By Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle
ERASMUS SPEAKS is a Transnational Virtual Exchange Project (TEP) between the University of Limerick (UL) and five European partner Universities:
- Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (Austria)
- Université d’Artois (France)
- EM Strasbourg (France)
- Technische Hochschule Köln (Germany)
- Universidad de Oviedo (Spain)
The project was initiated by the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics (MLAL) in Autumn 2020. The rationale was to provide third-year students with a virtual alternative to Erasmus mobility after it was cancelled due to Covid-19 emergency travel restrictions. The ERASMUS SPEAKS project was fully integrated into the UL curriculum through the creation of an exceptional module (6 ECTS) and gave the opportunity to geographically distant students to engage in meaningful intercultural exchanges with peers.
The aim was to facilitate participants in developing their target language skills while discovering their partners’ cultures, promoting intercultural communication and building digital literacy skills. Over 600 third-level students from a number of disciplines (Applied Languages, Arts, European Studies, Business) learning either French, Spanish, German or English took part in the project.
The Virtual Exchange ran for 6 weeks from October to December 2020 and comprised three main tasks which required synchronous and asynchronous communication within working groups. These tasks were designed to foster independent learning. Worthy of note, online resources specifically tailored for the project were provided to assist student ‘Internationalisation at Home’ (Beelen and Jones, 2015; Garcés P, O’Dowd R. 2020).
A selection of students’ submissions: Magazine article, Prezi video, Spotify podcast, Film critique.
The impact of the project
The ERASMUS SPEAKS project had an overall positive effect on students’ engagement during the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact was measured by the ongoing monitoring by facilitators during its 6-week duration, the high completion rate of tasks, the feedback collected in questionnaires, and anecdotal students’ comments (e.g. emails, LinkedIn profiles).
In addition, the project was recognised by the Transnational Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange (TEP) initiative (2018-2020); it resulted in official TEP digital badges being awarded to 617 participants, and 17 facilitators and coordinators. A total of 276 AHSS and KBS students and 7 staff members from the School of MLAL were among the recipients.
The TEP Badges acknowledge the successful completion of the project and lists the recipients’ skills developed, e.g. digital and intercultural competencies, plurilingualism and cooperation skills. As a result, participants can showcase their new competencies on their CV or LinkedIn profiles and boost their employability.
The team behind ERASMUS SPEAKS
The team of coordinators and facilitators who implemented ERASMUS SPEAKS was comprised of: Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle (University of Limerick), Dr Marie-Thérèse Batardière (University of Limerick), Dr Veronica O’Regan (University of Limerick), Natascha Guggi (University of Limerick), Dr Marta Giralt (University of Limerick), Angel Catala Sempere (University of Limerick), Marta Fortez Saez (University of Limerick), Guillaume Winter (Université d’Artois), Charlotte Lenoir (Université d’Artois), Barbara Wells (EM Strasbourg), Barabara Bettazzoni (EM Strasbourg), Prof. Christiane Brand (Technische Hoschule Köl), Dr Ulla Fürstenberg (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz), Isabel Gil Naveira (Universidad de Oviedo), Andrea Fernández García (Universidad de Oviedo), Lucía Isabel Parda Gonzalez (Universidad de Oviedo), Marta Roman (Universidad de Oviedo).