpose of this study was to examine a virtual exchange learning opportunity for U.S. and Irish graduate education students. Utilizing an online collaborative learning theoretical lens, this case study found that while there were varying levels of commitment and unequal expectations and contributions of the graduate students, students described the importance and significance of the unique learning experience. Implications for research and practice are discussed for future use of virtual exchange within the postsecondary environment.


American Council on Education. (n.d.). Comprehensive internationalization.

Association of American Colleges & Universities. (n.d.). High-impact educational practices.

Arndt, S., Madrid Akpovo, S., Tesar, M., Han, T., Huang, F., & Halladay, M. (2021). Collaborative online learning across borders (COLAB): Examining intercultural understandings of preservice teachers in a virtual cross-cultural university-based program. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 35(2), 281–296.

Beelen, J., & Jones, E. (2018). Internationalization at home. Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions, 1-4.

Bruhn, E. (2017). Towards a framework for virtual internationalization. International Journal of E-Learning and Distance Education, 32(1), 1-9.

Bruhn-Zass, E. (2021). Virtual internationalization to support comprehensive internationalization in higher education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10283153211052776.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage Publishing.

de Wit, H., & Altbach, P. G. (2021). Internationalization in higher education: global trends and recommendations for its future. Policy Reviews in Higher Education, 5(1), 28-46.

Dresen, C. K., Wilmes, M. L., Sullivan, K. R., & Waterbury, T. A. (2019). Building resilience through strengths-based learning during graduate study abroad: An exploratory study. Journal of Experiential Education, 42(3), 297-310.

El-Ghoroury, N. H., Galper, D. I., Sawaqdeh, A., & Bufka, L. F. (2012). Stress, coping, and barriers to wellness among psychology graduate students. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(2), 122–134.

Garces, P., & O’Dowd, R. (2021). Upscaling virtual exchange in university education: Moving from innovative classroom practice to regional governmental policy. Journal of Studies in International Education, 25(3), 283-300.

Harasim, L. (2017). Learning theory and online technologies. Routledge.

Hudzik, J. K. (2014). Comprehensive internationalization: Institutional pathways to success. Routledge.

Khan, S., & VanWynsberghe, R. (2008). Cultivating the under-mined: Cross-case analysis as knowledge mobilization. In Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1).

King Ramírez, C. (2020). Influences of academic culture in Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL): Differences in Mexican and US students' reported experiences. Foreign Language Annals, 53(3), 438-457.

Kumi-Yeboah, A., Dogbey, J., & Yuan, G. (2017). Online collaborative learning activities: The perspectives of minority graduate students. Online Learning, 21(4).

Leung, K., Ang, S., & Tan, M. L. (2014). Intercultural competence. Annu. Rev. Organ. Psychol. Organ. Behav., 1(1), 489-519.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry (Vol. 75). Sage.

Magen-Nagar, N. & Shonfeld, M. (2018a). The impact of an online

collaborative learning program on students’ attitude towards technology. Interactive Learning Environments, 26(5), 621-637. 10.1080/10494820.2017.1376336

Magen-Nagar, N., & Shonfeld, M. (2018b). The impact of an online collaborative learning program on students’ attitude towards technology. Interactive Learning Environments, 26(5), 621-637.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G.B. (2014). Designing qualitative research (6th ed.). Sage Publishing.

McCurdy, D. W., Spradley, J. P., & Shandy, D. J. (2004). The cultural experience: Ethnography in complex society. Waveland Press.

Mihut, G., Altbach, P. G., & de Wit, H. (Eds.). (2017). Understanding higher education internationalization: Insights from key global publications. Springer.

Murphy, D., Williams, J., Murray, A. & Smyth E. (2019) Growing up in Ireland: Design, instrumentation and procedures for Cohort ’98 at 17/18 years of age. (Technical Series No. 2019-5). Dublin: ESRI/TCD/DCYA.

Naicker, A., Singh, E., & van Genugten, T. (2021). Collaborative online international learning (COIL): Preparedness and experiences of South African students. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1–12.

Nicklin, J. M., Meachon, E. J., & McNall, L. A. (2019). Balancing work, school, and personal life among graduate students: A positive psychology approach. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 14(5), 1265-1286.

O’Dowd, R. & Dooley, M. (2020). Intercultural communicative competence development through telecollaboration and virtual exchange. In J. Jackson (Ed.) The routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication (2nd ed., pp. 361-375). Routledge.

O’Dowd, R. (2021). What do students learn in virtual exchange? A qualitative content analysis of learning outcomes across multiple exchanges. International Journal of Educational Research, 109, 101804.

Online International Learning. (n.d.) About COIL.

Peterka-Benton, D., & Benton, B. (2019). Globalizing online learning: Exploring culture, corporate social responsibility, and domestic violence in an international classroom. E-Learning and Digital Media, 16(4), 267–283.

Sallee, M. W. (2015). Adding academics to the work/family puzzle: Graduate student parents in higher education and student affairs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 52(4), 401-413.

Shahjahan, R. A., & Kezar, A. J. (2013). Beyond the “national container” addressing methodological nationalism in higher education research. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 20-29.

Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Sage Publishing.

Swartz, S., Barbosa, B., & Crawford, I. (2020). Building intercultural competence through virtual team collaboration across global classrooms. Business and professional communication quarterly, 83(1), 57-79.

Vavrus, F., & Bartlett, L. (2006). Comparatively knowing: Making a case for the vertical case study. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 8(2), 95–103.

Villar-Onrubia, D., & Rajpal, B. (2016). Online international learning: Internationalising the curriculum through virtual mobility at Coventry University. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 20(2–3), 75–82.

Vuopala, E., Hyvönen, P., Järvelä, S. (2016). Interaction forms in successful collaborative learning in virtual learning environments. Active Learning in Higher Education, 17 (1), 25-38.

Witkowsky, P., & Mendez, S. L. (2018). Influence of a short-term study abroad experience on professional competencies and career aspirations of graduate students in student affairs. Journal of College Student Development, 59(6), 769-775.

Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Sage Publishing.





Section II