Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

Participate as an Instructor or a Student

About Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

UAlbany Can COIL logo, with two purple and yellow globes with gray arrows.

COIL, SUNY's flagship model of virtual exchange, transforms face-to-face and online learning through project-based learning on global teams.

COIL is an integral part of UAlbany's success story and Strategic Plan, particularly in relation to inclusive student excellence and UAlbany as an engine of opportunity.

COIL students and professors from two or more countries and universities engage one another, as well as engage their diversity, equity, and inclusion via intercultural dialogue, teamwork, and reflection, their 21st global skills development via innovating responses to real-world problems, and their internationalization via digitization and professional networking.

What is SUNY's COIL initiative?

Visit SUNY's Intro to COIL webpage and its COIL website for detailed information and guidance.

Virtual Exchange (VE) is known by many names, including globally networked learning, tele-collaboration, global classrooms, mirror classrooms and even Collaborative Learning for International Capabilities and Knowledge (CLICK), which was practiced in French at UAlbany before the University's COIL program began.

As explained by SUNY COIL Center Founding Director Jon Rubin, "If Virtual Exchange is sports, then COIL is Basketball, one type of VE." 

COIL is initiated by faculty, separated by geography and time zones, united by their common purpose of revolutionizing learning spaces, communities, and outcomes.

But COIL is truly for and by students. Some COIL projects involve collaboration with communities and organizations like NGOs and start-ups, with COIL projects akin to virtual internships.

COIL reflects SUNY's mission of Global Learning for All. Despite "digital divides," COIL delivers unprecedented access to global classrooms, knowledge, and communities. COIL is a unique intervention in or enhancement to learning, not virtual study abroad.

COIL modules are embedded into existing courses by partnered professors, with students registering at their own universities. Therefore, the only extras involved in COIL are time, effort and returns, such as cultural humility, global engagement, capacity and skill-building.  


  • leverages online, applied, accessible, inclusive, innovative, project and team-based learning all in one
  • is hosted on free online learning and social media platforms
  • engages via authentic project-based learning (PBL) on global teams 
  • transforms subject matter and intercultural learning, as well as professional development, including digital literacy skills
  • crosses boundaries of subject area, course level, language
How does UAlbany's COIL program work?

At UAlbany, COIL is about classroom communities connecting across nations. UAlbany:

  • Leads among SUNY's University Centers engaged in COIL, with an active community of practice and research
  • Participates in COIL across disciplines, including anthropology, business, education, electrical and environmental engineering/sciences, languages, literatures, and cultures, law, leadership and public health
  • Participates in COIL across nations, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and Venezuela
  • Engages and partners widely on virtual exchange advocacy, grant, assessment, global goals and social justice initiatives
Why should I participate in COIL as an instructor or student?

COIL is about intercultural and global learning.

  • Students produce cross-cultural and/or trans-cultural knowledge as peer global citizens.

  • Students' communities, experiences and voices are valued.

  • Everyone confronts some biases about the world, themselves and others.

COIL is about engaging in:

  • Active and applied learning

  • Authentic projects and interactions

  • Collective decision-making and problem-solving with a purpose

COIL is about student success.

  • Students leverage global team-based learning and project-based learning.

  • Students practice critical digital literacy, conflict, and time management.

  • Students develop 21st century global workforce skills and global citizenship.

Step 1: Reflect on COIL as Pedagogy

Model: Visit SUNY's Intro to COIL webpage and its COIL website, and review this webpage.

Goals: There are many reasons and approaches to participate in COIL. What do you want a COIL intervention to do for student learning outcomes (SLOs), teaching, research, curriculum and departmental priorities?

Time: COIL often consists of five to eight weeks of project-based learning on global teams, incorporating icebreakers, timely evaluation and reflection. What time do you have in your course? What is manageable and will make an impact? Academic Calendars vary widely so be prepared for that. 

Communication & Flexibility: Professors model engaging and equitable interactions for their students. Enter the process open to your partner’s COIL goals and ideas, and their student and institutional cultures. Much is gained by navigating versus avoiding this diversity. Inter-disciplinary course pairings (versus seeking exact matches of course topic, level and size) lead to great success. 

Step 2: Ask for Help

Request a consultation from UAlbany’s COIL Coordinators at [email protected]. Reach out for support ASAP, ideally a semester or a few months before your collaboration.

UAlbany’s COIL Coordinators provide on demand "just in time” support, including with:

  • Logistics, such as instructional technology, course attribute coding and onboarding students

  • Coaching, such as student learning outcomes (SLOs), intercultural learning and troubleshooting

Step 3: Find a Partner

 Do you already have a colleague in mind for your COIL partner? If so, great! If not, let us help!

There are many partnering sources, such as research collaborators, university bilateral exchanges, the global COIL network, grant initiatives, and virtual exchange conferences and workshops.

Start off any partnership with a firm foundation. We encourage you to review the SUNY COIL Center's Finding and Building Strong COIL Teaching Partnerships guide.

Once you have a partner, we recommend you meet weekly or biweekly leading up to the collaboration semester and throughout the semester. 

Step 4: Design the COIL Module


Your exciting task is to jointly create a shared online module to insert in your courses and syllabi.

