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Deploying Internationalisation at Home During Lockdown

Le déploiement de l’internationalisation à domicile pendant le confinement
Alexandra Reynolds


Cette note de pédagogie universitaire présente plusieurs initiatives d'internationalisation à domicile coordonnées par l’Université de Bordeaux, mises en place en 2020 au début de la crise sanitaire COVID. L'internationalisation à domicile est définie comme « l'intégration volontaire des dimensions internationales et interculturelles au sein des programmes formel et informel pour tous les étudiants par le biais d'environnements d'apprentissage à domicile » (Beelen et Jones 69). À l’Université de Bordeaux, les programmes d'internationalisation à domicile sont définis de la manière suivante : 1) L'opportunité pour les étudiants à domicile d'étudier avec des étudiants internationaux inscrits à l'Université de Bordeaux en mobilité entrante. 2) La possibilité d'étudier avec des étudiants d'autres universités par le biais d'échanges virtuels, multi-institutionnels ou bilatéraux. Le cadre institutionnel pour ces programmes a été fourni par le projet NewDEAL (programmes ouverts et connectés, centrés sur l'étudiant, dans un cadre d'apprentissage transformateur). Nous sommes donc en mesure de nous interroger sur comment l'internationalisation à domicile peut être déployée au mieux à l'Université. Notre objectif est de discuter des points forts ainsi que des limites de notre offre d'internationalisation à domicile.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 Under 10% of undergraduates are incoming international students at Bordeaux University. At the Scie (...)

1The drive to internationalise at home (henceforth IaH) is justified by the low number of international mobility abroad opportunities available to undergraduate students. Indeed only 10% of students worldwide study abroad (Wit). This already low number1 of incoming undergraduate international students was rendered to almost nil during the Covid pandemic. IaH is defined as “the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions in the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments” (Beelen and Jones 69). By the formal curriculum, we understand fully credited courses that are recognised by the institution and named within syllabi. By informal curriculum activities, we understand extracurricular activities that are either non-credited or partially credited. For the purposes of this report and the COVID context, we will focus on our fully credited IaH initiatives, most notably the Virtual Exchange programmes implemented at Bordeaux University.

2. Institutional context

  • 2 Project funded by the French National Agency for Research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche - ANR). (...)

2IaH at Bordeaux University is made possible by a combination complementary elements. Firstly IaH needs to be supported by the institution. This is made possible at Bordeaux University through French national education funding (NewDEAL2) which pilots transformative educational projects, including international education. Transformative learning is defined as a “process of becoming more conscious and gaining in self-awareness and self-knowledge” (Kreber et al. 28). In the case of virtual exchange, this means that the learners engage in critical thinking about themselves within their learning context. Virtual exchange provides the contextual elements to Nolet’s transformative model of education. By interacting with others, the learner can articulate and question their own values and motivations. A transformative educational model involves collaboration within innovative pedagogical situations which take into account the learner’s environment.

  • 3 MAPI: Mission d’appui à la pédogagie et à l’innovation.
  • 4 A teaser is a short edited promotional video to generate interest in a new educational program.

3To help teachers and educational managers create and implement new IaH courses, there is also the support of specifically dedicated university staff. At Bordeaux University, the centre for innovation and pedagogical support (MAPI3) provides pedagogical assistance in designing new courses, as well as technical assistance for creating Moodle content, videos and teasers4, for example. Our joint aim is to create an international education program for our domestic students. We also endeavour to enable our international education program to be acknowledged with credits, diplomas and certificates.

4The way we define and apply IaH at Bordeaux University is specific to our context and needs. Our criteria may be useful to other higher education institutions but may differ from how other institutions wish to deploy IaH.

5All students at Bordeaux University have to take mandatory English courses throughout their undergraduate and postgraduate studies. IaH is offered as a non-compulsory alternative to an English language course. If students choose to take an IaH course, it replaces the English course which they then do not need to take. English language courses can focus more explicitly on developing formal language skills, such as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. IaH uses English as a language of communication, in line with approaches to English as a lingua franca (Hultgren; Jenkins). A minimum level of English is nevertheless recommended to attend IaH courses (B1+). In this way, IaH courses at Bordeaux University are on par with EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) approaches which use English as the language of instruction rather than as the intended subject of learning (Reynolds, “EMI”). IaH programmes have therefore further blurred the lines between English language learning and disciplinary learning in English (EMI).

