L. Pérez-Hernández, A. Iza Erviti

University of La Rioja (SPAIN)
The present paper offers a description of the first partial results of a work-in-progress research project on collaborative learning in virtual environments. The project is located at the University of La Rioja (SPAIN), and it involves collaboration with a group of professors and students from Pennsylvania State University (USA). It has been designed to take place throughout the academic year 2015/2016.

The main purpose of the project is to assess the functionality of the use of mobile applications (e.g. Celly@) and virtual collaborative tools like Google Docs in a peer tutoring experience between two groups of students from the two aforementioned universities.

One of the main difficulties and challenges faced by undergraduate students is the task of writing essays and dissertations in a foreign language. The present project tackles this issue and looks into the potential benefits of working in a virtual collaborative environment, where students from two different countries (i.e. Spain and the USA), who are native speakers of two different languages (i.e. Spanish and English respectively), join efforts to help one another to improve their essay writing abilities in a second language.

Simultaneously, the project aims to assess the potentiality of such virtual international collaborative settings in extending the learning experience beyond the physical classroom and leading the students in the acquisition of the necessary academic and professional competences, including
(1) ability to coordinate and collaborate with their peers;
(2) autonomous learning capacities; and
(3) use of mobile and technological tools.

By the end of the academic year, the participant students will be assessed as to their degree of achievement in written language skills and essay writing in the respective foreign languages. At this stage, the present paper provides a first assessment of the progress of the project in terms of the degree of participation and satisfaction of the students, and the number of problems and difficulties encountered in its implementation.