Connecting at a distance: creating a collaborative language learning community.

  • Date: 14 Mar 2012
  • Location/venue: Teaching Grid, Library Road University of Warwick, Coventry, England, CV4 7AL

The Higher Education Academy Discipline Workshop and Seminar Series.



This seminar will combine insights from our experience and hands-on opportunities to evaluate technologies for connection and collaboration in an informal, international community. We will build and expand our own personal learning networks to help find support for the challenges faced in your individual contexts. Our aim will be to ensure that you gain practical, applicable insights that you can immediately use to make your work easier. Please bring your own preferred device to connect to our wifi, we will also have some devices available for you to try.

The Language Centre recently developed and implemented a virtual learning environment for students of languages, Languages@Warwick:

Using open source tools, Moodle and Mahara, integrating Blackboard Collaborate tools for voice, we have been able to extend opportunities for collaboration beyond the limits of our community, creating a French/English virtual exchange with students at Université Blaise Pascale in Clermont-Ferrand. Community creation, particularly in an online environment, can be very challenging but we believe that we have found ways to help establish effective links and enable students to experience vital intercultural and linguistic skills such as negotiation of meaning. The session leader has worked in this area with the support of the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Levels of student engagement in this project on both sides of the Channel has been very encouraging, students have shared discussions about the #occupy movement, human rights and employment opportunities, supporting each other with language use and information. Our instant messaging tool had over 100 downloads in the first week, connections founded in our virtual exchange course have then spread into wider use of online tools for social networking as the connections become deeper. The two groups of students (about 300 in total) have challenged each other in games such as Angry Birds, created shared Facebook and groups and are currently planning visits. The project is ongoing.

A recent institutional teaching and learning review commended this work, recommending that it be extended to other languages; we are already looking at this for Japanese, where connections exist but logistics of travel can be prohibitive. The process that these non-specialist language learners embark upon is particularly useful for honing employability and IT literacy skills. The provision of a reflective e-portfolio (Mahara) as a means of capturing experiences and facilitating dialogue has increased awareness of the value of language study in Higher Education. Although aimed at those delivering language, the principles can be applied to many other disciplines.

Draft Programme

10.00 - Welcome and Introductions

10.30 - Overview and Virtual Exchange:

  • the challenges;
  • the tools;
  • capturing and visualising the learning analysis.

11.15 - Making virtual connections: hands-on session using wireless devices (chrome books and ipads) to connect with others, experiencing the tools and creating a collaborative, shared Google document to report. 

(12 - 12.30 Lunch)

2.00 - Group discussions:

  • control;
  • engagement;
  • outcomes

3.00 - Plenary: online communication for collaboration, what are the implications?

4.00 - Close

Reserving a Place

Places are limited to 20 and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. To secure your place please call us on 024 7652 3462.

How to find us

The Teaching Grid is on the second floor of the Library. The Language Centre is in the Humanities building (ground floor) next to the Library.

We recommend that you park in car park 15 or car park 8. You will need to pay to park.

Contact email