6Firstly, we have established a common understanding of what we mean by an IaH programme when referring to a credited course. We define a credited IaH activity as meeting two criteria:

  1. The activity provides the opportunity for domestic students to meet and study with incoming international students enrolled at Bordeaux University and,

  2. The activity provides the opportunity for domestic Bordeaux University students to meet and study with students from other universities through virtual exchange.

7In criterion one, we enable domestic students to meet and study with international students on-site. For example, Intercultural Project (3 ECTS) is a blended and project-based course available for all domestic students (who speak English as a second language) and for all incoming exchange students (who speak French as a second language). A minimum of B1 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) is required in both French and English. Dyads of domestic and international exchange students are created. The assignments are in both French and English on the themes of ethics or mobility. Another on-site IaH course is International Eloquence (3 ECTS). This course also combines domestic and international students who work together on international diplomacy and public speaking skills through the activity of drama. Students work together on skills associated with haptics (non-verbal communication) and proxemics (special awareness) as well as debating. These courses are available to students regardless of their main academic major.

8All on-site IaH progams were severely disrupted during the COVID lockdowns because the programmes no longer had the incoming international students which contribute to the intercultural nature of the courses. This disruption meant that our IaH project took a sudden turn, leading us to rely heavily on the second of the aforementioned criteria to deploy our IaH programme, namely virtual exchange.

3. An Escalation of Virtual Exchange

9The virtual exchange aspect of IaH has subsequently been the most stable over the successive COVID lockdowns since 2020. The discontinuation of classes during the pandemic saw the need for the acceleration of virtual exchange programs in higher education. Virtual exchange served two purposes initially. Firstly, to replace cancelled physical study abroad programs in 2020-22, so that students could nevertheless have the opportunity to meet other students through (virtual) exchange. Secondly, we wished to fully engage with the concept of IaH by enabling all students to benefit from interacting with students from other universities, regardless of whether they were planning to go abroad.

10The virtual exchange courses on offer at Bordeaux University can be divided into two categories:

    • 5 Examples of bilateral VE at Bordeaux University: Stanford Virtual Exchange (with Stanford Universit (...)

    Bilateral exchanges between Bordeaux University and another university5,

    • 6 Examples of Multi-institutional VE at Bordeaux University: ENLIGHT Network Language and Intercultur (...)

    Multi-institutional exchange programmes6 involving a consortium of universities in the exchange.

11The pandemic accelerated the demand for virtual exchange programs. At the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, no fewer than 10 new virtual exchange projects saw the light within the scope of NewDEAL (see table 1).

Table 1. IaH programmes implemented under the NewDEAL project from 2020

IaH Courses





Stanford Virtual Exchange



NN speakers of English from Bordeaux and Stanford Universities compare University life

Bilateral VE

International Eloquence in English



Students develop skills in diplomacy and public speaking in English

On site


Year 1


Student discuss gender, disability, global warming, fake news and social media though facilitated dialogue

Multi institutional VE

The Big Climate Movement

Year 1


Students discuss global warming and migration though facilitated dialogue

Multi-institutional VE

International Eloquence in French

Year 1


Students develop skills in diplomacy and public speaking in French

On site

Intercultural Project

Year 2


NN speakers of English and NN speakers of French work in pairs on the topic of Ethics or Mobility

Blended learning

Science Without Borders

Year 3


Science student dyads from Bordeaux and Cincinnati prepare a presentation on a topical scientific subject

Blended mobility

IMAGINE Virtual Exchange

Year 3


Science students work in dyads to address Global Science and interview an academic member of IMAGINE

Blended mobility

Geology Virtual Exchange

Year 3


Geology students work together to interview leading Geologists in their field

Multi-institutional VE

International Virtual Exchange

Year 3


Law students from Bordeaux and other universities work on improving language skills in English, Spanish and German

Multi-institutional VE

  • 7 Only the virtual exchange aspect of this blended mobility course was provided during the lockdown p (...)

