VIS as part of International Business
In this VIS project, students from the Netherlands and Colombia work together in international business, in the Advanced Spanish course. Students work together on a country analysis and focus on a specific (self-determined) SDG. Given the large time difference, the choice was made to have students work together primarily asynchronously. In addition to working on SDGs, students in the Netherlands will also focus on Spanish language skills.
In 2020/21 the teacher did an international online student collaboration project with the partner in Colombia for the first time, because due to Covid, the study trip from IB to Colombia, that was annual until then, could not take place. The collaboration focuses on the SDGs, and for the IB students, also on improving language skills in Spanish.
Intended areas of improvement (revision) of the VIS project compared to the previous/first edition:
- Facilitate the synchronous sessions (no longer let the students arrange them themselves);
- Giving a clear assignment per session (intermediate product or feedback at the end of the session);
- It is important that there are common learning objectives for the students and a common product must be delivered which requires cooperation, dialogue, joint brainstorming;
- The first project was perceived as very short, therefore we are expanding the VIS project to 6 or 7 organized sessions.
- The students will work together in 2 different groups so that they get different experiences and a broader picture of Colombia and the Netherlands respectively. This was a wish of many students.
- More explicit attention to intercultural cooperation and personal development. So far, reflection on intercultural cooperation remains on the surface and there is little communication among themselves about ways of working, communicating. More room for “bonding” in both phases of the project. Getting to know each other, sharing daily life, routines, etc. lay the foundation for trust. This is also why we added the theme of intercultural work in phase 2.
In particular, the students work together synchronously. This was deliberately chosen because of the large time difference (6 or 7 hours).
The first edition focused exclusively on the SDGs. After getting acquainted and sharing general information regarding economic, political, social developments in both countries (in the two target languages: Spanish and English), students delved into 1 of the SDGs. Students presented the information about the situation and development in their own country in relation to this goal, then they compared and compiled the information from both countries into an infographic. This was presented separately due to time constraints.
In the VIS project, the project was extended and expanded to 2 themes.
Theme 1 is focused on Business. It deals with international business and exploring a potential market. The students need each other for internal information and advice. The “local experts” serve as a sounding board and consultant for the “foreign entrepreneur.”
In the second part of the VIS project, the students delve into 1 of the SDGs, not only looking at the situation in both countries, but also delving into initiatives undertaken to contribute to the SDG. Together they choose or devise a project that can make a valuable contribution in both countries; the result is also presented jointly.
In phase 1 of the VIS project, 3 organized synchronous sessions:
- present country information
- product pitch / consultation
In preparation for the sessions, students prepare presentations and there is mutual contact if there are questions.
In phase 2 there are 4 joint sessions:
- Introduction and sharing cross-cultural experiences
- Sharing information about the SDG and initiatives and projects and choosing/thinking a project
- Making an infographic and presentation (working session)
- Final presentation
In preparation for the synchronous sessions, students prepare presentations and there is mutual contact if there are questions.
Thus, the students work together in particular synchronous sessions. The country analysis and market research result in a sales pitch to the partner’s fellow students in the target language. The findings regarding the SDG and the initiative are summarized in an infographic and then presented by the mixed groups in both target languages to the teachers and students in both countries.
If assignments are too open-ended, collaboration does not get off to a good start.
Reflection on implementation
“Coordinating with the partner and formulating the assignments was time-consuming, but went well. Also the technical preparation requires the necessary time (adding externals in Teams), which due to security issues here was fortunately taken up by the partner university.
Due to the large time difference of 7 hours, the sessions for us in NL fall very late in the afternoon, making it a challenge to ensure that all students are actually present.
The first time we also had the students organize a session themselves, but that proved very time-consuming or led to it not going ahead and only communicating via WhatsApp. Also, if assignments are too open, collaboration does not get off to a good start.”