Strengthening the Field: Catalyzing Research in Virtual Exchange

The Initiative is excited to announce our continued support of research in the virtual exchange field through our Strengthening the Field: Catalyzing Research in Virtual Exchange effort. In this second iteration, the Initiative will support five new independent research projects to investigate issues in virtual exchange design and practice. You can read about the first set of projects here.

The Initiative helps lead the virtual exchange field in research and knowledge sharing, serving as a central place for collecting and sharing promising practices and other resources. These teams will explore key topics that will investigate the effects of virtual exchange on student success, highlight learning outcomes of unique program models, and identify barriers to participation for important groups. By supporting these projects and teams, the Initiative is strengthening the field of virtual exchange for all practitioners and participants.

Project Descriptions

Assessing the Impact of Virtual Exchange on Student Success

This research team will develop and implement a survey and focus-group-based tool to understand virtual exchange’s impact on student performance, retention, and intercultural understanding. The team will pilot an experimental design in a UAE-U.S. exchange and craft a report and presentation sharing the results with a wider audience. The tools will be available to other faculty via a website to encourage future study of virtual exchange outcomes.


  • Lindsay Benstead, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science and Director, Middle East Studies Center (MESC), Portland State University
  • Kristina Katsos, Instructor, Department of International Studies, American University of Sharjah, UAE
  • Sally S. Mudiamu, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director, Office of Global Engagement & Innovation, Portland State University
  • Corinne Hughes, Outreach and Program Coordinator, Middle East Studies Center, Portland State University

Transnational Virtual Exchange for Social Justice Education

This project explores the use of virtual exchange to facilitate dialogues on societal issues that impact education between students at the University of North Georgia and the University of Johannesburg. This research explores how virtual exchange supports pre-service teachers in navigating and engaging in social justice education to both enrich higher education institutions and to inform their own practice as educators.


  • Andy Carolin, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg
  • Lauren C. Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Dean & Associate Professor, College of Education, University of North Georgia; Research Associate, University of Johannesburg

The ABCs of Young People and Virtual Exchange: Access, Benefits and Contents

This demand-led study builds on a previous comprehensive survey of stakeholders in four geopolitical sectors, reaching out to young learners to establish the benefits that can be gained from participating in virtual exchange at the K-12 level. The study will also draw on responses from previously surveyed participants in the K-12 sector to explore existing virtual models, contents and outcomes, and potential barriers to virtual exchange program adoption.


  • Nael H Alami, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director, Virtual Exchange Program; Provost, Modern University for Business and Science
  • Loye Sekihata Ashton, Ph.D., Vice President of Partnerships and Chief Academic Officer, Class2Class
  • James Elwood, Ph.D., Professor, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Mathematical Sciences, Meiji University
  • Kwesi Ewoodzie, Ph.D., Founder and Director, Culture Beyond Borders
  • Mirjam Hauck, Ph.D., Associate Head of School (Internationalisation, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion), The Open University
  • Liudmila Klimanova, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, College of Humanities, University of Arizona
  • Muge Satar, Ph.D., Director of Internationalization, School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences, Newcastle University

Infusing UNESCO Story Circles into Virtual Exchange Projects

This research aims to explore the use of UNESCO Story Circles to purposefully infuse activities designed to develop intercultural competence into virtual exchange projects. The research will be conducted among students and academic staff at the Durban University of Technology, South Africa, and their international partners who participate in virtual exchange projects. The research will adopt a case study methodology and will use multiple methods of data collection to answer multiple research questions.


  • Penny Orton, Ph.D., COIL Specialist/Honorary Research Fellow, International Education and Partnerships/Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology
  • Divinia Jithoo, Specialist: International Education, International Education and Partnerships, Durban University of Technology
  • Philiswa Priscilla Mncube, International Students Relations Officer, International Education and Partnerships, Durban University of Technology
  • Savo Heleta, Ph.D., International Education Specialist, International Education and Partnerships, Durban University of Technology
  • Darla K. Deardorff, Ph.D., Association of International Education Administrators and Duke University

International Virtual Exchange Experience for Civil Engineering Students

As part of this experience, teams of students from Clemson University and An-Najah National University will collaborate on a project to develop innovative solutions to pavement-related problems. This research will assess multiple aspects of the experience that will allow a comparison of the international virtual exchange experience to a traditional non-international virtual exchange project based learning experience. The research team will also develop a series of modules to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and intercultural competency development among student participants.


  • Brad Putman, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, Clemson University
  • Khaled Al-Sahili, Ph.D., PE, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, An-Najah National University
  • Alia Gilbrecht, Project Manager and Instructor, An-Najah National University
  • Karen Bunch Franklin, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation, Clemson University

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