12Unlike multi-institutional exchanges, bilateral exchanges (also known as tandem exchanges) at Bordeaux University are created from the bottom up thanks to our academic staff’s international networks. Bilateral exchanges function on a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) model of virtual exchange (Rubin), with the strong involvement of two teachers. Students will generally be placed into dyads who will meet synchronously at sporadic times of their choosing. Support is provided through regular Q&A online group meetings or drop-in sessions with the course manager. Two of our bilateral programmes also provide a short study abroad program and are therefore defined as Blended Mobilities. Science Without Borders, in partnership with Cincinnati, offers a weeklong exchange between the USA and France7. IMAGINE virtual exchange offers a weeklong field trip to a rural school as part of its global education initiative.

13Multi-institutional virtual exchanges involve students from many different universities, notably Erasmus Plus virtual exchange which was first offered as a ‘ready-made’ (O’Dowd 16) virtual exchange programme in 2018. Multi-institutional virtual exchange tends to function on the facilitated dialogue model, with the focus of synchronous weekly meetings between small groups of students (approximately 8) from the different participating universities and one facilitator. The pedagogical activities common to both bilateral and multi-institutional virtual exchange are summarised in table 2. These exchanges are integrated into our language departments because they contain activities which are coherent with the CEFR descriptors for improving language competence (also shown in table 2).

  • 8 ENLIGHT (European university Network to promote equitable quality of Life, sustainability and Globa (...)

14Building from our experience of virtual exchange since 2018 (Hoskins and Reynolds; Fernández-Raga and Villard), we have been able to continue developing this type of multi-institutional virtual exchange, most notably with our newly founded ENLIGHT8 consortium partners.

Table 2. Virtual exchange: examples of typical weekly pedagogical activities which cover a range of language competences

Table 2. Virtual exchange: examples of typical weekly pedagogical activities which cover a range of language competences

4. Methodology to assess student satisfaction

  • 9 The questionnaires were in French and contained questions such as “What do you expect to gain from (...)

15To assess the IaH programmes, supported by NewDEAL funding, we surveyed 238 student participants via anonymous pre- and post-course questionnaires. We designed these two online questionnaires which were sent by email to students enrolled on the IaH programs to receive anonymous feedback. The pre-course questionnaire was designed to assess why student participants had chosen to enrol on an IaH course. The post questionnaire assessed post-course feedback. A single questionnaire format was used for all IaH students. The questionnaires therefore had to be general enough to be applicable to all our IaH programs and contained 8 questions9. The questionnaires were developed from previous pilots and studies for our IaH programs (Hoskins and Reynolds; Reynolds, “EMI”). In addition to the research team, the questionnaire was reviewed by the pedagogical engineers from the MAPI. The ethical process was set by the author’s research department. Unfortunately, during the pandemic years, in which this present study is set, no interviews or focus groups were held with the participating students.

4.1. Student profiles

  • 10 Number of students participation in IaH 2020-21: 238. Number of students participation in IaH 2021- (...)
  • 11 Self-reported proficiency in the pre IaH survey. A1-2 CEFR Levels not recruited for IaH programmes.

16Student participation in IaH courses has more than doubled since 202010. This is because there are more available spaces due to the greater number of virtual exchange programmes. When designing IaH we try to cater to all disciplines and all years of study. Our domestic students are mainly first language speakers of French. As second language speakers of English their competence is evenly distributed throughout the CEFR scale (C2: 17%, C1: 28%, B2: 28%, B1: 27%)11. Beyond English as a second language, 70% of our student participants also speak another foreign language. France, like other European universities, is therefore advanced in terms of second language(s) use in higher education among both its academic and student population (Reynolds, “EMI”).

4.2. Results: expectations and outcomes

17Students stated in the pre-course questionnaire that they had chosen an IaH course because they wished to improve their level of English (75%), although this was not how the IaH courses had been advertised. Sixty-four percent of students also wished to meet international students while experimenting with new innovative courses through virtual exchange, which they had not experienced before. Post course, the students reported that these expectations had been met (see table 3):

Table 3. Student responses: Post course survey after students attended an IaH course

Post-course survey (65% response rate)

I would recommend this IaH course to another student


I would like to enrol on an IaH course again next year.


My language skills progressed.