Engage in backwards design, discussing your individual and collective Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) goals for disciplinary and intercultural learning for transforming knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Questions to consider:

  • What meaningful activities will students engage in?
  • What icebreaker, teamwork, and reflection exercises work best for this collaboration?  
  • How will students know what is expected of them?
  • How will guidance and feedback be provided?
  • How will student teams be formed and coached?
  • Where, how, and when will students connect online?
  • How much creative autonomy and professional responsibility will students enjoy? 

UAlbany's COIL Coordinators can provide sample syllabi and resources for aligning your approaches.

We also strongly recommend you read the COIL Readiness Self Assessment.

Additional Guidance on Course Design

Step 5: Request a COIL-ready Classroom

Work with your department's academic scheduler to ensure your class will have the technology, accessibility, size, location and meeting time zones you need to participate in COIL.

Academic schedulers should review the Classroom Preferences page and instructors should review the Classroom Information page on the Registrar's Office website for detailed information.

Step 6: Plan to Meet Virtually

Zoom: Invite your COIL partner and their students to join you on Zoom for synchronous class sessions and student teamwork. For guidance, review Using Zoom with External Collaborators. All participants must have a Zoom account to join a meeting.

Teams: On Microsoft Teams, students can schedule their own meetings without guest users needing to log in.

Other Options: Students often connect for teamwork on WhatsApp or other applications, when permitted and accessible where they live.

Questions to consider when choosing an communication platform with your COIL partner:

  • How can we best balance our teaching goals with students’ learning styles and schedules?

  • How can we leverage the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous activities to engage all students?

  • Which university hosts the platform? Or should the platform and its host be new to both institutions?

  • Is the platform accessible for students with disabilities? Is it free, low bandwidth, universally designed and authorized for use by all students?

  • What communication features does the platform offer? Consider the need for live transcription, translation tools and other features.

  • How will student data security guidelines applying to UAlbany (FERPA) & your COIL partner’s university (such as GDPR in the European Union) affect your selection? Note how policies apply to communication platforms. Determine whether students can self-select, sign up via email and choose their names.

Step 7: Prepare Students & Safeguard their Privacy
  • Consult with UAlbany's COIL Coordinators on strategies for student orientation and onboarding, securing informed consent, and building excitement for the COIL process, projects and products. 

  • Contact [email protected] to ensure your course will be coded as COIL, so students can search for it using the Schedule of Classes.

  • Feature the COIL module prominently in your syllabus.

  • Award course credit for COIL activities. COIL should not be for extra credit.

  • Provide rubrics that reward students for the process as much as the products of COIL.

  • Offer a student orientation to COIL, introducing the what, why and how.

  • Solicit and respond to student feedback throughout the semester.

  • Troubleshoot concerns with your COIL partner first. Then ask [email protected] for help.

  • Review all student data security guidelines applying to UAlbany (FERPA) & your COIL partner’s university (such as GDPR in the European Union). Note how policies apply to virtual learning and any planned student photos or video captures.

Participate in COIL as a Student

COIL allows students from two or more universities and countries to team up online for projects as part of their coursework.

Use the Schedule of Classes to find COIL courses.

Benefits of Participating in COIL

Participating in COIL will help you acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes to advance your academic and professional goals, including:

  • Knowledge: Inter-disciplinary global learning, real-world problem-solving and digital literacy

  • Skills: Remote work on diverse global teams, active listening, project management and trans-cultural presentation

  • Attitudes: Equitable collaboration, perspective-taking, empathy and cultural humility

What to Expect from a COIL Course
  • A free online module lasting for part of a semester course

  • An icebreaker followed by a joint project and reflection, for credit and a grade

  • Engaging blend of synchronous and asynchronous on learning and social media platforms (such as Zoom and WhatsApp)

  • Group teamwork, co-creating new knowledge and class-to-class wide discussions

  • Teammates speaking multiple languages and living in different time zones

How to Be Successful in a COIL Course
  • Follow your professors’ leads and look forward to this exciting journey 

  • Embrace the benefits and challenges of teamwork in diverse learning communities

  • Treat everyone and their ideas with respect

  • Approach new digital platforms and projects with curiosity and confidence 

  • Practice flexibility with meeting times, connectivity issues and changes  

Student Testimonials

"In my major, global leadership is at the forefront, which is why I was so excited to take this course, which allowed me, in real time, to connect with students, not only from Germany but from around the world, and to expand upon language and culture and communication skills that are necessary for emerging young leaders." — UAlbany Leadership student, 2021

"The virtual international course helped me meet new people and broaden my horizons. Through collaboration, I learned new ways of thinking which was very inspiring. I think that a pure theory course is not that effective, but when you experiment with other students, present your results in the course, and explain the procedure, it increases the learning process. This activity has encouraged me to learn more about the German culture, education system, and the prevailing industry there, and to travel to Germany to see my new classmates." — UAlbany Engineering student, 2021

"Starting my studies, I was wondering what it would be like to work in the future with colleagues or business partners from other countries while speaking English. Getting to be a part of the COIL-project gave me a taste of what that would be like. At the end of our group work we all agreed on how much fun we had getting to know each other. We really liked working together and have invited each other to visit our cities and to spend some time together one day." — Berlin School of Economics and Law student, 2021

Contact UAlbany's COIL Coordinators

UAlbany has two COIL Coordinators: Dr. Annette Richie and Dr. Sharon Hope. You can also contact us at [email protected].