The ability to understand and work with people from other cultures is an important skill for students to develop in our globally interconnected and interdependent world. In this episode, Josh McKeown, Jessica Harris, and Minjung Seo join us to discuss how online collaborative learning projects can help students develop intercultural competencies. Josh is the Associate Provost for International Education and Programs at SUNY Oswego. Jessica is an Assistant Professor and Minjung is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness, also at SUNY Oswego.
- SUNY COIL Center
- The Hague University of Applied Science
- Global and International Studies
- Harris, J. M., Seo, M., & McKeown, J. S. (2021). Global Competency Through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL).
John: The ability to understand and work with people from other cultures is an important skill for students to develop in our globally interconnected and interdependent world. In this episode, we discuss how online collaborative learning projects can help students develop intercultural competencies.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…
Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners..
Rebecca: Our guests today are Josh McKeown, Jessica Harris, and Minjung Seo. Josh is the Associate Provost for International Education and Programs at SUNY Oswego. Jessica is an Assistant Professor and Minjung is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness, also at SUNY Oswego. Welcome!
Josh: Thank you.
Jessica: Welcome. Thank you for having us.
John: Today’s teas are… Josh, are you drinking tea this time?
Josh: I did promise you guys my second time on the show, so this time I actually have tea. It’s late afternoon. So I’m having decaf green tea this afternoon.
Rebecca: That sounds good, Josh. I just got a huge shipment of my Scottish afternoon tea. So I’ve got to bring you some.
Josh: Oh, thank you.
Jessica: I’m not as fun as Josh but I do have my watermelon-flavored water today. [LAUGHTER]
Minjung: I have coffee. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: We’ve got the spectrum.
John: And coffee is a fairly common tea on the podcast. Watermelon-flavored water is a little bit less common. I think that’s the first.
Jessica: [LAUGHTER] It’s different.
John: And I have Prince of Wales tea today.
Rebecca: And I have Scottish afternoon, I think. I think I’m still drinking that. [LAUGHTER]
Josh: There must be some great health benefits to drinking watermelon juice. Right, Jessica?
Jessica: Yeah, my water intake, just trying to keep up with getting my daily ounces in. So that’s why I’m having that right now.
Rebecca: All of my ounces come in pots of tea.
Jessica: Pots of tea. It works. Yeah, definitely.
Rebecca: So we invited you here today to discuss a Collaborative Online International Learning Course, or a COIL course, that you ran at the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, involving students and faculty in the U.S. and in the Netherlands. First, can you guys describe what a COIL course is?
Josh: Sure. I’ll take that one first. So COIL is an acronym. It stands for Collaborative Online International Learning, COIL. And COIL is, I’m going to estimate, about 10 or 12 years old as a academic concept. And COIL actually is a term that originated in SUNY. It was started by a Professor of Theater at SUNY Purchase College who was working on a… I guess a distance education, co-taught experience with a colleague, I believe in Belarus, and it has grown from there. Now COIL is used almost everywhere, you see the term COIL, C-O-I-L, almost everywhere, but it has a SUNY start. But what it has done is created, I think, a way for faculty members and students in different countries to collaborate in meaningful, rigorously constructed ways without traveling to visit each other. And that’s really the core of it. International education has been synonymous with mobility, both student mobility and faculty mobility, meaning crossing borders. But when COIL emerged, looking back on it, I think it was a time when technology was making it possible, not necessarily easy, and I think they’ll talk about that, but possible to collaborate. And so this course is an example, and they’ll talk about this specific course, I know a little bit about its origins. But it’s got to have faculty commitment. And that’s something which, as the Senior International Officer at SUNY Oswego, I can comment on, this is… I won’t denigrate any other and say, “This is the best example of a COIL course that I’ve seen at SUNY Oswego,” but it is at least among the best, and it’s because of the commitment made when Minjung first formed a relationship, brought Jessica along later to co-teach it, and they’ll tell you about the details. But without those two I don’t think it would have been successful.
John: And we do have a bit of a history. We’ve been offering them here for about 9 or 10 years, almost from the very beginning of the COIL program.