I was generally satisfied with my IaH course


18The most positive outcomes were that our student participants stated that they would like to attend another IaH in the future (88.8%) and that they would recommend IaH to other students (93.9%). The merits of IaH can be assessed due to the generally positive feedback that we received from the participants, as well as the institutional support to kick-start these initiatives through NewDEAL. Beyond the questionnaire results, an average student pass mark of 70% in the IaH courses revealed a positive outcome.

19As other previous studies on virtual exchange have shown (Hoskins and Reynolds; Reynolds, “Widening”) English language skills did not progress from one CEFR level to another over a 10 week virtual exchange. The main objective of the virtual exchange are the intercultural exchanges with other students worldwide using the English skills that students have already acquired prior to the virtual exchange.

4.3. Institutional limitations

20We continue to be limited by the number of available places in IaH courses, meaning that only approximately 10% of our undergraduate population can attend. Approximately 50% of students who would like to enrol are unable to do so because of limited spaces. Timetabling is also an issue for virtual exchange programmes operating across different time zones, meaning that courses often take place in the evenings between 7 and 9 p.m. The selection process continues to be demanding for both students and staff. Students need to register and describe their motivations (because places are limited) and academic staff have to organize a selection process (analysis of written statements and interviews of interested candidates).

21At the end of the NewDEAL project concerning IaH, we will have to be financially viable on our own. Converting some English language courses into virtual exchange programmes (held in English) is one of the ways in which we hope to maintain financial sustainability.

4.4. Future implications

22The ‘ruptures’ described in this special edition accelerated the use of online learning in general, and of virtual exchange in particular. The online skills developed by both students and academic staff during the pandemic prevail to this day. The ‘continuity’ which prevails, however, is that students have always wanted to interact with other students from other countries. Be it before the pandemic, or after, IaH aims to make these interactions possible. As this present study shows, students are interested in taking part in virtual exchange, especially when they can gain credits for them. Although our student satisfaction and pass rates are good, there appears to be less of a focus on explicit language learning. We may, however, expect newer skills to be developed when our students interact in English with speakers with different accents, for example. The international skills of the ‘language teacher’ in virtual exchange are also evolving. Such additional skills can be found in international diplomacy, including mediation, facilitation and negotiation (with our institutional partners).

5. Conclusion

  • 12 For example: 54% of the academic team at Département Langues Lettres et Communications hold nationa (...)

23We deploy IaH by focusing on the needs of our domestic students so that they too can experience internationalisation even if they are unable to physically leave home (either for financial or pandemic-related reasons). The need to internationalise is partly due to our low percentage of incoming international students (under 10% of the student population). This is why we need to seek partnerships elsewhere through online collaboration. Although the incoming international student population is low at Bordeaux University, the same cannot be said for our international academic staff12 who have worked with friends and colleagues abroad to make the aforementioned virtual exchanges work. Virtual exchanges are created thanks to teacher interests, affinities and their international professional networks. The lessons learnt from Covid-19 have accelerated virtual exchanges. Thanks to IaH, we have broadened the scope of internationalisation beyond study abroad programs.

The author would like to express her gratitude towards her colleagues for their invaluable contribution towards designing the IaH programmes mentioned in this article: Anne-Marie Barrault-Méthy, André Benine-Neto, Sara Garfield, Adeline Guyonnet, Casper van der Heijden, Laüra Hoskins, Thibault Marthouret, Marie-Christine Messana, Jeni Peake, Joanne Plaskett, André Ramos, Florian Reche, Rawan Tahboub, Véronique Teichmann, and Thierry Villard. Thank you to the anonymous reviewers and Mélanie White for their editing.

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Beelen, Jos, and Elspeth Jones. “Redefining Internationalization at Home.” The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies, edited by Adrian Curaj et al., Springer International Publishing, 2015, pp. 59-72. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-20877-0_5.

Council of Europe. “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment.” Companion Volume. Council of Europe Publishing, 2021.

Fernández-Raga, María, and Thierry Villard. “Multidisciplinary and International Virtual Collaboration on the ‘Shared Garden’ between the Universities of Bordeaux and León.” Designing and Implementing Virtual Exchange–a Collection of Case Studies, 2020, p. 59.

Hoskins, Laüra, and Alexandra Reynolds. “Designing and implementing Virtual Exchange in Europe: A Collection of Case Studies.” Implementing E+VE at the University of Bordeaux within English for Specific Purposes courses, edited par Francesca Helm and Anne Beaven,, 2020.

