"COIL (Collaborative Online Intercultural Learning) a.k.a. Globally Connected Teaching and Learning, a.k.a. International Virtual Education" 37 posts Sort by created date Sort by defined ordering View as a grid View as a list

Zoom in, Zoom out

I have used this activity for years in language and linguistics classrooms (face to face) and have found it very useful for getting learners to a more complex understanding of culture when their minds automatically jump to differences at the level of national culture. It translates extremely well to the online context, either synchronous or asynchronous, and would be perfect for preparation for COIL because it gets people beyond thinking of nations as monolithic wholes represented by their peer counterparts.

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This is a great activity for learners who need to know more about micro-aggressions (specifically those encountered by Asians and Asian-Americans in a higher education context) and how to counter them. I did it recently online with staff, but it could easily be used for students as well. It is a great mix of theory and practice, includes multimedia, and ends with a useful discussion of cultural humility.

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Video of Forum EA 2020 Conference Session

Big thanks to the Forum on EA for helping us (myself and Drs. Jennifer Wiley and Carine Ullom) make this recent conference presentation available to the public. 

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Forum EA's Guide to Online Global Learning

Just out from the Forum on Education Abroad is this introductory guide for international education professionals and faculty interested in COIL, virtual exchange, and other forms of online global learning. I was happy to contribute content to this guide and am excited to see it available to the public now!

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Looking for evidence of COIL effectiveness?

Carine Ullom, a colleague at the University of Ottawa, sent me the link to this recent large scale longitudinal study that documents the impact of virtual exchange on learner development in teacher education programs in Europe. 

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Virtual Options for Intercultural Learning

I recently created this table to encourage Purdue faculty and staff to explore virtual alternatives to more traditional ways they may have previously engaged students in intercultural learning. I hope it is inspiring!

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Looking to embed existing modules into your course?

I highly recommend the modules offered by CoreCollaborative International in collaboration with Crossing Borders Education. They use an innovative method and evidence-based best practices and have been demonstrated with research at Glasgow University to be highly effective in engaging students (increasing retention of elective course participants from 40-95%). 

Some excerpts from student comments in the Glasgow study:

  • The group that I was allocated to were from different backgrounds. We shared our fears, goals and we even opened up and talked about our daily issues. I felt as if I knew the other students before.

  • The workshop yesterday was particularly emotional, as every participant in my group was able to open up its heart, to share its deepest feelings, fears and hopes without fear of being judged. Furthermore, the topics addressed offered an opportunity to reflect and practice immediately, offering a new perspective on things: for example, much has been said about women feeling unsafe around men at times, which made me reflect on how my behaviour could have, at times, been misinterpreted as “threatening” or “source of anxiety”. 

As is obvious from these student comments, through these modules, learners share in meaningful peer learning across difference. The modules use an innovative patent-pending methodology that encourages participants to engage interactively with peers in transformative learning activities and discussions. The "Virtual Fishbowl Process" is based on a four-step Modeling-Reflection-Dialogue-Debriefing paradigm. 

Embedding this module within existing courses supports campus comprehensive internationalization and campus climate improvement initiatives, as it connects students of different backgrounds both locally and abroad. The intercultural learning material is relevant across many disciplines, with content that is applicable to courses on many different topics. Group sizes are flexible, and instructors can facilitate the content themselves or outsource that mentoring to highly skilled facilitators.

The duration of the stereotypes module is 10 hours (3 weeks of micro-lessons and facilitated small group meetings). The cost, which can be covered by an institution or passed on to students as a "textbook" or "lab" fee, is $75 per student. 

The link above takes you to a contact form for more information. See also:



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Virtual Exchange presentation at Forum on Education Abroad 2020

Here are the slides from my recent Forum on Education Abroad presentation with Jen Wiley (James Madison University) and Carine Ullom (Ottawa University). 

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Resources for Virtual Exchange

This link sends you to a Google Doc compiled by Dr. Carine Ullom, Associate Dean of Instructional Innovation at Ottawa University that contains a very comprehensive and well-organized list of resources for COIL/VE/GCTL. She kindly shared this with the public at a recent presentation I did with her at the virtual Forum on Education Abroad conference. 

