3. Structure of the Student Programme: the student experience

Most of the ICP partners are running AI programmes, linked to the project, in their home institutions during the second semester (February through June) of the academic year. It is during the second semester therefore that the students work in transnational teams on joint coursework projects.

In preparation for this, students in each institution wishing to participate in the scheme are asked to submit an 'expression of interest' to their home programme director at the beginning of the academic year, from which a global list of students' email addresses (around 100 in this first year, from six of the universities) is compiled and distributed to all interested students in the ICP. The students then confirm their interest by establishing contact, during the first semester, with other students in partner universities, eventually -- with tutorial guidance -- settling into self-selecting transnational groups of (optimally) four.[4] Clearly, students who are participating in the scheme electronically (i.e., without physically moving) will not have the opportunity to immerse themselves directly in the cultural and linguistic context in which their peers live and work. We therefore agreed that it was essential that the cultural experience be shared vicariously by getting students talking to each other at an early stage. They would ideally be exchanging not only email descriptions of themselves and their lives, but also, by postal mail, photographs, maps, sample course handouts (for non-core courses), for example, and specimen cultural artefacts such as bus tickets, theatre brochures, photocopies of student cards, and so forth. As the project progresses over time, we hope also that, in a 'student area' of the 'ICP OnLine', participating students will themselves author 'cultural' pages that, through the use of text and graphics, recreate the student experience in their home institutions, for the benefit of their peers in other partner universities.

Students are also individually encouraged to browse the linguistic and cultural resources page of the 'ICP OnLine', to access the language laboratories and multilingual text archives, to use the online language dictionaries, to read USENET newsgroups for national cultures, e.g., soc.culture.british, soc.culture.french, soc.culture.german, soc.culture.italian, ..., and so forth. To further enhance the cultural experience, 'walking tours' of the cities for the universities are accessible from the 'ICP OnLine' home page.

In the period February to June (i.e., second semester), during which most of the partner institutions would be running AI modules, transnational student groups will work together on teamwork projects, communicating by electronic mail, sharing common online resources, and working collaboratively on assessed AI projects. The coursework reports are to be written up in each of the languages involved (i.e., in French by the French student, in Italian by the Italian student, etc), and collated reports submitted to the home programme director for each student. Executive summaries of each report will be published online.

Students successfully completing the programme will then, in addition to the normal assessment for a home degree, be awarded an ICP 'Certificate of Participation' acknowledging their participation in the ERASMUS 'ICP OnLine' project.

[4] The magic number '4' was based on research into conversation groups by anthropologist Robin Dunbar (Dunbar, 1992; Dunbar, 1994). Adducing evidence from a broad array of sources across time and space, he not only persuasively argues that "human conversation groups should consist of an average of 3.7 individuals" but convincingly shouws that "indeed they do". Dunbar's work was subsequently used as a theoretical basis for the design of a 'virtual meeting room' by Chris Condon, of Brunel University, in two EC funded projects in industrial 'telepresence'. The meeting room was designed around a 4-way video window. Our own experience of managing student group work in the universities has been that not only do self-selecting groups optimize around four members, but also that where the number of group members is four the performance of the group as a whole (coordination of group work, project management, quality of outcomes) is better. [Back]