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DEI Presents with CEHD Instructors on Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) at ICC Conference

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is a model for teaching and learning that promotes the development of intercultural awareness through a shared online multicultural learning environment. On September 3, 2016 the University’s Global Programs and Strategies Alliance held the annual Internationalizing the Curriculum and Campus Conference. DEI team Instructional Designers Melissa Falldin and Treden Wagoner along with CEHD instructors Jill Trites, Family Social Science, and Akosua Addo, Music Education, presented during the session Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL): Perspectives on Using COIL to Prepare Global-Ready Students.

The presentation was framed by the major themes of the team’s COIL Workbook (download the COIL Workbook here). These themes include Why COIL?, Co-Design/Co-creation, Student Experience/Intercultural Awareness, and Technology. Melissa and Treden introduced each theme and then asked Jill and Akosua to respond to questions which highlighted how their involvement with COIL impacted their students’ learning.

Why Coil?

There are many reasons why an instructor would choose COIL. Providing a key international experience to our students is chief among them. COIL is a process, a reflection, and an opportunity for intercultural growth for both students and instructors.

When asked if she found COIL to be an valuable teaching methodology and why an instructor would consider using the COIL method, Jill Trites responded that COIL provides a rare opportunity for students and their instructor to build global connections within an academic class. Many of her students are unable to go on a learning abroad program due to family obligations and financial constraints. COIL provides learning opportunities for students to get a taste what internationalized learning is like. Why wouldn’t an instructor wouldn’t do it! Jill and her students gained much through the experiences of a short short six-week COILed unit last spring.


The C in COIL stands for collaboration. COIL partners need to work together to determine learning objectives and design the sequence of aligned learning activities. As instructors co-design and co-create the learning experiences students are learning together (co-learning).

Akosua shared information about how she and her partner, Dr. Yiannis Miralis of European University Cyprus, collected feedback from their students about their COIL experience. She and her teaching partner developed a set of questions to solicit input from past graduate students. The questions were shared with students in both countries through an online questionnaire. During instruction students were asked about how the course was going and how interactions with the international partners were progressing. Akosua’s class reflected on the entire semester in transnational dialogues about world music pedagogy and wrote a letter to their partner discussing their changing perspectives on world music as a result of the collaboration. Akosua and her teaching partner are currently authoring a paper and conference presentation on their COIL experience.

Student Experience/Intercultural Awareness

COIL activities bring students together from different geographic locations and cultures. These activities are growth opportunities for intercultural awareness. Working together in groups made up from students from both countries, students learn more about each other and themselves.

Both Jill and Akosua responded to the question “What cultural challenge/s did you find to be the best learning activities?” Jill and her partner’s collaboration focused on intercultural communications.  The first assignment required students to communicate with their counterparts via WeChat or Skype.  The students shared stories about their upbringing and childhood activities (e.g., games and styles of dress). The students remarked in their journals about how amazingy similar their childhood activities were.

For Akosua’s students the language barriers  presented the greatest opportunities, because the students had to negotiate language constraints to teach each other music from their respective cultures, create digital stories about their music, and in written form, information about pedagogy, music and culture.


A challenge and an opportunity within the COIL process is to find tools that can be used to bridge the physical distance and the cultural gaps that students and instructors encounter. The tool that provides ease of use and greater opportunities for all students’ success will be the best option.

How did technology influence our instructors COIL activity planning? For Jill there were challenges with finding tools that worked for students in both Minnesota and China. Originally she planned to use QQ but was concerned about the language barrier presented by the registration process. WeChat turned out to be a reliable communication tool for both the instructors and their students. Akosua and her partner had planned to use a shared course site. This presented many challenges. In the end they chose to use Google Drive to share lectures and materials. Students used Skype to interact with each other.

COIL Workbook

The current version of the COIL Workbook is available for download. The document is issued with a Creative Commons By license. This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the workbook as long as credit is given to the original authors.

DEI continues to update the workbook as we get feedback from the instructors in our pilot and from members of the higher ed community who have used it. We are planning a revision that should be available in the spring.

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