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Forum on Education Abroad Webinar on Virtual Exchange

Mary Lou Forward, Executive Director of the SUNY COIL center, and I recently (April 2, 2020) facilitated a webinar on Virtual Exchange for the Forum on Education Abroad's free "Response to COVID-19" series.  The video and slides are both permanently available free from the Forum website: www.forumea.org/webinars. This presentation gives a basic intro to virtual exchange, provides three models of virtual exchange along with examples of each, discusses the process of developing a VE, and links to a wealth of training opportunities and resources. 

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Intentionality with Social Presence

One of the challenges of COIL is to support connection and relationships between participants. Like intercultural competence development, we can't count on it to happen on its own naturally without careful planning. I found the tips on fostering social presence and interaction on Brigham Young University's site helpful for the Virtual Exchange context. Starting with icebreakers to help learners get to know each other and continuing throughout the course with best practices in relationship development and maintenance, social presence should be a constant in COIL instructor course design!

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Florida International University resource page for Global Learning

Stephanie Dorscher at FIU has put together a useful resource page for faculty engaging in COIL or Virtual Exchange. She has posted sample activities, recommended strategies, sources of information, and more.

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YouTube Ethnography Project

While it was originally designed for study abroad pre-departure courses, Anthony Ogden's YouTube Ethnography Project is easily adaptable to a COIL context. Here is what I would do: 

1. Put COIL students in diverse pairs or small groups. 

2. Have them complete Step 1, creating their own videos. Alternately, they could find existing videos that represent their own culture(s). 

3. Instead of framing their ethnographic research on YouTube as trying to under their host culture, have them search for and analyze videos related to the culture of their diverse teammates, including the videos those learners have already posted. 

4. Team members can serve as cultural informants for each other, responding to conclusions drawn in the ethnographies when they are presented to the group.

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Interviewing Siri

This activity is a fun way to engage the digital native generation in critical thinking. It could easily be done asynchronously in a virtual exchange or COIL setting - simply give the instructions, have learners complete the activity alone or in pairs and write reflections on their findings, and then debrief in a discussion board. The debriefing could occur in a synchronous discussion if you prefer. 

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Annette Benson's collection of Tools for Online Learning

HubICL manager Annette Benson has created a very robust (nearly a hundred posts, last time I looked) collection of activities that translate well to virtual platforms. For those of you overwhelmed by the number of options in the HubICL toolbox or in need of guidance about what works/doesn't work online rather than in person, this is a great starting point to find appropriate tools. Don't forget to always align your choices with your intended learning outcomes! 

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Katherine Yngve's collection of online intercultural 'courses'

If you are looking for a self-contained program of study out there that you could send learners to or incorporate into a course or training program of your own, Katherine Yngve has some suggestions for you in a HubICL collection called Online Intercultural Learning Curriculum Options.

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Prepping English-speakers for English-medium interactions with non-native speakers

Many COIL experiences use English as the medium of instruction, with a mix of native and non-native English speakers participating. In some cases, it's a good idea to prepare the native English-speakers for these interactions by helping them to understand what non-native speakers may be experiencing. Redundancia is a very effective (though not free) empathy-building activity that is a great way to make native speakers more aware of the power dynamics that privilege their own contributions to discussions and more willing to be accommodating listeners in COIL/international virtual education interactions with non-native speakers. Another option - and this can be done with the whole group, not just the native speakers - is to watch a relevant film clip from the Crossing Borders Education film, "The Dialogue" (#3 of the list of clips linked above - "On speaking a foreign language") and extract lessons from it in a debriefing discussion.

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Encouraging students to be open to "hard-to-pronounce" names of their counterparts in COIL

CILMAR Intercultural Learning Specialist Florence Adibu has recommended this reading to prep students for interacting with others whose names they may perceive to be "hard". She writes (in a review of the Name Game activity):

Consider reading this article about the importance of having an attitude of curiosity when learning unfamiliar names. "Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren't "Hard," They're "Unpracticed": "It's time to change the conversation around 'difficult' names."

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Perspective taking - before, during, or after COIL

Imaginative discussion activities such as "If I woke up tomorrow" make great reflective tools for empathy building and the development of capacity for perspective taking. I can see this particular activity being useful before a COIL/international virtual education experience (or in preparation for study abroad), during a program or course - for example when a critical incident occurs that students need help processing - or after an experience such as in a reentry course or debriefing. For COIL, you should probably tailor the activity so that students are perspective taking relevant to other cultural groups involved in the program. For study abroad, target various subgroups of the host culture.

