Ideas for Collaborative Online International Learning

I’ve been attending the 10th Anniversary COIL Conference and reflecting on and processing what I’m learning on my blog. I’m comparing and contrasting COIL to the work that I did supporting collaborative videoconference projects at the K12 level from 1998-2011, as documented on this blog.

In this post, I want to share some of the ideas that I gained at the conference, as well as how those ideas connect to some of the ideas we use in K12 collaborative projects.

Full Courses

Depending on who you talk to here, the full COIL experience is a course that is team-taught and shared as a whole course. SUNY COIL Center provides an overview of course models that can be used.

The Virtual Team Teaching Network in Quebec is also supporting this concept of collaborating on courses.

This is different than what has been called a “shared class” where one institution/school “sends” a class to another institution. Instead, the faculty at both institutions are seen as equals in sharing and developing the full course learning experience.


More commonly, many of the examples shared in sessions here are what some call COIL enhancements to courses. These are shorter interactions – like 2 to 6 weeks.

  • Students work in groups to create a product:
    • Students could work in groups locally and be competitive with the partner class
    • OR, they could work in groups that cross the sites, like we did with the Jazz workshop
    • Working in multi-site groups reduces the “us vs them” mentality (for example the collaborative work of San Jose State University and Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan)
    • Students could also introduce themselves individually via video, and pick their partners for groups of two
  • Could have a one hour seminar format where it’s too short and not enough time to fully engage, or switch to a week long asynchronous discussion (as Michael Bromby presented)
  • Can even do a very small collaboration of two weeks to meet & greet and get to know each other

Managed Collaborations

Yesterday I thought I wasn’t hearing any examples of collaborations that are “managed” on the higher ed side – managed as in someone is organizing and facilitating and the teacher’s role is to cooperate, follow the outline, and facilitate in their classroom. But, there are some groups providing this level of support for faculty at the higher ed side:

Topic Ideas

One comment I heard at the conference is that the people doing COIL projects tend to be in the humanities. These are some examples of topics discussed:

  • In the collaborations that San Jose State University had with Pakistan, the COIL courses worked on topics such as gender and emotional intelligence; English; Culture and Pedagogy; education; water (the prompt to the students was – tell the story of water), comparative education, women in academia.
    • On the K12 side, here are reports of the high school and elementary connections we did with Pakistan almost 10 years ago.
  • Connecting language learners to each other; don’t always have to connect to native speakers
  • Global social & environmental issues as shared by the University of Washington COIL Fellows
  • Disability rights and cross-national human education as shared by presenters from University at Buffalo and Universidad LaSalle, Mexico

Interdisciplinary Connections

I sensed much work and interest among the attendees of the conference in the area of figuring out how to COIL with disparate course topics. For example:

  • students of engineering connecting to language learners
  • the archeology class and new media art class – “interdisciplinary teaching is all about being conscious of a dialectic process” – presented by Alfonso Guevara, Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico) and Lynda Carroll, SUNY Broome Community College (United States)
  • in K12 in Read Around the Planet, we often connected high school Spanish language learners with bilingual classrooms with native speakers (usually in Texas)


A wide variety of tools were shared at the conference, including:

  • Skype, Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts
  • online collaboration using the LMS of one or both institutions
  • Facebook private groups
  • WhatsApp

K12 Connections

Someone asked me about the resources we created to support collaborative projects in K12. Here are a few of them:

What about you? What resources, ideas, links do you use to support COIL and COIL-like activities? Please share!

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