If we go by the definitions exposed in this article, it becomes clear how, when organizing a virtual youth exchange (VYE), the same aspects that make it a powerful source of potential learning opportunities are also our main illuminated path marks that guide our way during this process:
- Experiential learning;
- People-to-people interaction;
- Soft skills;
- Learner-led learning.
Plus, of course, some more specific technical guidelines.
Let’s focus first on the latter variables. A VYE needs to be planned to grant the highest inclusive approach to ensure the other four pillars are standing on solid ground. Online learning can take many forms, but if it’s supposed to foster a learner-led and peer-to-peer dynamic, the choice of the right software is one of the first decisions to make.
It is necessary to find tools that offer the following features:
- Free to use
- Mobile friendly
- Includes audio and video features
- Allows for smaller group work settings
- Has centralized management with the possibility of handing over control
- Has Screen sharing
These are the great recommended features which make it possible for the VYE to reach its full potential. Let’s explore them more in-depth.
Free to use: Any youth exchange should be, by definition, a mind-opening learning opportunity and in most cases, it should address a target of young people who may not have many other similar options. So it is quite common to have young people with a less privileged economical background in our main target group. If we want to profit from the VYEs’ main benefits, coherence calls for a choice of free-to-use software. This refers to the young beneficiaries, while the organization behind the exchange may pay for a pro account in order to have the ability to access all of the features of the software.
Mobile friendly: Beyond the already mentioned inclusion priorities, choosing mobile-friendly software, ideally a free app, is almost mandatory when working with young people as normally their access to (or motivation) to use a desktop or laptop computer is much more complicated than with other target groups. So always plan your VE with smartphones in mind. And remember: never underestimate the possible misunderstandings that may arise from the fact that you will have a computer interface in front of you at all times.
Audio and video features: As obvious as it may sound, not taking the need or the limits of working in a multi-media setting into due consideration can lead to poor planning. Besides the basic technical needs that could have an impact on the use of both media (the most common one being a slow and weak connection to the internet), a Youth Exchange should take into account possible cultural and personal resistances to sharing one’s video with a group of strangers.
Allowing for smaller group work settings: This feature is less commonly found (and a reason for the strongly dominant position of one software compared to others) in videoconferencing software, but it’s very welcome when implementing a VYE. Most of the peer learning and support basic methods and learning tools rely on group work, team building, and coziness that only smaller groups can grant.
How to make sure that we provide a meaningful and nightmare-free online experience? Keep reading our posts! You will find some examples of activities and methods which can come in handy!
Author: Alexandro Jan Lai
Images: DALL-E from Open AI