Josh: But it’s hard to get traction for a COIL course, relatively speaking, and our experience at Oswego has been, it is sometimes difficult for faculty members to conceive of it and implementing it’s even harder.
Rebecca: Can you tell us a little bit about the course that you were teaching that incorporated COIL?
Jessica: Yeah, so particularly Minjung and I have been teaching this COIL course in our HSC 448: Health Promotion Program Planning course. It’s one of the core courses within our wellness management major. And this course was chosen, really, because thinking about health education and health educators, there is part of our competencies where students actually have to have cultural competency, they have to have those global interactions. So this felt like the perfect course to kind of house this COIL experience in. And we collaborated with another institution known as The Hague University of Applied Sciences from the Nutrition and Dietetics program in the Netherlands. The underlying motivation was to get students from both of these countries, our students as well as the Netherlands, gain the cultural competence, but also offer this global perspective in the field of health promotion and wellness, while utilizing the skills that we teach in program planning. Another thing to note is that this particular institution in the Netherlands, this course that they do, they also have those skills that they’re teaching. So it really helped the whole collaboration, because we were all on the same page in regards to the skill sets needed. But it also gave our students here at SUNY Oswego the opportunity to see… What does another country do when it comes to needs assessments? How do they implement programs? How do they deal with clients and patients? And I think that’s particularly important in today’s society, how we’re seeing a lot more things start to go global, a lot more telehealth and virtual conversations. So I think that was very important, but specifically with health educators, we have that duty and responsibility within our code in our background to make sure that we’re creating opportunities for collaborative experiences and having that global awareness. So this course particularly was program planning.
John: Could you tell us a little bit more about the actual collaborative assignments that were used in the class?
Jessica: Yeah, so one of the first activities that we have is introducing the students to each other as well as the two instructors. In the classroom, we had our institution from the Netherlands as well as our students via… it was Skype actually, at the time before Zoom became the place to go before COVID. We had both instructors there, as well as all the students, and we kind of did an icebreaker section. They went around and introduced themselves and gave a unique fact about them. We then talked about what the pairs would be, because they were paired with another student from that institution for this six week COIL project that we had. And we kind of laid the land. We talked a little bit about… what are the activities they’re going to be participating in, the final project, which really was looking at nutrition and physical activity in the two cultures. And in that first session, that’s where they then met their partner, and they started to talk about how they were going to, with technology, work with each other outside of the classroom for the rest of the six weeks. Partly then after that, they started to work together on their own, independently, after that first meeting. They would use different technologies such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Snapchat, just all kinds of different software and applications. And they were discussing different things such as predisposing and reinforcing and enabling factors of behavior, because they were looking at analyzing the differences regarding diet patterns and physical activities between the two cultures. And ultimately, they were trying to think of how they would look at planning a program in those different areas. And part of that exchange, they would come with government health guidelines from both countries, environmental factors. They would start to show photos and videos of where they lived and the differences. Which for our students was really eye opening, because this is the first experience that they’ve had, some of them, where they were able to meet someone from a different country and see even just what the school system was like, what their day-to-day was like. So those meetings were really influential for them. But over the course of those six weeks, they were ultimately trying to plan that program, and aid in behavior change for their targets, and their audiences that they were working with within the classroom.
John: What was the final product that they created in these groups?
Jessica: So it was a 10 slide PowerPoint, and within that PowerPoint, they had different activities and videos embedded in there about what their collaborations were one-on-one with their partners. So we had some students that were sharing video within their target audience of how they were doing behavior change. So it was a way for them to submit to our Blackboard shell, because we housed it within the SUNY Oswego shell, and it was an easier way for a lot of the students to collaborate. More recently, in this past spring semester, we had video, where they collaborated on a video together, they did it via Zoom, where they actually did the presentation via video. So we’ve changed it up over a few of the semesters based on feedback and what’s feasible for both of the students and technology-wise. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten in the past regarding the COIL course is there’s time difference. So that can play a major role in how the students plan their interactions, what type of technologies they use, and how they go about the assignments. So there’s been different flexibility, there’s been different times where maybe students weren’t able to collaborate as much. Some were based on what their schedules were with the class and outside of the class as well. So that’s been interesting to see how our students have navigated and problem solved in that way.
