Most EFL students in Japan and China have likely had little or no contact with anyone from the other country, or indeed from any other country. Unfortunately, various factors make it difficult for students to meet foreigners in person, especially over the last year or two during the COVID pandemic. Here we describe a virtual-exchange video podcasting project between tertiary students in China and Japan through the medium of English. Students in Japan and China produced video podcasts (vidcasts), exchanged them through a dedicated website and provided peer feedback Peer feedback, in which students evaluate each other’s work and give comments to one another about their impressions and suggestions for possible improvements, is discussed widely in the EFL literature, though often focusing on writing (e.g., Park, 2018; Ryoo & Wing, 2012). In this project, feedback was given on content, English pronunciation, and video production, which students used to edit their vidcasts before submitting them for final grading. We will focus on the process of developing and producing transnational vidcasts utilising peer feedback. We will explain step by step how this was achieved and offer tips and suggestions regarding issues to be considered when implementing such a project.
This project is not restricted to any particular software application. We decided to use free options wherever possible. Students need access to the Internet, computers, tablets, or smartphones. They used video editing software to create their videos. We introduced Shotcut, a free, open-source video editing application, though students were free to use different apps. We created a website to display the vidcasts using WIX, an online website builder. The vidcasts themselves and other related documents were exchanged between teachers using Google Drive or Skype.
The project can be summarised in six steps, though some steps may require more than a single lesson. The total amount of time required may vary according to subject matter and availability of ICT resources.
Explain the important basics of the project to students, including the aims of the project and showing a sample vidcast. Explain the basics of video editing (importing videos and images, assembling them in the correct order, applying transitions, recording a script and importing it, adding appropriate background music, etc., and then editing all these elements to create a final project).
Discuss the importance of copyright with students and encourage them to either take photographs and videos themselves or download copyright-free photos from Internet sites like Pixabay or use Creative Commons licenced materials.
Then, in pairs or small groups, students should select a topic which they think will be of interest to students in another country. In our project, we asked the students to focus on topics of historical and cultural significance.
Students should write a script to introduce the topic and begin looking for digital materials to create an appropriate visual description of it.
The teachers should provide feedback to students to help them craft an English language narrative which clearly describes their topic. Students should be encouraged to avoid using local terms or concepts which may be obvious to themselves or classmates but may not make sense to students in another country.
Students should also begin planning to ensure that the spoken word and the images in their vidcasts fit well. This may entail some re-writing of scripts if students are unable to source images that match the narrative.
Provide ample time for students to work on their vidcasts with the teacher present. Some students will need more assistance in using the video editing application than others, and it is important for the teacher to be available to help when required. Encourage students to speak English as much as possible and help each other during the production process. For example, if one group finds a good resource for copyright-free images, they should share that with others, or if a student discovers a useful function in their editing application, encourage them to teach others.
Many Chinese and Japanese university students are very adept at using their smartphones to work out how to edit their vidcasts by themselves. They should be given the freedom to be creative while the teacher acts more as a monitor during the class.
Set a completion date and have the students submit the first draft of their vidcast. This can be done in various ways, such as utilising university computer systems, as e-mail attachments or physical transfer with a USB memory device.
We then exchanged the vidcasts and uploaded them to the website we had created. In this project, the website was password-protected, so only those involved in the project were able to access the vidcasts. However, depending on circumstances, other options for exchange can be used, such as cloud technology, e-mail attachments, and so on.
Students should then watch the vidcasts and provide feedback to one another. Teachers should help in class by ensuring that the feedback provided is clear and of an appropriate nature. In our project, students used a standard form and a rubric which focused on three areas, content, oral English, and video production, to offer feedback.
Depending on the number of videos, you can have students watch them all as a group, or assign certain videos to particular students. The key point is that all videos are reviewed and that all students receive a similar amount of peer feedback. Teachers then facilitate the exchange of peer review. In our project, the feedback forms were scanned and converted to pdf format, which was then emailed to the instructor in the other country.
Students should use the feedback from their counterparts abroad to re-edit and produce their final video project. This was then submitted and graded by the teacher.
Conclusion and Discussion
Designing interesting, attainable ways to teach EFL through technology is a fruitful endeavour. This project was interesting for the students and taught them how to produce and edit vidcasts, encouraged cooperation, and developed pronunciation, storytelling, and other useful skills. Students perceived peer feedback as useful and motivating.
A transnational vidcasting project such as this raises some concerns that need addressing. In regard to ethical concerns, we carefully discussed and strongly directed students in the area of copyright. We explained to students that even if they made a good vidcast but did not have the copyright for the photos or other materials, they would not be able to release it on the open Internet and take credit for it. For many students, this was something they were insufficiently aware of. We also asked students to sign ethical release forms, which explained to them that their work would only be used for research and education and not in any commercial way. Some examples of the final vidcasts from this project can be found here: http://juepod.libsyn.com/.
We suggest attempting to ensure that students have similar levels of ability in English so that feedback will be balanced. We also went through pronunciation drills and worked on common problematic aspects of English that students tend to make. There will be some mistakes which are common for most learners regardless of background, but equally there will be certain errors that students tend to make according to their own L1. While classmates can usually negotiate these common mistakes, students in another country may very well be confused.
It is also of great importance to investigate the technical capacities of your school or educational context (for example, issues surrounding Internet access for certain sites from countries such as China can be problematic) prior to beginning a project such as this. Discovering halfway through that you cannot complete one of the steps will of course result in a failed project, but also in confusion and disappointment for students.
Park, J. (2018). Effectiveness of teacher and peer feedback: Through the lens of Korean tertiary writing classroom. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 15(2),429–444. http://dx.doi.org/10.18823/asiatefl.2018.15.2.11.429
Ryoo, M., & Wing, M. L. (2012). Skill level based cooperative peer feedback in EFL writing students. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 9(1), 95–13.