Tandem Learning Altoona – St.Pölten
Courses: Business English DBM & Dietetics English DGE
Lecturers: Jutta Gsoels (PSU), Anja Kerstin Wagner (PSU), Ilse-Rose Warg (PSU), Alexandra Kolm (UAS St.Pölten), Dawn Kremslehner-Haas (St.Pölten UAS)
Project Title: Tele-collaboration St. Poelten UAS (A) and Penn State University, Altoona (US)
Co-Initiator and Technical Support: Jungwoo Ryoo
Since spring 2014, students from the Fachhochschule St. Poelten in Lower Austria and Penn State University, Altoona College, have had a unique, truly global opportunity: to practice their foreign language skills—English in the case of the FH-students; German in that of the PSU participants—with “fellow students” from across the Atlantic via skype, adobe connect, google hangout, email, or similar web-based communication media. The main objective of this tele-collaboration was to enhance students’ linguistic and intercultural competence to prepare them for an increasingly global, technology-supported workplace. Students on both sides of the Atlantic were highly appreciative of the opportunity to speak with a peer who is a native speaker of their target language.
The first phase of the FH/PSUAA tele-collaboration took place during spring 2014, when students met online during class-time as a group under the supervision of their instructors. The FH students were advanced students of English, with 6 – 8 years of instruction behind them; the PSUAA students were at the early intermediate level, having studied German for two semesters only. By way of preparation, PSUAA students composed questions relating to family, campus life, food, travels to the US and to Europe, plans for the future, leisure time activities, favorite places in their home country, interest in the Olympic Games etc. While students were excited and highly motivated to participate in these virtual meetings, technical difficulties such as lagging sound transmission prompted the decision to redesign the format of the interactions. Thus it was decided that student pairs and groups of three communicate with each other via skype, face time or google hangout. The new format, which initiated the second phase of the collaboration project, proved advantageous in two respects: a) skype or face time cut down on the transmission delay; b) students had a more immediate, but also a more sustained experience; i.e. they were able to work with each other repeatedly, rather than just once or twice. This set-up took the project out of the classroom and hence de-centralized the interactions between students; a tightly constructed time-table kept all participants on the same page. What remained, was the excitement of speaking to people from another part of the globe in the target language.
Many thanks to our colleagues from PSU for their enthusiasm and support in bringing the project to life!