This year, we are particularly excited about two exciting and highly topical keynotes.


Keynote I

Virtual Exchange: Bringing together Digitalisation and Internationalisation Strategies to Connect People
Sarah Guth

Profilbild Sarah Guth


Two buzzwords in higher education contexts over the past 5-10 years have been ‘digitalisation’ and ‘internationalisation’. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and funders such as the European Commission have been investing in a wide range of projects and activities to promote these two concepts. However, until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic over a year ago, rarely were the two brought together to promote one another. One exception to this is Virtual Exchange (VE), which can be defined as: “a practice, supported by research, that consists of sustained, technology-enabled, people-to-people education programmes or activities in which constructive communication and interaction takes place between individuals or groups who are geographically separated and/or from different cultural backgrounds, with the support of educators or facilitators. Virtual Exchange combines the deep impact of intercultural dialogue and exchange with the broad reach of digital technology” (EVOLVE Project). The field of VE has been growing since the turn of the century, but because the pandemic forced much teaching to move online and brought physical student mobility nearly to a halt, interest in VE has increased significantly over the past several months.

The aim of this talk is two-fold. First, I will give a brief history of Virtual Exchange and discuss how it brings together digitalisation and internationalisation aims. If we put aside purely technological issues such as infrastructure and equipment, both strategies aim to promote inclusion and the development of soft and transversal skills, often referred to as ‘21st Century Skills’. By connecting young people with their peers in geographically diverse locations using technology, VE gives them the opportunity to engage in authentic intercultural communication in an online environment. Furthermore, it is clear now more than ever, that the ability to work effectively online will be a requirement in many job markets in the future. Second, I will examine where we go from here. VE existed long before the pandemic because its goals, e.g. to offer intercultural and international experiences to the majority of students who do not engage in physical mobility for any number of reasons, will continue to be relevant post-pandemic. More importantly, however, if we step back, learn from our experiences in the past year as well as those from nearly two decades of VE practice and research, perhaps we can offer more meaningful and engaging online learning experiences not only now during the pandemic but post-pandemic as well.

The Speaker

Sarah Guth is the president of UNICollaboration, a Cross-Disciplinary Organisation for Telecollaboration and Virtual Exchange in Higher Education and teaches English as a foreign language at the University of Padova, Italy. She was the Program Coordinator at the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) at the State University of New York (SUNY) and designed their Professional Development Program. Her initial research and practice focused on investigating the use of technologies for the learning and teaching of languages and cultures and this led her to start engaging with telecollaboration, COIL and virtual exchange (VE). She currently focuses on the role of professional development in VE and the integration of VE into internationalization-at-home strategies. She was the project manager for UNICollaboration’s participation in the consortium that led the European Commission’s pilot project Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange (2018-2020) and is co-editor with Jon Rubin of the upcoming Guide to COIL Virtual Exchange.


Keynote II

Good practices for teaching and learning
by Christian Friedrich

Bild Christian Friedrich

Learning and teaching on the web has changed. And, still, it hasn’t really, has it? Over the past 25 years, academics, educators, and students have been exposed to many of the same narratives over and over again.


In this talk, I will take a look at some of the concepts that seem persistent and promising at the same time, at least to me. The open web as an enabler of digital learning and teaching, of networked communities who share their praxis and of exchange beyond borders. I will take a closer look at some of the practices enabled and fostered by the open web, hoping to help spark a conversation around Openness, hospitality and equity.

The Speaker

Christian Friedrich hast vast experience in the conceptualisation and implementation of learning scenarios on the web. As a freelance consultant, but also in different roles in Higher Ed, the projects that Christian was involved in are characterised by pedagogical approaches aiming to provide for collaborative and community-based learning and teaching. As a Co-Director of Virtually Connecting, Christian works with a strong international community of educators and researchers to enhance participation and visibility for those who are not present in person at (academic) conferences. Christian hosts various podcasts and blogs eratically on his website. More about Christian can be found unter or on twitter where he goes by @friedelitis.