Rebecca: For these projects to be successful obviously requires a strong collaboration across cultures and across continents in this case. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed a relationship with your faculty partner in the Netherlands?
Minjung: So to facilitate relationship building and collaboration, we met regularly through Zoom meetings and stay in contact, to plan ahead for the following year and updating the materials and content to keep current with global health issues. In the beginning, we started with physical activity and nutrition behavior focus, and then it started in 2018, and our first implementation of COIL product was 2019. So it’s been like four years, and in the beginning, we focus on physical activity and nutrition behavior, comparing guidelines, and based on their videos, and the photos and compare/contrast different lifestyles. And then, last year, we were focusing on mental health. We added mental health as well as physical activity and nutrition behavior during COVID. It was interesting, and we added also, the videos as Jessica mentioned, we asked them to create a video presentation. So it was interesting as well. Their technology skills are getting better and better, and so their presentation was excellent. That was very impressive, and also to keep working together with a partner. Doing research together is a really important component as well. So after teaching with the outcome, we work together, analyze data, and do research together. So we’ve been publishing abstracts last semester, and we are going to present international conferences. Well, we got accepted. Jessica, I, and Tonnie, the Netherlands partner, worked together, and that’s another component we work on. And also I think it’s important to gain support from the department as well as the school so that our collaboration flows smoothly. So luckily we have international instructional designers on campus. So we’ve been supported, very supported in creating shells and adding instructors to the Blackboard so that we can post announcements on all the course materials and create Dropbox for assignments. It’s been very smooth. So gaining support is important as well, and also I think providing feedback to students and monitoring their progress with their partners were important components as well so that they gain positive experience from working with international partners and gaining global competence and self efficacy, gaining positive feedback so that we can sustain the program. If it’s not that we can’t continue the program, and my point is not only international partners, but also gaining positive experience from students is important for continuing the program.
Rebecca: Yeah, you bring up some really important components like making sure that all the departmental and college-wide resources are in place, partnership is in place, student success is in place. All those things are so important. So thanks for bringing those up. I know Josh mentioned that you, Minjung, were the one that kind of initiated the relationship with your partner in the Netherlands. Can you tell us a little bit about how that happened?
Minjung: Yes, I met my partner Tonnie at the COIL conference back in 2018. It was held in New York City. John was there too, I remember that. So this COIL conference hosted by SUNY provided the opportunity to network with professors from different countries and share their ideas and current and past experiences of collaborations. It was fantastic. So among potential partners I met and I found Tonnie was a best match with me because her expertise and what she’s been teaching. So she’s been teaching nutrition promotion program utilizing similar framework, theoretical framework, we share different theories and models. I was surprised that she’s been using that tool, and I teach health promotion program planning and implementation courses as well. So we were like, “Oh!” we hit it off. After having good conversation with her and I went back home and created a team drive to put things together, information and idea, and came up with a five week intervention COIL product. And now it’s a six week but we started the five week and the title is still the same title, Health Promotion Across Borders. And we implemented in 2019, and it was successful student feedback and experience the full action was very good. So we are excited and… Why don’t we do it again the next year? And I applied for a faculty travel fund I got from the national program on campus. I flew to Hague University and met Tonnie and her colleagues and talk about the possibility to expand the program. And they were positive and we were able to add more student and more classes. So at that point, my colleague Jessica was invited to our group and Tonnie’s colleague Memon was invited in our group. So four of us start teaching and we collaborated and updated the content and implemented in 2020, 2021, and now 2022.
Rebecca: Those are really exciting developments. I wanted to follow up with Josh a little bit in thinking about how COIL courses help develop and build global competencies and cultural exchanges and how that compares to a traditional international experience.
