Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)
29 jun 2018


An increasing number of students go abroad for a certain period of time during their bachelor’s degree. This is stimulated by the university, but not all students have the necessary means and/or opportunities to do so. Therefore the VU invests time and effort in Internationalization at Home. Since some time another way to stimulate Internationalization at Home is by means of COIL – Collaborative Online International Learning – which offers a way to get groups of students from different countries to work together. These could be by two groups from two countries, but it could also be much more extensive. The intention is that the groups stay “at home” and communicate at a distance in a way that is not prescribed and that they have to determine themselves. The subject must, of course, lend itself to such a thing and the task must be well thought out. For the students, this is a way of working together internationally in a way that will also be very common in their later work.



The COIL-center in the world is SUNY* Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (*State University of New York). At the SUNY site COIL is described as follows:

“COIL has developed an approach to fostering cross-cultural student competence through development of multicultural learning environments that link university or college classes in different countries. In the COIL model, students from different cultures enroll in shared courses with faculty members from each country co-teaching and managing coursework. The COIL model does not merely promote courses where students from different nations co-habit an online classroom. Rather, we advocate creation of co-equal learning environments where instructors work together to generate a shared syllabus based on solid academic coursework emphasizing experiential and collaborative student learning. The classes may be fully online, or offered in blended formats with traditional face-to-face sessions taking place at both schools, while collaborative student work takes place online.”


COIL combines numerous developments

This description combines various themes that are now in the spotlight at the VU and elsewhere: strengthening intercultural competences, diversity, personal development, internationalization, especially Internationalization at Home, students and/or teachers study and work together (remotely), education is often provided according to a form of Blended Learning, the use of ICT in education, multidisciplinary programs, online and remote testing procedures, sharing material other than open source.

It is this combination of themes that makes COIL worthwhile: not only do you learn to work together, but you do so (partly) remotely and by means of state of the art ICT-tools, according to modern educational designs and in close cooperation with fellow students with a different cultural background, that have been raised in a different educational system. It is innovative and enriching for instructors. The concept is perfectly suited for courses that study social problems that are not site-specific.

This combination also shows that many parties can be, or sometimes should be, involved: teachers and students, pedagogical trainers, assessment experts, educational researchers (to offer advice on a small evaluation research), people from IT and perhaps people from the library too. Starting a COIL experience takes time, it takes a lot of work to get from an idea to an actual COIL course.


Workshop COIL

Piet van Hove (University of Antwerp) gave a presentation on the why, what and how of COIL during the VU Education Day. The University of Antwerp is one of the AURORA partners. COIL is pre-eminently a form of education that suits AURORA and that offers the opportunity to further strengthen the cooperation. Piet’s presentation was excellent. It lacked, however, a practical approach. KnowVU aims to fill this gap by organizing a workshop on COIL that is more practical in nature.

More information about this hands-on COIL workshop will follow shortly.

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