Global Collaboration for Online Education
NC State’s Office of Global Engagement promotes international education for all, and that includes online efforts that connect faculty and students across the globe. Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) promotes virtual, interactive educational opportunities where participants can learn about and from one another across international borders.
With COIL, NC State faculty collaborate with colleagues at institutions abroad on courses and work to incorporate activities promoting global learning and cultural competency. Collaborations can include shared components from course syllabi, cross-cultural dialogues and group projects, all the way to deep, full-semester partnerships
The Story of COIL
The greater concept of COIL was developed within the State University of New York System nearly 15 years ago as a way to engage students in higher education who might not study abroad because of time or financial constraints. East Carolina University then adopted this model, and was very successful in implementing the program within the structure of academic electives. ECU then found that they were not supplanting traditional study abroad programs with COIL, but were instead drawing increased interest to study abroad. The university also found that it had a positive impact on students developing increased cultural competency.
COIL at NC State took shape after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when then Senior Vice Provost for Global Engagement Bailian Li tasked NC Japan Center Director Jonathan Brewster to connect with partner universities in Japan to investigate possibilities for virtual learning. At the time, study abroad was not on the table, so Brewster began to research other viable options.
COIL fit perfectly within the parameters of what NC State needed and wanted to do, since the program uses internet-based technology (i.e. Zoom, Padlet and other instructional tools). Through the program, faculty from NC State began to work with their international colleagues to determine where their courses overlapped and ways in which collaborative student-centered learning was possible.
This semester, faculty and students from NC State are part of six COIL programs, facilitated by the NC Japan Center, between NC State and partner universities in Japan. These are Nagoya University, Kansai University (which hosts the Institute for Innovative Global Education funded by the Ministry of Education in Japan) and Kwansei Gakuin University.
“So far, we’ve conducted 21 COIL programs, with quite a bit of success,” said Brewster. “One of the best things to come out of this program is students’ increased cultural competency. Employers are asking in interviews if people have worked on teams composed of people from different backgrounds and cultures. This is one of the essential skills that our graduates need – to understand how not only to exist in a cross-cultural group, but to thrive in one.”
The response from NC State faculty on COIL has been overwhelmingly positive. They have noted how much students have enjoyed the programs and have developed an interest in studying more subjects that have a global connection. Beyond that, faculty also hope that through engaging in COIL, more doors are opened for international collaborative research.
“We have faculty that have participated in multiple COIL programs now,” said Brewster. “The faculty who find the most value from engaging in COIL really enjoy teaching and want to provide avenues for their students to engage in global cohorts and develop valuable cultural competency.”
Tatiana Rabinovich, a postdoctoral teaching scholar in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of those faculty members. She has been involved with COIL for the past three semesters, teaching an introductory international studies course. She and her colleagues in Japan select reading materials and videos for students to review and discuss together for the program.
“This semester we have introduced surveys to get data on how students perceive collaboration. I can see they are really excited about the opportunities and exposure to students abroad,” said Rabinovich. “Most of my students have never traveled outside of the U.S. and even NC. For them, it has been a great opportunity to talk with students from Japan and learn from them. In addition to sharing content, students learn to collaborate by setting up meetings, overcoming language barriers, and by developing patience and empathy for people from different backgrounds. It is fun to do this as well, as our students at NC State can talk to their peers and compare and contrast life experiences.”
Melissa Srougi, an assistant teaching professor in NC State’s Biotechnology Program, participated in COIL by partnering with a faculty member at Nagoya University who also specializes in biotechnology. Students at NC State and Nagoya University worked together to discuss current topics and ethics in biotechnology.
“It was great to see how quickly students adapted to communicating and working with students at Nagoya who came from all over Southeast Asia whose first language was something other than English. They gained valuable insight into how different cultures worked, and that what we study here doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” said Srougi. “There’s so much value in having an experience like what COIL provides, and it opens up doors to learning beyond classroom walls. The experience is something students won’t forget, and it will help prepare them for future academic experiences and careers where cultural competency is becoming increasingly important.”
David Gilmartin, a professor in the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, has been teaching Asian history at NC State since the 1980s. Students in his first-year inquiry history course and Japanese students were assigned common readings, which they then discussed with one another via Zoom, and then made presentations to the entire cohort. Gilmartin noted that the opportunity to work with students internationally in a small group setting was one of the highlights of their semester.
“Additionally, one of the best things about it for me was that I was able to establish a connection with a faculty member teaching at Waseda University. Her specialty is Southeast Asia and we worked extensively to plan things out for our class and create opportunities that were very beneficial to our students. And this is somebody I’ve stayed in touch with, and it has opened up the possibility for future international collaborations.”
What’s Up Next
Brewster and others at NC State are working to grow the program in the near future, increasing faculty and student participation and expanding to other universities in Japan and other countries. There are also efforts underway to make it easier for faculty to pair with colleagues abroad and to utilize funding and other resources to enrich the COIL structure. NC State is also utilizing COIL as one of the main initiatives for “Global Learning for All,” the Office of Global Engagement’s new strategic framework for building a more equitable and sustainable world.
“The reason why we’re putting so much effort into this is that we want COIL to be an enriching experience on its own, but also to supplement and draw interest to study abroad,” said Brewster. “It is an additional way for faculty and students to collaborate on an international level and reap the benefits of teaching and learning intertwined with increased cultural knowledge.”
Faculty can learn more about the COIL program and how to participate here.