Josh: Yeah, that’s a great question. From my point of view, the potential is there, and I think the results that Jessica and Minjung produced, reveal that. So in their particular study of this, I think they showed, similar to how Jessica was explaining about the course, that if the goal, obviously it should be tied to the course outcomes, right, but if the goal of course is for students to better understand how this subject matter, health promotion wellness, is delivered in a different country, the potential is there with a COIL course. I keep saying potential because, the variables, and we’ve alluded to a couple of those already, technology, when the technology fails, and they probably have some stories that they can share with you. I’ll say though, that when Jessica explained the different technologies they used, I really loved hearing that because in the early days of COIL, one of the biggest complaints or obstacles that we were hearing was that technology wasn’t compatible between the classrooms in the two countries. And so when I hear her describing, they use Skype, they use WhatsApp, they use Zoom, they use Blackboard, they use video and photo sharing, that says to me, they’re doing whatever will work. And so I think one of the possibilities with a COIL course is that students will have the kind of rich interaction guided by expert faculty that can happen on the best run type of faculty-led study abroad experience. The problem comes sometimes in the execution. So if the technology is not working, if the time zones aren’t working to the extent that students are actually able to interact with each other. If faculty are not committed to this project, meaning the assignments perhaps come out, maybe they’re more superficial than they should be, the interaction is not really robust, it’s more just checking a box. Then I think you’re going to get not as good of an outcome. But the way that Minjung and Jessica designed this, it was rigorous. And they were also thrown a pretty big curveball, if I recall, during the COVID semester when it was going to be a COIL class to begin with, but then COVID hit in the middle of semester, and then it became crucial that these interactions continue. I think for the institution as a whole and for others at other institutions that are trying to think about implementing a COIL course, we need to think of it, and I say this as a committed international educator for decades, we need to think of it as a different type of program than a study abroad. And I don’t think we should be thinking about it as better than or worse than, it’s different, it is a different experience. If we go into it with that framework, I think we will have a greater likelihood of success. What’s, I think, crucial to grasp right now in early 2022, and these guys, like I said, they went through it during COVID, is the need for it now is arguably greater than it ever was. We have successfully restarted study abroad at SUNY Oswego, but everyone in the field expects traditional student mobility to be smaller, and, for a time, probably less accessible, given travel restrictions, given additional layers of cost that have been put on top of the experience, from flight prices to insurance mandates to you name it. And so therefore, to provide a global learning experience for all, hopefully that’s what we’re about, that all students have access to a global education, the potential for COIL now I think, is greater than ever. But the design of it and the execution of it have got to be there.
John: But even leaving aside COVID, doesn’t the COIL framework provide an opportunity for students who might not be able to afford international travel to get some level of international competency?
Jessica: Yeah, and that’s one thing too. I actually had one student pulled me aside after we had first went through the experience and had mentioned how important this was for them and how it provided them with an experience they otherwise would have not had, because study abroad is not financially feasible for for them, and they felt like they always wanted to participate in that, but they weren’t going to be able to. So this still gave them that experience, and also a way to kind of foster those relationships with different individuals. And I think one thing that really came out of this the first year I participated in it, spring 2020, was, after spring break, we had went virtual in a sense, and we had students who were telling me, like, “This is a sense of normalcy for me. I like that I’m coming to class, whether it’s still virtual or doing assignments online, but I have my partner.” So the moment that started happening, the public health crisis with COVID-19, they start sharing other things other than physical activity and nutrition. They were talking about, “Well what’s going on over there in Holland?” So there was a lot of bonding going on during that time period, and we saw that come out in their final project. And one thing to note about this whole COIL project is it’s done in small chunks. So at the end, they kind of combine their work, but there’s several assignments throughout the process, where they are doing the photos and video sharing, with the ultimate goal is for them to use skills as health educators and create a program that would be feasible for a target population in their hometown, or wherever they are locally. And those experiences of different techniques of planning, different models that they could use, or theories within health promotion started to come out and our students realized, “Wow, there’s different ways of doing things,” and that was really beneficial for a lot of them. Some of them that we’ve had in final courses, even in internship and things like that, I start to see those skills come out again, and a lot of them are starting to choose experiences or internships that have more of a global aspect to it. So we’re starting to see that it’s getting woven into a lot more than just, “Hey, they took this one course, and it was a COIL course,” but, “These skills are within their life, they’re using them as well.” I think, career wise, employers are looking for that. And we’re preparing our students to have co-workers that they may never meet, because they would be virtual. So I think these experiences are very, very beneficial, and we’ve seen that just in our students who have taken the courses.