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Kreber, Carolin, et al. “What Do You Mean by ‘Authentic’? A Comparative Review of the Literature on Conceptions of Authenticity in Teaching.” Adult Education Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 1, 2007, pp. 22-43.

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O’Dowd, Robert. “From Telecollaboration to Virtual Exchange: State-of-the-art and the Role of UNICollaboration in Moving Forward.” Journal of Virtual Exchange, vol. 1, 2018, pp. 1-23. DOI: 10.14705/rpnet.2018.jve.1.

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Reynolds, Alexandra. “Widening Language and Pedagogical Perspectives through Virtual Exchange [TAPP-Virtual Exchange].” Multilingual Academic and Professional Communication in a Networked World. Proceedings of AELFE-TAPP 2021 (19th AELFE Conference, 2nd TAPP Conference). Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona), 7-9 July 2021, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2021.

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1 Under 10% of undergraduates are incoming international students at Bordeaux University. At the Science faculty of Bordeaux University: 2019-20: 73 incoming undergraduate exchange students, 2020-21: 21 incoming undergraduate exchange students.

2 Project funded by the French National Agency for Research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche - ANR). Project number: ANR-17-NCUN-0006.

3 MAPI: Mission d’appui à la pédogagie et à l’innovation.

4 A teaser is a short edited promotional video to generate interest in a new educational program.

5 Examples of bilateral VE at Bordeaux University: Stanford Virtual Exchange (with Stanford University, USA), IMAGINE virtual exchange (with UFSC Florianopolis, Brazil), Science Without Borders (with Cincinnati University, USA), Shared Garden (with University of Leon, Spain), Youth Narratives Across Cultures (with St John’s University, New York, USA), Pandemic Project, and Family Trends (with University of Texas, Dallas, USA), Virtual Exchange for Science students (with Göttingen, Germany).

6 Examples of Multi-institutional VE at Bordeaux University: ENLIGHT Network Language and Intercultural Virtual Exchange - ENLIVE (manager: Social Sciences Faculty, Bordeaux University for ENLIGHT), Geology Virtual Exchange (manager: Science Faculty, Bordeaux University), The Big Climate Movement (manager: Sharing Perspectives Foundation), International Virtual Exchange (manager: Law Faculty, Bordeaux University), Cultural Gifts and Multilingual Conversations (manager: Social Sciences Faculty, Bordeaux University).

7 Only the virtual exchange aspect of this blended mobility course was provided during the lockdown periods of 2020-22.

8 ENLIGHT (European university Network to promote equitable quality of Life, sustainability and Global engagement through Higher education Transformation) from nine European countries (Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden).

9 The questionnaires were in French and contained questions such as “What do you expect to gain from this course?” (pre-questionnaire), “How satisfied were you with the course ?” (post-questionnaire).

10 Number of students participation in IaH 2020-21: 238. Number of students participation in IaH 2021-2: 524.

11 Self-reported proficiency in the pre IaH survey. A1-2 CEFR Levels not recruited for IaH programmes.

12 For example: 54% of the academic team at Département Langues Lettres et Communications hold nationalities other than French or have dual/multiple citizenship.

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Titre Table 2. Virtual exchange: examples of typical weekly pedagogical activities which cover a range of language competences
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Alexandra Reynolds, « Deploying Internationalisation at Home During Lockdown »Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues [En ligne], Vol. 41 N°2 | 2022, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2022, consulté le 28 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Alexandra Reynolds

Alexandra Reynolds est enseignante-chercheuse à l’Université de Bordeaux au Département Langues Lettres et Communication et membre titulaire du LACES (EA 7437). Elle pilote plusieurs projets d’internationalisation à domicile à l’Université de Bordeaux. Il s’agit de formations expérimentales qui visent à favoriser l’internationalisation des cursus et des campus à domicile. Ses travaux de recherche s’appuient sur ces pratiques innovantes, qui permettent aux étudiants de développer des compétences internationales qualifiantes indépendamment d’une mobilité physique, souvent par la mobilité virtuelle. Les autres thèmes de recherche d’Alexandra Reynolds sont l’utilisation de l’anglais pour la recherche et pour des enseignements de disciplines autres que l’anglais.

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