Teaching for the future
We 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 across cultures.
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 education programmes.
· 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 social learning.
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.
Therefore, COIL consists of combining course content with a collaborative, international, online dimension:
Collaborative in terms of design and teaching (teachers) as well as in terms of teamwork and learning (students)
International because it takes place between two countries, generating a space for intercultural learning
Online because it happens via the Internet (where the interaction can be synchronous or asynchronous)