Josh: I’ve got to jump in here, Jessica was describing something so elegantly and so concisely that is such a tough nut to crack for so many educators still, and that is a meaningful intercultural development experience. That’s what they’ve created. So the ability for a SUNY Oswego student to understand more about the Dutch education system or the Dutch health delivery system, and vice versa, when they take that to the rest of their classes or to their life and career, that’s what international education is all about. And so the way they’ve presented this, it can come across as being really cut and dry and quite simple to do. It wasn’t. So when Minjung was talking about the partnership building, what I kept thinking about when getting to know this project even better… Since COVID, how many opportunities would there have been for the faculty of the students to just cut bait and drop the whole thing? So many. We all have been Zoom fatigued, we all have been overloaded on technology. And the course was being offered here at SUNY Oswego. They still could have finished the course, taught it, delivered it, and graded students, likewise, in the Netherlands. But they didn’t. And that says to me that the partnership that they developed, sustained, it did involve a personal visit, and that’s even better, the partners were not going to drop it. That’s what it takes to deliver a good COIL course, no matter what the obstacles they see it through. Which you’d have to do if you are leading a study abroad program too, I suppose, you can’t just abandon your students. But with technology and this format, they probably could have and still gotten through the course, but they didn’t. That’s the kind of commitment it takes
Jessica: Yeah, and I think one thing I was surprised about a little bit going into it. I know, building relationships and friendships, but there was some real authentic, genuine friendships that came out of these courses. To this day, students that are connected phone calls, social media wise, and I think also during that time period, thinking about mental health and having somebody that you can talk with and you’re virtually having these experiences with really, really helps some of our students. But those close bonds and conversations, we’ve had one student that actually had or was going to, it didn’t end up happening, but they were going to be visiting their partner. So I think those are authentic experiences outside of just learning the content and cultural competencies, that sometimes those are also the things that the students need out of these types of courses and things like that.
John: Were there any activities you built into the course to help nurture those relationships and to help them develop that sort of connection?
Jessica: Padlet was something that we used. It was a little bit different, and the students used that kind of almost like a discussion. It was more of a fun aspect. That is where we would have questions or certain things to get students to see what others were doing, whether it was on the weekends, or what they were eating for lunch that day, or just simple simple things, because that was one thing that continues to come out of the final evaluation was, they always want more time just to get to know their partner. They’re just so interested in the differences. And we actually just talked about this the other day with our institutional partner in the Netherlands about implementing more of those activities, more of those assignments that really just focus on getting to know your partner. But they also did a little “About Me,” sharing in their first virtual experience, where they came with photos and things like that about where they’re from, family, things like that, which helped foster that. But it really was organic, the students would really find something that they both were interested in, and they kind of go on with that and share on their own in a sense. But we did have areas for discussion portals and things like that, where they started to talk. I think another thing with that is the technology, I think they liked seeing each other face to face more with that. So a lot of them were doing that in their social media or sharing things that way. So that was cool to see them take it outside of just the class learning management system of Blackboard or Padlet, or whatever we were using, that it went into their own personal lives, in a sense.
Rebecca: You’ve talked a lot about the program itself, the six week contained period and the ways that students interacted during that time. What did you do to help set students up for that experience prior to the six week project? And to not only prepare them for the project, but to prepare them to interact with other humans that might have different perspectives?
