What is Teletandem?

Teletandem is an online language exchange program, wherein foreign language students in one country are paired with native speakers from universities abroad where the target language is spoken. The students collaborate via Skype and other video conferencing applications. Students spend half of each session conversing in the target language and the other half sharing their own language with their partner. As such, Teletandem is mutually beneficial for the students on both ends.

Why we think it is so effective

We believe Teletandem is a creative and innovative language learning strategy that has immense pedagogical potential. Teletandem is dynamic and engaging, and it enables learners to develop linguistic and cultural competencies by sharing their own language with native speakers of the target language. With free applications like JoinNet, GotoMeeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts, students can easily connect with foreign students through synchronous online collaboration tools. Teletandem presents an innovative and resource-efficient way of enhancing the instructional quality of foreign languages and international studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and offers a truly groundbreaking solution for today's technologically inclined generation of learners. The experience is both meaningful for students and rewarding for teachers. Feedback from program participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Click here to view student testimonials.

A brief history

The first Teletandem exchange at VCU was born out of Anton Brinckwirth's dissertation research which was inspired by the research and work of João Antonio Telles from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Assis, Brazil. Dr. Telles created the Teletandem program at UNESP, known as "Teletandem Brasil: Foreign Languages for All." Dr. Telles coined the word "Teletandem" and was a source of mentorship to the WSMC staff on Teletandem and transculturality. He provided essential training on the implementation of online video-mediated language collaboration and its integration into the foreign language curriculum. Subsequently, an online exchange was organized between VCU students of Portuguese and Brazilian students of English at UNESP-Assis, and thus, the Teletandem program at VCU was born. Dr. Telles did more than help us to understand the context and value of Teletandem and transculturality in the study of foreign languages, he inspired us to create our own Teletandem program at VCU. The Centro de Línguas at UNESP continues to be a model Teletandem partner and a primary source of research and scholarship on the topic of telecollaborative language exchange.

Teletandem & QUEST

Teletandem effectively meets many of the goals outlined in the core values of QUEST. The goals of Teletandem can be summarized as follows:

  • To connect VCU students with their peers in foreign universities for videoconferencing in VCU classrooms where language, culture, information, and knowledge can be exchanged.
  • Advance the understanding and practice of international university partnerships to include language curricula at VCU.
  • Develop a center where teachers of all disciplines can explore online telecollaboration with our partners at schools abroad. Telecollaboration is particularly useful in foreign language conversation courses.
  • Strengthen our current Teletandem partnerships.
  • Continue exploring new partnerships that will enable us to expand and/or improve our offerings.
  • Implement a staff development plan for VCU faculty through training workshops.
  • Develop a sustainable plan for Teletandem to ensure that it will continue to evolve and grow at VCU.
  • Make VCU a leader in Teletandem practice.
  • Focus on the less commonly taught languages—Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian.
  • Grow the program sufficiently to compete for external funding.


Teletandem & VCU

With the advent of social media and the ubiquity of mobile devices, the case for Teletandem has never been more compelling. This initiative presents an opportunity for VCU to bolster this creative, innovative program and emerge as a leader in foreign language instruction on the national stage. The project’s aim is to enhance foreign language instruction at VCU through technology, innovation, and international cooperation. The initiative will have a sustained impact on how we prepare our students to learn critical and less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). Students of Portuguese, Chinese, and Arabic, for example, will have improved opportunities for authentic immersion and practice through Teletandem in VCU classrooms. Innovative learning activities like Teletandem create new opportunities for meaningful online exchanges with foreign schools. 

Teletandem provides a high-quality learning experience focused on inquiry, discovery, and innovation in a global context. The Teletandem project at VCU has immense potential for sustained growth and success. The World Studies Media Center has developed an effective delivery and implementation scheme for Teletandem, and, if supported, will enhance foreign language programs with innovative strategies. These strategies will connect VCU students to the real world via high-impact learning activities that allow our students to be immersed and engaged with the world from within VCU labs and classrooms. Teletandem will significantly enhance the quality of VCU students' lives by empowering them to master foreign languages at VCU and better preparing them to be educated and cultured global citizens. The project is in alignment with the QUEST themes and goals, and reflects the teaching missions of VCU, the College of Humanities and Sciences, and the School of World Studies.