Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

What is COIL?

Collaborative Online Intercultural Learning (COIL) is an innovative approach to fostering global competence through development of a multicultural learning environment that links classes in different countries.

Using various communication technologies, the model involves in-depth cooperation between paired faculty co-designing parts of courses (to entire courses) and students collaborating in small groups to complete shared projects. One of the hallmarks of COIL is the intentional facilitation of intercultural connections and competence/skill development between the students.


COIL is an important teaching/learning initiative that addresses many of the VIU Strategic Plan, VIU Academic Plan and Graduate Outcomes by aims to enhancing learning and teaching to support the development of global citizens.

Participating in a COIL project provides students with skills and confidence to enter the global, multicultural, and digitally competent workforce. In particular, students who participate in COIL:

  • Build intercultural skills
  • Develop global literacy skills
  • Develop digital literacy skills
  • Apply their classroom learning through relevant, project based experiences
  • Gain global work experience

COIL is an excellent example of a High Impact Practice (HIP) in teaching and learning that may result in:

  • Enhanced student retention and persistence - especially for traditionally underserved students
  • Higher student grades
  • Higher order learning: meta cognition and critical thinking skills
  • Enhanced intercultural effectiveness and openness to diversity
  • Developing socially responsible leadership and civic engagement

Benefits of COIL

COIL produces meaningful, authentic, international experiences for faculty and students with minimal expense.

  • For students, COIL increases interest in study abroad
  • For faculty, COIL increases international faculty collaboration and future short-term exchanges
  • For everyone, COIL intentionally fosters the development of the intercultural competencies that are needed for success in today's competitive global economy and labour market
  • For everyone, COIL provides an opportunity for reciprocity in learning and teaching allowing us to deepen our relationship with international colleagues and students

COIL also presents a unique opportunity to advance our collective work in the area of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion by creating opportunities for all students to engage with global learning and an opportunity to develop intercultural competencies regardless of student or faculty ability to physically travel abroad.

Further, COIL is considered a key strategy to engage with diverse partners internationally by creating meaningful intercultural dialogues and connections between students, faculty and international partners without the need for carbon intensive international air travel.  VIU is committed to advancing the work of Sustainability Development Goals (SDG’s), in particular Climate Action, and COIL creates opportunities to do so.

COIL Collaboration Basics

Hallmarks of COIL include:

  • Two or more classrooms collaborating
  • Students work directly with each other on a project
  • Shared intercultural outcomes by international counterparts
  • Increased international cooperation and interest between faculty and students
  • Grade credited by respective institutions
  • Use of freely available or commonly used technology

Over a period of 6-12 months, faculty leaders at both institutions collaborate in the design of the COIL project taking into account the following:

  • Academic levels of students in both cohorts
  • Duration of the project (minimum 4 weeks)
  • Alignment of assessment requirements between the two institutions
  • Determine best collaboration platform for students to use

A COIL curriculum component may be a student project that takes as little as four weeks and can take a variety of forms that provide real life experience and highlight potential global issues. Examples include:

  • Marketing or business plan
  • Research
  • Service learning
  • Direct work with a local or global company from two or more country perspectives

External Institutional Partners and Faculty

Faculty may choose to work with colleagues from their existing international networks or may seek support from VIU International Education to identify new international partners for COIL. For faculty looking for partnership ideas, a good place to start is our current roster of Bi-Lateral Exchange or international cooperation partners.

Learn about VIU's current exchange partner institutions.

Need help identifying a collaborator?  Education Abroad can help! Complete the COIL Collaboration Proposal and submit to or liaise directly with your colleagues around the world!

COIL Collaboration Proposal

Additional COIL Resources

Need Help?

  • Curriculum design/redesign, Assessment, on-line learning tech support: VIU Centre for Experiential Learning (