Jessica: Yeah, so we had a few things that we did. We didn’t start doing, and we normally do this, we start, I think, in February or March, we were starting a little bit later, and so we would already have our students in the class, and so from day one, it was kind of infused. And we would start talking about that we would start looking at different types of things in regards to cultural competency and ways to build cultural competency and awareness and how this experience would be beneficial. But we also talked about… What are some barriers that could happen? How do you navigate around those barriers? So the biggest question is always, like… Well, is English the preferred language? What about the six hour time difference? So we brainstormed, at least in my course, “Okay, so if this happens, what are the resources you have? How are we going to navigate it? And how is this going to work?” So each of my students had set up conversations that they would have with our partner, “If time doesn’t work, this is a portal that we’ll use.” So they all laid out what their communication style was going to be or what type of technology they were going to use. If they hit a barrier, what was the backup plan? So we talked a little bit about that. But we also talked about being anxious, being nervous because they were. And that was a normal feeling, because this was a new experience. And we talked about that as a group. It came out in our very first virtual meeting as two classes as a whole, and we kind of all said it in the beginning, and it broke the ice a little bit, and people started sharing a little bit more about themselves. So those were some of the ways we talked before the course actually started in regards to the COIL part of it, and outlined a game plan. And then the students did that with our partner as well to say, “Okay, if you have a class at this time, what’s the best time we’re going to meet? What’s our preferred mode of communication?” and things like that.
Minjung: So monitoring students and giving feedback, especially in the beginning before we start COIL project, we as a group in the classroom, we talk about COIL, what’s the expectation. We have their preparation session, and they are paired before we do that, so they always have contact information. I recommend them to contact them before we start the project so that they know each other first. And then we have kickoff group session. Last year, we had 80 students together, it was a lot of students and we had almost two hour kickoff session. But in the future, to make it differently, Jessica suggests to have breakout sessions so that student can pair up in a breakout session and get to know one-on-one. So not only talking about the introduction part about, you know, What’s the COIL project is going to be? After talking about that, and breakout room so that they have their own time to chat. So that’s what we’re going to try in this spring semester.
John: Team teaching with other faculty or working on collaborative class activities across classes can be challenging when you’re right next door to the other people you’re working with. How did you arrange a collaboration to make sure everything was successful, both before the class and during the running of the class?
Jessica: I’ll let you take this one Minjung because you really fostered this collaboration with The Hague.
Minjung: Yeah, in that case, what I do is, I make Thursday as like a 30 minute COIL discussion session so that I ask students, “How’s it going, the process?” I ask them, “What process you are in? What kind of barriers you are having?” And through that, I know what barriers they have, what obstacles they need to go through. Then I intervene. I talk to Tonnie right away, emailing her and saying, “This specific student have problem with that. So what’s going on with your students?” Something directly communicating so that students can keep updated with their assignments. Otherwise, they lose track, at the end they can’t finish their project. So that monitoring each week, that’s, I felt, very important. That’s what I’m doing.
Jessica: Also, John, I think, something that throughout these past few years, we’re constantly jumping on Google Meets with Tonnie. We’ve been doing research and collaborating in that way. So it’s been pretty good. I think it is sometimes a challenge to get a time that works for everyone, right? Because there’s quite a few of us doing it. I think something that worked well for me, my first time doing COIL was using WhatsApp. I actually had never used it, but Memon, who was my co-instructor, we would text, we would text through that. He would say “So-and-so’s partner, they haven’t met yet. Can you reach out to them?” Because that was something occasionally that would happen. We had to also monitor, like Minjung said, the students and making sure they were on that. But I think when we first outlined the course with the syllabus, the assignments, it was pretty organized in that sense that we knew that we needed to check in with each other. And it became a relationship between us as instructors, right? We weren’t afraid to reach out or anything like that, because you start to get comfortable, you created it together, you’re working together. But I think yeah, time difference, we actually recently found out that Tonnie will no longer be the individual working with us, we have someone new. So this may be a challenge to navigate how this will work with a new instructor from their institution, but we’re excited about it. But I think different ways of communication has been what I’ve used and working together throughout the summers and things like that on research has really fostered our relationship as instructors together.
Minjung: And the transition meeting we did a few days ago, it was very good. So Tonnie introduced a new colleague to us and we scheduled a spring semester. So yeah, I’m looking forward to working with her.
