There are many online communication tools which can be used in a telecollaboration situation. TILA gave teachers the opportunity to choose from a list of various tools, from which BigBlueButton and OpenSim are the tools with biggest interest. BigBlueButton is an open source web conferencing system for online learning. It supports many features like audio and video sharing, chat and the presentation of documents. OpenSim is an online virtual world in which you can move, speak and take actions using an avatar. From all students in the pilot stage (number=73), 64% used BigBlueButton as digital communication tool. Some 17% did sessions in OpenSim, followed by Skype which was used by 9% of the students. Moodle and forum are mentioned as other digital tools, used incidentally.
It is not really possible to compare results between the different tools because of the small number of students using an environment other than BigBlueButton. However, it does not seem to matter which tool environment is used, almost all scores are (very) positive for all three tools. There is a very slight preference for using video above using an avatar. Interestingly, students indicate that they did not feel very nervous when speaking in the target language in OpenSim, while students felt more nervous when speaking in Skype or BigBlueButton. Only one parameter (Performance) shows clear overall differences when the three tools are compared. Although the differences are quite small, in OpenSim students felt the most like they were able to perform well during the exchange. BigBlueButton scored a bit lower on these aspects, and students using Skype scored the lowest.
It is too early to correlate results, but it seems like students who communicate in a more anonymous way (OpenSim) feel like they are more able to communicate well in the target language. It will be exciting to compare the results of the various tools in a later stage of the project, when more students are involved. That will make it possible to see what factors contribute to the experiences with intercultural communication using one or another tool.