The Virtual Exchange Alliance – lessons learnt from facilitating virtual learning abroad at the Australian National University


In early 2017, the Australian National University (ANU) partnered with leading universities around the world to launch a new virtual exchange experience. The Virtual Exchange Alliance is a collaboration between eight leading universities to open up the curriculum to students from partner universities. The initial pilot involved online courses, including a selection of massively open online courses (MOOCs), and gave students the opportunity to study online with other committed students from across the globe and engage with the most cutting-edge tertiary education delivery models. It was pitched as an opportunity for students to “learn from leading academic staff and forge cross-boundary and cross-cultural awareness, knowledge, and friendships – all without leaving Canberra”. However, the administration of the program has come with unforeseen challenges. This presentation will highlight those challenges for others looking to or offering similar programs and present the lessons learnt over the past two years.

Learning objectives

Participants will become familiar with the Global Virtual Exchange Alliance and the original intentions of the program. A brief summary of the program and how it is administered will be provided as well as a synopsis of the key benefits envisioned, particularly highlighting the key accessibility, inclusivity and opportunity-enabling factors. The session will provide participants with insight into the lessons learnt through the facilitation of the program and give a run-down of considerations for improvement following the pilot program. The primary learning objective will be to impart knowledge and learnings from the facilitation of the program to other institutions that may be considering the administration of similar programs or joining the alliance.

Tilly Hickenbotham, Australian National University

Deputy Manager, Global Programs

Australian National University

Tilly Hickenbotham is a dedicated and enthusiastic international education professional with nine years of working experience in higher education, particular in the university context. Her experience covers learning abroad, international and domestic recruitment, student services and student on-campus experience (student life). Tilly has a passion for leading and building dynamic, collaborative teams; a keen interest in devising and implementing strategic objectives focused on process improvement; and in undertaking this while keeping focus on the enhancement of the experience of the student. She is dedicated to continuous education and the power that it has to transform lives (including her own). She has a Bachelor of Tourism and Event Management and is completing a Master of Business Management (HR Specialisation).