Jessica: And I think that’s something Josh had mentioned too, and I’ve heard from some of my colleagues is, it’s hard. I think for a lot of people, sometimes they want to do a COIL course, but how do they find that person from another institution? So I think Minjung was able to really make that connection at that conference, and that’s how I’ve suggested to other colleagues that I have at different institutions to do that. Because it can be difficult to find that first person to work with, and then how do you navigate it from there can be difficult.
Rebecca: Seems like one of the key successes is actually how aligned the courses are across the institutions.
Jessica: Yes, yeah.
Rebecca: In this particular case, I know there’s also examples of cases where courses have worked really well when the subject matter is entirely different, but it seems like in this particular case, because it’s the same subject and you are looking at it in a similar way, it works really well. I can imagine that if it’s the same subject, and you had really opposing views or something or incompatible ways of working, it might not work as well.
John: And also, there’s a pretty wide spectrum of COIL classes. In your case, it sounds like most of the class was done collaboratively, but in other classes, it’s a small component of the class where again, as Rebecca said, they could be in different disciplines, but only a portion of the class revolves around the collaborative activity, while there’s separate things going on in the classes in each of the countries. So it doesn’t have to be just something as tightly related as this. There have been many, many examples of classes in different disciplines. One of the appeals for people outside the U.S. is it gives students the opportunity to practice English, and that works particularly well for our students, because so few of our students are multilingual. But by working with students in the U.S. who are reasonably fluent in English, it gives students from other countries that chance to practice. They may not be quite as interested in the discipline, but they are very interested in engaging in the language skills.
Jessica: Yeah. It’s interesting too, so at their institution, they have to have a certain amount of COIL credits as students. So the course that Tonnie was teaching was particularly dedicated to that COIL type of engagement. So I think when Minjung and I first, she had started it, and we had talked about it, getting our students to have self efficacy to be able to have these collaborations because the clients or patients that they may be working with, they’re not all going to be from upstate New York. So I think we knew right away that this was an opportunity just for our students that was going to help them be more successful, career-wise. And I was pleasantly surprised with the additional aspects of this COIL course right away from their partnership, as well as my partnership and relationship with the instructors there. So not only was it student-wise that there was a gain there, but for me as a educator as well, in my collaboration with these other instructors,
Rebecca: if you were each to give one piece of advice to a faculty member interested in creating a COIL course, or a COIL experience, what would your one piece of advice be?
Josh: I can think of something. I see this with faculty who want to get involved with international education at any level in any way. I would start by thinking, What’s possible? What can I get out of this? What can our students get out of this interculturally, in the discipline, and so forth, even as Jessica was explaining, the friendships that students can make or the English language practice that students can have. But think what’s possible, but then realize quickly how much work is involved. And this is something that I think Jessica and Minjung expressed very well, but what I think about from an institutional standpoint is that partnership building can happen anywhere. In this case, it started at a conference in New York, it didn’t happen overseas, it was not with an existing university that SUNY Oswego had had any relationship with before. It was two professionals who met at a conference, and they began from there. So most faculty who go to conferences, I’m sure have international collaborators there. It can start there. But then I guess my last comment on that would be to think, How could this be institutionalized? So the strong personal becoming professional relationship has to be there, but Minjung mentioned having a faculty international travel grant from the International Office. That surely helped, they could actually meet each other and see each other there. We now have an MOU with a university, a signed agreement with that university and that makes a permanence to the project that an overseas partner or collaborator. They might need that. They might need a document that says we’re actually working together. So I think faculty should be open to… How can I make this institutional, both to get it done but also to sustain it? And then get to work.
Jessica: And I would say, have fun with it. [LAUGHTER] That’s because it really is fun. You have some great experiences, it’s unlike anything I’ve done before. So jumping into it, I was like, “Wow, this is gonna be really fun, it’s going to be learning different things and how to collaborate.” And the students, they go into it at first being a little nervous, and then they really have fun with it. They look forward to those assignments, they look forward to their virtual collaborations. So I think having fun and being motivated to really foster your relationship with the other instructor from another institution, and really working with your students, laying the land in regards to the assignments, and being explicit with what the expectations are, I think those are all great things to remember. But I think having fun, that’s the goal of it is to really have an experience that is meaningful and that you enjoyed. So I think that’s my advice. Of course, there’s a lot of work with it, but understanding that it is fun and the process is really rewarding.