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Guidance for students as they get to know one another

This set of questions might be a good way for pairs or small groups to get to know each other in a COIL/international virtual education experience. I would encourage the use of synchronous meeting platforms so students can talk through their responses with each other. Note that there is the original version with 25 questions and a "mini" activity with only 5, so you have some options in terms of how much time you want to devote to the activity. If asynchronous communication is your only option, consider choosing 1-2 questions a week to jumpstart other discussions, so that group relationships deepen over time.

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Another good prep activity for students with different communication styles

"Pacing" is a great activity for diverse teams to increase the effectiveness of communication and improve team dynamics. We use it often at Purdue both for on-campus courses and in preparation for study abroad (for example with students who prefer turn-taking but will be immersed in a host culture that uses overlapping). When you have a COIL/international virtual education program that will involve students from different communication styles, this activity would be very good preparation for students. I recommend doing with with all groups of students involved in a program in person before the experience begins rather than trying to adapt it to an online medium. 

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A cultural values activity for diverse groups - The Parable

We use this often on Purdue's campus in classes and programs that include a good mix of domestic and international students. If you are looking for an activity to encourage deep conversation about cultural values in diverse groups of students, this is a good pick. For this reason, I think it would work well with COIL/international virtual education (though I have never personally tried it in this context). Because it requires coming to a consensus as a group in multiple "rounds" of conversation, I think it would work much better with synchronous online discussions than spread over a longer time period asynchronously. Regardless of if you do this in person or online, pay close attention to the Notes tab, since there are multiple versions of the activity available for download and each has its advantages/disadvantages.

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Collection of assignments in Purdue's online intercultural mentoring course for long-term study abroad students

I think the assignments in this course are of particular interest to COIL instructors and international virtual education program developers because they are already adapted or were even originally designed for online use in distance learning. However, keep in mind that many of them are currently meant for individual use by students. If you want to use them with small groups, you'll need to alter some of the instructions. Big thanks to Dr. Dan Jones of CILMAR for collecting these resources together for easy access by  HubICL users.

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Intercultural Learning Outcomes - the AAC&U VALUE rubrics

The American Association of Colleges and Universities have created over the past decade or more a set of 16 rubrics referred to as the VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) - yes, higher education does love its acronyms. These rubrics are great tools both for choosing concrete learning outcomes and for measuring growth or achievement related to those outcomes. The two rubrics in the set that are most relevant to intercultural learning are: Intercultural Knowledge and Competence and Global Learning. The HubICL Toolbox is of course searchable by the 6 elements of the first of these two rubrics (the intercultural one): self-awareness, worldview frameworks, verbal/nonverbal communication skills, empathy, openness, and curiosity.

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Another idea to find more resources - search for tags

In addition to simply searching the Toolbox for relevant learning outcomes to your COIL programs/courses, you  might try going to the Discover menu above, choosing Tags, and searching for key words there. One advantage to this method is that it connects you with items in every area of the HubICL, not just the Toolbox. Also, you can snowball via tags - if you have found something interesting, try clicking on one of its tags (usually located at the top of the screen) to see everything else in the HubICL that shares that same tag.

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A good activity for pre-COIL orientation

D-I-E (Describe, Interpret, Evaluate) is an oldie but a goodie with an unfortunate name! When preparing students for study abroad or a COIL/international virtual education experience, it can be very effective to do this activity in an orientation. It provides essential perspective-taking skills by making students aware of the cultural lenses through which they are interpreting and evaluating events and experiences, and then providing them with an analytical process for examining their assumptions and gut reactions and imagining (or asking for) alternate interpretations and evaluations from other cultural perspectives. 

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Working on communication skills

This activity is great for improving communication in diverse teams. More direct versus more indirect communication styles can be an issue in COIL/international virtual education as people with different cultural norms interact online. It might be helpful to talk explicitly about this difference in communication styles and help students practice "code-switching".  I would assign this in small groups or pairs with members of different cultural groups; they probably need to do the activity synchronously, especially if they include a role play. Some important points to emphasize: 1) there is no inherent hierarchy here, with one style always better than the other; 2) this is not a binary but a spectrum; 3) the same statement can be perceived as direct by some people and indirect by others - context matters!

