Getting Started

Information for Instructors

Fall 2016


 What is Teletandem?

Teletandem is a synchronous telecollaborative learning activity that is particularly useful for language learners as it provides students with authentic immersion opportunities with native speakers. It is a mutually beneficial experience for both students as time is divided equally—half of the interaction is in English, and the other half in the target language.

Who uses Teletandem?

Typically instructors of 100 to 300-level foreign language courses use Teletandem, but any instructor wishing to engage their students in live interactions with student peers in foreign schools can use Teletandem as a supplemental activity in their course(s).

Is Teletandem a required activity?

No, Teletandem is optional. It is not required.

Do I need to use class time to offer Teletandem to my students?

Generally, sessions are structured and scheduled as full classes. We offer open sessions 2-3 times each week. However, these sessions are scheduled at specific times and are limited to 10 students. For more information, please refer to page 2 of this document on Open Sessions.

How can I track my students’ participation in open teletandem sessions?

If you prefer to assign Teletandem as an independent activity (for extra credit, as a supplement, or because students missed a session), students will need to go to the Media Center and sign up for a session.

How do I get started for my class?

If you would like to include Teletandem in your classes, please contact Anton Brinckwirth (  by email. Please provide the following information:

Course, section, time:

Number of students:   

Number of sessions requested:

Dates requested:

Please note how flexible you are with your requests. Are you willing to change the dates?

We cooperate with our university partners to coordinate scheduling, technical setup and planning, and sometimes we collaborate on activity design, student pairing and future projects. Therefore it is important that we comply with our part for all Teletandem sessions. The most most important is obviously showing up on time and establishing reliability and trust. When we schedule sessions, instructors will receive a confirmation email.

How do I get started for myself?

We cooperate with our university partners to coordinate scheduling, technical setup and planning, and sometimes we collaborate on activity design, student pairing and future projects. Therefore it is important that we comply with our part for all Teletandem sessions. The most most important is obviously showing up on time and establishing reliability and trust.

Will my students be paired with a teletandem partner whose level of English is the same?

We will do everything we can to ensure that students are paired optimally. It is not always possible to match students with exactly the same skill level or personality type. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns about student partners.

Teletandem Assessment

Instructors who wish to evaluate individual student interactions will have 2 options.

  1. Using the Sanako 1200 application to evaluate students during Teletandem.
  2. Using our new Evaer Skype video recorders to capture and digitize the video and/or audio of an entire session or parts of sessions.

Videotaping and Photographing Students

Teletandem sessions are often photographed and/or videotaped for research and training purposes. Students will be asked to sign a consent form. We make every attempt to record in the least intrusive manner possible, and we avoid filming students who prefer to not be photographed.

Teletandem Training and Consultation for Instructors

The Media Center is developing a video-based training course for instructors comprised of short online tutorials to easily access and learn more about telecollaboration and how to best use it in their courses. In addition, instructors are welcome to consult with WSMC staff about Teletandem, to ask questions, set up sessions, and how to optimize telecollaborative activities.

Helpful hints for integrating Teletandem in your classes

For Language courses

100-200: You may use teletandem in your 100-200 classes to practice grammar, vocabulary, and/or culture. You may use the “communication” (conversation) sections from Vistas and Facetas. If you prefer, you and your class may write a list of questions and topics for the session. Teletandem may be used as a final oral exam as well. Professors need to indicate if they wish to have a recording of their students’ conversations ahead of the session.

300 and 301: Students may use the interaction with their peers from other countries to collect information for an essay, or to practice grammar structures that they may need to master.

305, 307, 311: Students may use teletandem to discuss topics related to culture, film, the media, etc. It is an opportunity to practice vocabulary, pronunciation, expressing opinions, and asking questions. For best results, please consider assigning task-based activities.

Culture, civilization and literature courses: Vocabulary, culture, current topics, analysis, and opinions may help students in literature or civilization courses to have a better understanding or perspective of a text or a historical situation.

Non-language courses: Discussion and debate activities focused on global themes and topics. Previous teletandem exchanges show that students are highly motivated and interested in learning the opinions and perspectives of their peers abroad. VCU nursing and health care students responded most favorably to Teletandem last year when they were paired with their peers in Mexico to discuss healthcare related topics.

Teletandem description for syllabi: You can insert the following paragraph in your syllabus if you plan to use Teletandem more than once. Feel free to expand on this and do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns.

Teletandem is a conversation with native speakers of the target language in which students help each other to learn each other’s language. In this class, students will use Skype and will chat for 20-25 minutes in Spanish and then 20-25 minutes in English. This activity is designed to allow students to learn more vocabulary and culture from their peers. It will also provide students with more confidence when speaking in the target language.

Rubric Example

Instructors are free to create their own rubrics to account for teletandem activities. The following rubric is merely an example. For language courses with at least 4 sessions, it would be  appropriate to assign 5% to 10% of the total grade to Teletandem. For example, if Instructors assign 10 points per session, the rubric could be:

5 pts. = Active participation; student is not late nor leaves early, there are no long pauses in the conversation in either language, English or Spanish. Student used mostly Spanish during the Spanish portion of the session. The student helped her/his partner with the English portion.

5 pts = Reflection: students need to write a summary of their experience noting details about their partner and the topics discussed as well as any problems or suggestions for improving their future sessions.

The summary 100 words on what they learned on the session.

0 pts = If the student is absent during a teletandem session.

For classes in which Teletandem is used as an oral exam, it is recommended to conduct at least one regular session prior to the oral exam and to announce the testing session and the options the students have if they miss that session.  

How to prepare your class for the session(s)

The Media Center is producing a series of short 2 to 3-minute informational videos on teletandem integration and implementation. These videos will help for instructors to get the most of the teletandem experience. These videos will be available by mid-September. All instructors will be notified and will receive a link.  You may share these videos with your students if you think it would be helpful to them.

It is important that students in the lower-level classes have a well-structured activity before the session. Feel free to ask us for suggestions.

If a student is absent and you allow them to make-up the session, they must contact the MediaCenter and enroll in an open session.

During the session

For students:

You have to be on time, must follow directions, and take notes. The professor will let you know what tools you may use during the session--online translator, dictionaries, etc. If you have any issues with the audio or video, let us know. Have fun!

For professors:

We will take care of all the technology-related issues. Some students may have  questions related to vocabulary or culture, feel free to help them. Enjoy watching your students talk!

After the session

As mentioned before, your students may write compositions about their experience conversing with a native speaker, they may talk in pairs or small groups about what they learned, they may give a presentation, etc.