Resources for COIL Course Development

Resources for Developing a COIL-enhanced Course or Program

What is COIL?

Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL, is a pedagogy that is international, interactive, virtual, and engages a unique audience. Using various communication technologies, students from different countries complete shared assignments and projects, with faculty members from each country co-teaching and managing coursework. The term COIL was coined by the State University of New York’s COIL Center and is protected by a registered service mark. Variations of this pedagogy are also called globally networked learning or virtual exchange.

The key components of COIL courses include:

  • Instructors co-create course curriculum, overlapping content during at least four weeks.
  • Learning is highly interactive: students engage in problem solving with international peers.
  • Professors use technology accessible at both institutions.
  • Students remain enrolled at own institution, graded by their own professor.

COIL courses can be launched in all disciplines, and often lead to unique insights when interdisciplinary connections are made. Examples of COIL courses, with sample videos and materials, can be found on the SUNY COIL Center website. We’ve also compiled a list of COIL courses at the University of Washington.

Initial Considerations

Some important considerations that need to be taken into account when planning a COIL course include:

  • Defining the modules or course components that can be COILed or conneced to an international partner’s course.
  • Logistical challenges: time zones, academic terms, number of partners.
  • Power imbalances: language ability, academic level, access to information/ technology.
  • Hybrid approach: Will online interaction be combined with in-person travel?

Our simple partnership worksheet is a great starting point for mapping our your COIL course with an international partner. For a deeper dive, the SUNY COIL Center makes available a Faculty Guide for COIL Course Development, which can be requested by emailing

Key Partnerships

Partnerships are crucial to launching a successful COIL initiative, whether a single course or an institution-wide program. In addition to international collaborators, key supporters on your campus include colleagues from international programs, learning technologies, and your academic leadership.

If you have not secured a partner yet, there are a number of places to look:

  • Existing personal and academic connections: start with your faculty colleagues, research partners, colleagues you see at conferences.
  • Existing institutional connections: engage your international programs office.
  • Professional listserves.
  • UNICollaboration, an European Union-based platform “aimed at supporting university educators and mobility coordinators to organise and run online intercultural exchanges for their students”. After creating a free account, instructors can post a brief overview of their course to seek a partner.

COIL-Specific Learning Outcomes

Given that COIL intends to add a global learning component to a course, this should be clearly reflected in the learning outcomes set for students. It is recommended that they incorporate themes such as perspective-taking, cultural self-awareness, and intercultural communication, all key components of global learning as defined by the AAC&U’s VALUE project. COIL courses implemented by faculty at UW Bothell must incorporate these specific COIL learning outcomes.

Scaffolding Assignments

Typically, in a COIL partnership, activities between the two (or more) sides progress through the stages: 1. getting to know each other; 2. learning together; 3. producing a shared outcome; 4. reflection/ debriefing. Each stage can be made up of just one activity or several, and the duration can vary from a single day to several weeks, depending on the length of the entire COIL partnership.

To see examples from previous COIL courses at the University of Washington, download this slide deck.

Technology Tools and Best Practices

A variety of online collaboration tools can be used in COIL courses. The rule of thumb is to keep it free and simple for participants on both sides. Here we list some of our favorites (note that some may have limits on free usage), as well as some tips developed by former UW instructor and COIL facilitator Greg Tuke from his Going Global blog:

Video-conferencing, with chat and screen-sharing functions:

  • Zoom: This new global favorite has reliable sound and image quality, even when multiple users are involved. Features include breakout rooms, polling, and sign-on authentication. Online meetings can also be recorded.
  • Setting up a group video conference with an international partner is intimidating. Here are ten tips for improving video conferencing.

Group discussions:

  • Facebook: Closed groups on FB can provide a private interactive learning environment. Participants can create a separate FB profile if they do not wish to integrate academic coursework with their existing, personal profile. Despite Facebook’s dominance of the social media market, it has many alternatives around the world. Facebook Messenger can also be used for (more limited) video conferencing.
  • WhatsApp: Requires a smartphone, but very low bandwidth. Great to use in locations where mobile devices are more accessible than computers and where internet access is not as strong or reliable. Allows sharing of media, as well as calling. End-to-end encryption and lack of advertising helps to create a very secure, focused learning environment. WeChat is an alternative widely used in China.
  • This video shows how to combine Facebook and video conferencing in COIL courses for maximum impact.
  • While many of our learners are “digital natives”, this does not equate to effective use of social platforms for deeper engagement. Creating meaningful on-line discussions in COIL courses requires coaching students on using familiar tools in new ways.

Project collaboration:

  • Google Docs: Allows multiple users to work on the same document, including text files, spreadsheets, presentations, and online forms or surveys. Seamless interface for users with Gmail-based accounts.
  • Padlet: Virtual bulletin board: Users can organize posts – text, images, video, URLs – into categories, shelves or pin them to a map.
  • FOLD: Open publishing platform for sharing ideas and creating magazine-like layouts of content.
  • Voice Thread: for multi-media conversations, allows multiple users to comment on videos, presentations or images.


The International Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning Evaluation Toolkit, developed by a team representing several SUNY institutions, compiles tools and resources to develop cross-cultural outcomes, create assignments leading to those outcomes, and assess outcomes achieved. The site includes practical assessment rubrics adapted from AAC&U VALUE rubrics on Global Learning and Intercultural Knowledge and Competence, a pre- and post- questionnaire, and sample activities. The project was funded by a 2013 Tier III SUNY Innovative Instructional Technology Grant.

For additional information and resources on intercultural competence and cultural humility, visit our Intercultural Competence Toolkit.