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Empathy building reflective activity

Scenery, Machinery, People is an activity that we have been using at Purdue in various contexts - it seems really effective for encouraging self-reflection and empathy for others. In COIL/international virtual education as well as in study abroad, I think it makes students more aware of how they are treating others (and how that feels). To modify it for COIL, you could either assign a pre-reading or give instructions with the powerpoint in a synchronous meeting. Debriefing can be in groups via discussion board or individually in a reflective writing assignment. You'll want to be sure to focus discussion or reflective writing on the COIL experience via effective prompts, such as: when operating unthinkingly on "auto-pilot", when might you be in danger of treating others involved in this COIL experience as scenery? as machinery? how would you feel if others place you in that category? how can we intentionally work to treat each other as people in this course/program? how will this be beneficial?

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Classic research that is still useful - with precautions!

This interactive online tool that allows users to explore cultural values in country comparisons based on Geert Hofstede's classic research works well for both COIL/virtual international education and preparation for study abroad. However, instructors really need to take care not to create or reinforce cultural stereotypes by dealing only with these aggregate means. It is so important to treat the research on this website as a starting point for discussion of within group variation and getting to know individuals in other cultures. For COIL, for example, you might assign students to explore a country comparison with the groups involved in the course/project and then to discuss among themselves questions such as: what did you think about the way your country was represented - does it apply well to you personally? did anyone have the experience of not being represented (your country is not listed)? in what contexts do you think this research leads to accurate expectations, and when would it be misleading for anyone relying on this information about your national culture? are their subgroups in your country that are strikingly different from these overall trends? based only on the website, what conflicts might be predicted among students in this COIL experience? now that you have more nuanced understandings of each other as individuals, do you think those predictions will hold true? what can you do as a group to manage conflicts and misunderstandings now that you have this information?

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More media possibilities - documentaries from Crossing Borders Education

There are several excellent recent documentaries from CBE that work well to prep students for intercultural interactions, helping them to develop more self-awareness, openness, and empathy. These include the films "Crossing Borders" and "The Dialogue"

I really like these documentaries for both pre-departure for traditional study abroad and for COIL/international virtual education experiences. Watching and then discussing this film allows students to open up and be vulnerable about their own processes of becoming more aware of the cultural stereotypes they have of others as they prepare to interact more intimately through immersion or online interaction. If you don't have access to the whole film through your institution, cannot afford to purchase a copy, or simply want to use shorter film clips as part of a dialogue or written reflection activity, there are several excerpts available for free streaming from the Crossing Borders Education website. 

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Looking for media to incorporate into COIL? I like "Danger of a Single Story"

This is a great short (<20 min) video to incorporate into a COIL course if you are trying to get students to complicate their understandings of the members of other groups as well as work on self-awareness of their own stereotypes and preconceptions of others. For international virtual education, I would modify this activity by assigning the video to watch individually beforehand and then providing prompts for either synchronous or asynchronous discussion among students. Small or large groups both work. I would add some debriefing questions that apply the concepts in the video to the COIL context and the particular groups represented. For example: what stories are told of the places/peoples in the COIL group? who tells those stories? what are the limitations of understanding others in the COIL experience just on those stories? what stories do students wish out-group members could hear about their cultural groups? 

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RESOURCE - Kansai University's IIGE

The Institute for Innovative Global Education is another leader on the world stage for COIL. They are especially committed to documenting with rigorous research the effectiveness of COIL and COIL + study abroad combinations of various kinds for intercultural competence development. See their website for more information on virtual education conferences, publications, sample course syllabi, and more. 

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The BEVI - a common way to assess COIL

One of the quantitative instruments most commonly used to assess intercultural learning outcomes in COIL is the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory. Several large scale government supported projects are using the BEVI. See http://www.kansai-u.ac.jp/Kokusai/IIGE/resources/BEVI-COIL.php for more information as one example of these research efforts.

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SUNY (the State University of New York system) is one of the pioneers of international virtual exchange in the US and the world. See their website for resources, conference information, publications, and more.

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The Name Game - A great icebreaker for COIL

This is another way for students in a COIL experience to get to know each other with an added cultural layer to the introductions. You'll need to modify it for a virtual setting. I think it works well to put 1-2 students from each university in a group together to exchange the stories of their naming in asynchronous discussions. 

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Voices from the Past - Great icebreaker for COIL that digs deep into cultural knowledge

I think this icebreaker is a great way to move beyond students in each group learning each others' names to a deep exploration of cultural values expressed in sayings heard during childhood/youth.  For COIL, the activity needs to be modified to utilize either a synchronous virtual setting or an asynchronous discussion board type setting. The latter seems to work better in my experience. In this case, you would ask each student to post the information the activity asks them to put on a name card, and then follow up with questions and comments for their classmates. 

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