About COIL

What | Why | How | History

Home | Getting Started | UAlbany CoursesTools & Resources | Students | Contact

What is COIL

COIL is an innovative method of teaching and learning developed and promoted by the SUNY COIL Center which leverages online technologies to deliver global learning and intercultural experiences in the classroom.

The COIL model expands global learning opportunities to a greater numbers of UAlbany students. It is an innovative pedagogy involving collaborative teaching and learning in two or more countries facilitated by online communication. Faculty from U.S. institutions collaborate with counterpart at institutions abroad to develop a joint syllabus, and students in the two countries then work together to complete assignments that meet shared learning objectives.

A COIL experience is a lesson in academic content, as well as intercultural communication and collaboration, for students and faculty alike.

COIL by Another Name

COIL is not always referred to as COIL, especially abroad. Other names for COIL include:

  • Globally Networked Learning (GNL)
  • Collaborative Online Learning
  • Virtual Learning Communities Virtual Learning Networks
  • Virtual Exchange
  • Virtual Student Mobility

COIL has pedagogical roots in a variety of disciplines. Among them:

  • Asynchronous Learning Networks
  • Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)
  • Foreign Language Education


COIL is one of the many ways universities can internationalize the curriculum.

The COIL model as a cost-effective, accessible, and scalable method for delivering global learning and intercultural experience to greater numbers of U.S. students, particularly the 90% of U.S. undergraduates who do not participate in education abroad.

Colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and worldwide have incorporated the COIL approach as part of a comprehensive internationalization strategy. The method enhances teaching and learning, as well as facilitates transformative international partnerships with faculty and higher education institutions around the world.

Perhaps the greatest affordance of a virtual classroom is the ability to transcend geographic boundaries in an efficient, cost-effective way. A COIL experience allows students to collaborate beyond the constraints of time and space, as well as interact with individuals from other cultures while remaining on campus. Course discussion can be enriched by the diversity in opinions, experiences, and cultures of the individuals, which brings deeper insight and awareness to intercultural issues.

Why You Should COIL

  • Your students, and even you, will likely see gains in intercultural awareness and understanding
  • You may develop new international partnerships or attract international students to study in your program
  • Your students will be better prepared and more oriented when participating in education experiences abroad
  • Your students can learn about the discipline from another perspective
  • It will enhance your students intercultural communication skills when working with non-native English speakers, or when collaborating in diverse groups
  • It will generate a dynamic and affordable curricular internationalization trajectory in your department, school, or college
  • It will provide you with professional and international development relevant to your teaching and research activities, which can be leveraged in the tenure and promotion process

How Does COIL Work

“Almost any academic course can be enriched by the active participation of students from another culture… the most fruitful avenues of interaction must be identified, developed, and then integrated into the course syllabus…” - SUNY COIL Center

COIL is not a technology platform or set of virtual tools, rather it is an educational methodology that combines technology and classroom learning across geographic boundaries. Importantly, it does not require the investment in professional video conferencing equipment or expensive software.

There are many ways to conduct a COIL experience. In general, it involves connecting two or more classes of similar content offered at two universities in two different countries. Students remain enrolled in their own courses, at their own institutions. Working together, the faculty design one or more course modules in a way that connects the two different student populations. Often, the two groups of students have to work together to discuss course materials, solve a problem of practice, or produce another type of grade-able product. Collaboration may occur synchronously (in real time) or asynchronous (not in real time) and students may connect via email, voice, video, or in some combination.

The COIL experience usually lasts between one to two months. Sometimes, a course with a COIL component includes a short-term education abroad experience.

Guiding Questions We Can Ask Ourselves

  • We both have business students and want to strengthen our programs and our internationalization efforts.
  • How does learning about “X” in another country help us become better (learners/linguists/educators/geologists/musicians/etc.) in the U.S. (and vice versa)?
  • Where can we take our course(s) from here?

History of the SUNY COIL Center

In 2004, The Office of International Programs (OIP) and the Office of Learning Environments (OLE) at SUNY System Administration began the Cross National Project (CNP), in an effort to help to develop more online courses with an international dimension throughout SUNY. The idea was to work with faculty across SUNY to develop courses that would be team taught with a partner abroad and would enroll students both from SUNY campuses and from the partner institution. The CNP goals were drafted in 2004, and later served as a basis for the mission of the SUNY COIL Center.