Minjung: So as an instructor, maintaining solid relationship with international partner that’s very important, and keep motivated and persistent to sustain the collaboration. Very important.
Rebecca: Those one things are many things I’ve noticed.
Jessica: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] Yes.
John: It is a lot of work. So we always end with the question, What’s next?
Jessica: Well, we just recently, this week, we met with the instructors, there is a handoff. So we have a new instructor we’re going to be working with who recently came to The Hague University with some great background educationally, and we’re excited. She seems really motivated and excited as well, so that’s awesome. We are going to be changing because we do do research with us as well, and we look at the pre/posttest, Did they gain cultural awareness? Is there more self efficacy with them now? So we’ve had great success in seeing that with our students both in the Netherlands and here in the U.S.. So we do plan on changing our measurement tool, digging a little deeper there, and we are adding different types of assignments that can be even more engaging for students with the final project, things like that. And those are things that we tweak, I think, every year, but last year, the content was related to COVID-19, the year before that was physical activity and nutrition. So this year, we’re probably going to go in a different lens, depending on the collaboration we have with the new instructor. But really, one of the biggest things with “what’s next” is providing those students even more time to get to know their partners, because every year we hear that they want just a little bit more time to get to know them because that’s the fun part of it. So we’re establishing some ways to pad that collaboration. And Minjung, what else would you say is next for us? We do have a presentation coming up. In Spain, it’s virtually but…
Minjung: Yes, yes. That’s exciting. We want to visit Spain instead but it’s remote. [LAUGHTER] So… And also thinking, talking to Josh and bringing students to the Netherlands not only virtual experience, but also in person experience that’d be beneficial for students as well. You know, when the pandemic goes down, and when we can travel, then bring students to the Netherlands and have experience. And also I talked to Tonnie about internship opportunity as well. So those areas, not only teaching COIL project but also expanding students’ hands on experience in different areas as well.
Josh: I agree with all that Jessica and Minjung said. I mean, to me, when I think about the next step, this is 20 plus years at SUNY Oswego and more on this field, I really think COIL is having its moment right now. And you’re seeing in international education literature, a recognition from career people who have been dedicated to primarily issues of student mobility across borders. That COIL is going to be a part of any valuable international education portfolio going forward. So that’s got to be acknowledged. I think, in my sense, in talking with other senior international officers around SUNY and elsewhere, that this has not gotten enough emphasis. So what’s next? I think we have to acknowledge that. Acknowledge that as an institution, we need to grow this. Part of that is going to be, if not faculty training, I think maybe explaining to faculty how this works, and this podcast is a great way to restart doing that, so I appreciate the invitation for that. But as my two colleagues explained, it’s work, it’s effort, but it’s also fun, gratifying. And it’s not a mystery if you give it the time that it requires, you can actually break it down and achieve it. Institutionally, I think we should probably start to think about something like a COIL coordinator. And this is something that in a resource constrained environment that every institution seems to be, it can be a big ask. But given that the language we’re using in SUNY is Global Learning For All, GLFA, Global Learning For All. Even before the pandemic, we were doing great with study abroad, we had over 20% of our students participating. Well that’s still 80% who are not participating, right? What are we doing with the other 80% in the best of times, and even more now. I think we have to get serious about the role of technology in international education and global learning and COIL has got a good track record. And so that plus, once we can cross borders more easily, I would love to work with these two to at least create an option for students who can get on a plane, in both directions by the way, we can host students from the Netherlands and our students can go there to accentuate the learning. But as you can see, we’re not waiting for that to have a great international education experience, at least with this course. I’m optimistic about the future.
John: Okay, thank you. It’s good to hear that the COIL program is rebuilding again on campus and that we’ve had these very successful iterations of it.
Rebecca: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing your story.
Jessica: Yes, thank you guys for having us.
Minjung: Thank you.
Josh: This was a real pleasure.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.
John: Editing assistance provided by Anna Croyle, Annalyn Smith, and Joshua Vega.