This week I attended the 10th Anniversary COIL Conference for the first time. One theme that intrigued me was the comments that faculty who are doing Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) are like pirates, but, that administrative support is necessary for COIL to be institutionalized. Both the bottom up grass roots and the top down administrative support are needed.
Throughout the conference, I took notes on what I heard people saying was necessary for support, and I’ve collected those here.
For example, one session was called Getting COIL to Stick. The Google Slide Deck is available. The session was presented by Hope Windle, SUNY Ulster (United States) • Jayne Peaslee, SUNY Corning (United States) • Catherine Roche, Rockland Community College (United States) • Kathleen McKenna, SUNY Broome Community College (United States).
Initially when faculty participate in COIL, they usually have a a deep meaningful learning experience. However, to sustain these activities over time, support is essential.
Faculty Load, Scheduling, Funding
At the higher ed level, faculty load is a huge issue. Teaching innovation isn’t incentivized. The almighty publish or perish reigns supreme. If faculty engage in COIL, they need the support of their department chair and dean, specifically for time to work with their partner, for potentially rescheduling the class to better match the schedule of the partner.
Some insitutions have incentives for participating and suggest that incentives are needed not just the first time but every time the COIL class happens.
Some suggest funding is needed for faculty travel related to COIL, as well as release time for faculty to work on COIL projects.
Is COIL integrated into the strategic plan at the university? How is the institution moving beyond ad-hoc experiences into institutionalizing the value and experience of COIL? As an example, the Hague University is strategically working on COIL to ensure every bachelor’s degree has at least one COIL course.
In the Mon morning keynote session, it was argued that what is needed is more administrators who recognize the need for innovation – and are able to translate bottom up innovation to institutional support.
Some suggestions for getting administrative buy-in included:
- An example of an early start was little teleconferences with Mexico integrated with a student club, and inviting the administrators to come see it.
- Bring together different mixes of people who might be interested in getting something started
- Convince administration early
- Using existing international relationships
- Market COIL to prospective and current students
- Include a video of the president of both universities welcoming the students into the shared space where your classes are collaborating.
- Administrators are very sensitive to student feedback – if students are impacted positively. It’s important to show to administrators that it costs very little and has a big impact to student learning.
Departments on Campus
A flexible and sustainable infrastructure is needed to support COIL. Departments that need to support COIL include:
- Instructional design / faculty development office for pedagogical and collaborative tool training and support
- IT / AV – for technical support necessary for high quality videoconference experiences
- International office
Interestingly, many called for integrating COIL experiences into the promotion and tenure process. One institution said they were working on it. Again, the tension between research and teaching, and how to prioritize and value different types of faculty activities.
Curriculum and Teaching Support
In the networking time, there was a fairly loud call for resources to support faculty: models, best practices, templates, etc.
Faculty Skills Needed
Faculty need development, resources and support in building skills in cultural competence, technology skills, teaching skills; even being able to understand heavily accented English.
Faculty need support in finding partners. Even when using existing institution international partners, someone needs to assist faculty in making it work. Faculty may meet someone at a conference or work with a research partner, but someone needs to help navigate the administrative institutional support at each institution.
Faculty need technology support to help select a tool that is supported and easy to use by both partners, and that supports the learning outcomes.
Some institutions have COIL Fellows programs to provide support, development, and incentives to faculty COILing.
Instructional Design Support
In the K12 collaborative project world, it’s usually the instructional technology specialist or the media specialist who assists teachers with projects. In the higher ed world, it’s usually the instructional designer. At the COIL conference, there were several sessions by instructional designers sharing resources and support strategies:
Supports for K12 Videoconferencing
Below is a collection of my writing and thinking on the support needed for videoconferencing at the K12 level – using it to enhance the curriculum, mostly collaborative projects but also connecting to content providers. This may prove interesting and useful to COILers as well.