Connecting the Dots
As Bili Connects draws to an end, we delve a little deeper into the project and the exchanges between students spanning the UK, and 8 African countries and involving 35 different universities. Here we will look at the structure, the tools used and most importantly focus in on the real connections between individual participants.
Bili Connects forms part of the British Council programme English Connects that connects African youth and the future generation of leaders with the UK through English.
Duration: December, 2019 => March 2020
Participants: UK French undergraduates paired with students learning English from Cameroon, the Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal.
Through the Bili platform every student had their own profile through which they were paired with a partner according to the interests they selected. With input from participating UK universities, Cathy Molinaro lecturer in French studies from Cardiff University (and our original partner in the pilot project) designed tasks for the French undergraduates. The English tasks for the African participants were designed by the Bili team. Each task (to be completed over a two week period) was broken down into several short subtasks and included instructions and support for the students. An overview of the task titles can be seen below.
|English Tasks||French Tasks|
|Using a Foreign Language with Confidence||Première prise de contact|
|Getting know your partner||Moi|
|You and Music||Les élections en Grande-Bretagne|
|You and Sport||La vie étudiante|
|Your attitudes to fashion||La vie en dehors de l’université|
|Celebrations in my country||Votre culture|
|Your ambitions||Cinéma,télévision et musique|
|Identity: Who are you?||Voyages|
|Reflecting on your exchange||Réflexion|
The extracts below will hopefully give you a flavour of the exchanges which took place across the previous months, and the connections which have been formed as a result of it.
When each student logs in for the first time they set up their account and create their profiles. They are matched with a student from the partner class according to their interests.
In addition to the structured exchange provided through the task each student was connected directly to their partner through Bilichat, our live video chat app (accessible through their accounts on the site, and as IOS and Android apps). This is a private forum between participants where they could exchange in either language, with individuals in the corresponding class and in small pre-assigned groups. We also sent out regular prompts to spur on discussions, and support interactions.
Exchanging in English
Most tasks were broken down into short subtasks which were to be completed sequentially (in roughly two week intervals, with some allowance for holidays, university closures etc.). As with any task, it was specified whether each would be a written task or if they needed to upload an audio or video file.
Here we will showcase a selection of exchanges from students talking through each of the different stages: sending a task, marking a task and responding (we have removed images and media recordings for privacy reasons).
Exchanging in French
Hopefully, this provides a glimpse of the interaction between students going on in the black box of Bili; and more importantly the relationships established between the students.
Structuring the exchange through short tasks, and enabling ongoing informal interaction aimed to put the emphasis on the cultural exchange, the enjoyment of their respective languages and the forming of friendships between the students in the UK and Africa. It seems to have worked for Mamady and Alana 😊