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Teaching for the future
are saying to our students that they will have to address major global
challenges, virtually all of which will require multi-lateral and
cross-cultural cooperation, while
trying to secure jobs in an increasingly diverse and globalized workforce. How
are we preparing our students in HE for this type of future?
Education exchanges and study abroad programs are among the best means to
prepare young people for such a world. They increase their inclination and
capacity to deal effectively with difference and to communicate and collaborate
The catch is that not enough young people are participating in international
exchange programs. One possible solution is to introduce virtual exchanges within
the curriculum design. This will make it possible for every young person to
access high-quality international cross-cultural education, potentially from
the first week at university.
Are sustainable technology-enabled and people-to-people
Create opportunities for intercultural exchange
and international learning environments without the need to travel abroad, and
therefore, generating far less emissions than those produced by flying, for example (being mindful of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs).
Facilitate access to intercultural exchanges for
students who do not have the time or financial resources to study abroad.
· Can be integrated at all levels of
education from pre-school through university and enable deep, interactive
There are many types of virtual exchanges, and here I am going to focus just
on one specific kind: a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) experience. This is, strictly speaking, a new teaching
methodology developed at the State
University of New York in 2004. It is one
of the possible ways of connecting instructors and students in different
countries or distant geographic locations and from different cultural
backgrounds, and it is specifically
designed to use Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) to complete a subject-specific learning task or activity together. Through this methodology, students can
participate in projects designed to boost their understanding of various fields
and to help them acquire specific skills.
In COIL, unlike distance learning or
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the focus is placed upon the students and
their collaboration with one another. This encourages them to take a proactive
and participatory role in their education. COIL is framed within the
teaching curriculum and requires an intentional design that facilitates and
promotes interaction, collaboration and subsequent reflection. Students work in
teams on tasks that facilitate the development of digital and intercultural skills.
COIL consists of combining course content with a collaborative, international,
terms of design and teaching (teachers) as well as in terms of teamwork
and learning (students)
because it takes place between two countries, generating a space for
Online because it
happens via the Internet (where the interaction can be synchronous or
central focus of COIL is learning and the student. We can facilitate a
collaborative "international" experience in a variety of contexts, even
with a cross disciplinary approach and/or civic-engagement through links with community partners. Each COIL experience is unique, depending on who we team up with as educators, but
fostering the development of global skills without ever leaving home is indeed a common denominator.
COIL is also a tool for the internationalization of the
curriculum, a chance to create a network, both for research and professional
development, a means by which to expand global and digital skills, an
opportunity to expand the teaching curriculum, a possibility to generate an
experience of great impact for our students and a way to create new and
motivating projects with like-minded peers that take educators and students out
of their comfort zone. Also, although not the main objective, COIL is an opportunity
for research and possible publication for academics.
In recent years, the
increasing impact of globalization has caused a significant shift in the key
skills required in the future workforce. Therefore, helping students develop
21st century skills and intercultural competency through new innovative means
such as cross-cultural interactions and collaboration projects has become
increasingly crucial. Universities across the globe are working to weave this
into their curriculum.
In a nutshell, a COIL project makes it possible for students
and educators in different countries to connect and learn together and from one
another. Educators can get started by designing and implementing a task
relevant for both groups of students. This will require from the participants
to work in teams. This task would be integrated and be a part of the students’
coursework, meeting their learning needs. These teams offer meaningful and
significant opportunities for developing global competencies across disciplines.
sustainable internationalization, empowers global citizens and improves
collaboration and flexibility. COIL requires flexible and open-minded
teachers, prepared to "manage" an intercultural experience within
their classes. It is based on technology, but is not dependent on technology:
students and teachers are free to choose which tool, platform or application
suits them best, and they can interact synchronously or asynchronously.
Any student in HE, and indeed any educator, can benefit from a COIL project. Developing global
competencies to be able to function within different worldviews and interact
successfully in multicultural contexts, for example, with colleagues, with neighbours
or in any other setting, is something invaluable. It is also something we can
offer to our students from the very start of their studies at university. By
embedding international partnerships in our teaching we can model the kind of
contexts where learning goes beyond subject-specific content and includes in
practice scenarios where interpersonal and intercultural communication skills and
competencies can also be fostered and actively and meaningfully encouraged.
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