What is COIL?

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) connects students and professors online for collaborative projects and discussions. COIL extends significant international experiences to all students and faculty by facilitating online intercultural exchange integrated into existing courses and curricula.

COIL, also referred to as virtual exchange, is a teaching and learning methodology that links a class at one educational institution with another in a different country or cultural setting. COIL enhanced courses are team-taught by educators who collaborate to develop shared learning outcomes and a shared COIL syllabus that emphasizes experiential and collaborative student-centered learning. Students are awarded credit in the course in which they are enrolled, with the COIL module as a graded project within that course. Professors monitor student learning throughout the COIL experience and grade students as agreed upon in advance.

While the COIL component takes place online, the courses that are being COILed may be fully online or, most commonly, offered in blended formats with traditional in-person classes taking place at each institution. The online interaction between students can happen synchronously, for example, through video conferencing or live chats, or asynchronously, such as through discussion boards, shared documents, or email exchanges. COIL modules do not require the use of any particular software platform or learning management system. Professors and students should use whatever technology is available and suitable to the tasks, and more than one technology tool can be used for the online collaboration and exchange.

The COIL component is most commonly a module that lasts for several weeks during the course, though successful COIL collaborations can take place for the entire duration of a course. We recommend that the COIL component be at least 5 weeks long for students to realize maximum benefit from the experience.

A visual representation of the COIL model:

SUNY COIL Classroom Collaboration

What is COIL?Module 2

How does COIL work?

COIL starts with collaboration between professors.

Professors work together to:

  • Define student learning goals
  • Determine the length of the interaction
  • Design comparative and collaborative activities
  • Select methodology and technology
  • Monitor student work and learning

Students work together to:

  • Develop an effective international team
  • Discuss issues and course content
  • Complete a project-based assignment as part of their coursework
  • Reflect on both the academic content of the course and the intercultural exchange that takes place

COIL Components:

  • Can be any discipline; interdisciplinary pairs work well
  • Use any technology platform that serves the learning goals
  • Encourage active student learning and teamwork
  • Include an emphasis on cross-cultural interactions and understanding
  • Can be 5-15 weeks long
  • Are a graded activity in each participating class

COIL enhanced courses introduce students to desirable 21st Century workforce skills, such as:

  • Intercultural communication
  • Global awareness
  • Academic and professional content matter
  • Group work and teamwork skills
  • Technology tools and digital competencies

In addition to these skills, COIL enhanced courses can provide:

  • Global Learning for All integrated into the curriculum
  • Applied and/or Service Learning experience
  • Intercultural awareness and competency development
  • Interdisciplinary application of knowledge
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Cost effective, scalable internationalization
  • High impact practices for teaching and learning