Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between COIL and virtual exchange?

    COIL is a form of virtual exchange that explicitly focuses on disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning as well as intercultural learning. The SUNY COIL Center, which first innovated the term, defines COIL thus:

    "Collaborative Online International Learning – COIL – connects faculty, students and classes at higher education institutions around the world for discussions, exploration and collaborative project work.  COIL is integrated into the curriculum of classes – in any subject area, at any level – and engages students and faculty in significant intercultural interactions through applied and project-based learning, thereby bringing international experiences and their attendant skills development into the reach of all students, at any institution."

    Helm, Guth, Shuminov, and Van Der Velden (2020) define virtual exchange as, "technology-enabled, facilitated, people-to-people education sustained over a period of time. It entails the use of technology to bridge students across cultural and geographic boundaries and from different contexts."

    More resources on defining terms:


  • What is the difference between COIL and virtual study abroad (VSA)?

    COIL engages students with peers and problems. Virtual Study Abroad (VSA) engages students with places and cultures.

    COIL and VSA pair well together. Engaging students in a VSA before they COIL is a great way to familiarize them with their peers' lived experience. 

  • Can COILs be interdisciplinary?

    Yes, COILs can be interdisciplinary. COILs must address a common collaborative task. Sometimes it is better to approach the task from different disciplinary perspectives.

    Example of a COIL task approached from complementary disciplinary perspectives:
    Students in FIU professor Flavia Iuspa’s online course in Education, “Developing a Global Perspective,” and in an International Relations course taught by Alexis Paola Hernandez Pina at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua in Mexico collaboratively identified an issue affecting Mexico and the U.S. and proposed a solution to be enacted by an international private, government, or non-governmental institution.

    Example of a COIL task approached from similar disciplinary perspectives
    Students studying Writing Center processes in courses taught by FIU professor Glenn Hutchinson and Andrea Torres Perdigón at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia collaboratively conducted research in English and Spanish and prepared conference proposals on effective writing tutoring in bilingual settings.

  • Can you COIL a face-to-face class?
    Yes, COIL can be embedded in a course taught in any modality: in-person/face-to-face (F2F), hybrid, or fully-online. COILs can even be conducted before, during, or after a study abroad experience. 
  • I don't have a faculty partner. Can I still COIL?

    COILing requires a partner. If you don't have one in mind, don't worry. Fill out the form below and we'll help you find a match.

    For FIU Faculty

    For International Partners

  • How long do COIL exchanges last?

    COILs usually take place over a 3- to 8-week time period. COILs lasting fewer than 3 weeks seldom provide enough time for students to establish trust and social presence and also achieve a truly collaborative task. Some COILs may extend over the course of an entire term.

  • My partner’s students do not speak the same language as my students. Can we still COIL?

    Yes! With careful design, students can communicate and collaborate across language differences. You and your partner should be transparent with your students—let them know that you are aware of the difference and that translanguaging skills are valued by employers. Translanguaging is “the ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating the diverse languages that form their repertoire as an integrated system” (Canagarajah, 2011, p. 401). Visit our Resources page for instructional strategies that support translanguaging.

  • There is a large time difference between me and my partner. Can we still COIL?

    Yes! Time zone differences should not prevent you and your students from communicating and collaborating with peers around the world. Some COILs never involve entire classes meeting together synchronously. Instead, faculty ask students to schedule a certain number of mutually convenient synchronous meeting times outside of class and to use tools that enable asynchronous dialogue and work.

  • My partner and I are lecturing in each other’s classes. Is that COIL?

    COILs may involve faculty providing lectures for each other’s students, and sometimes faculty invite their partner’s students into their class meetings. These strategies alone, however, do not constitute COIL. At the most fundamental level, COIL involves student participation in peer-to-peer dialogue and collaborative projects. If the planned activities do not involve carefully designed peer-to-peer interaction, the exchange is not considered COIL.

  • We have less than three weeks available to COIL. Can we skip the icebreaker activity?

    In short, no. Successful online collaboration demands trust and social presence. COIL designs that skip or skimp on the icebreaking stage usually fail. It is recommended that students spend nearly as much time icebreaking as they will collaborating, i.e., at least one to two weeks. If you only have two weeks available for peer-to-peer interaction, consider making icebreaker activities the entire virtual exchange. Link the activities to professional, disciplinary, or citizenship skills. Use the experience of planning and implementing the virtual exchange with your partner as the foundation for a true COIL in a future semester.

  • What Learning Management System (LMS) do you use for COIL?

    Faculty do not need to use an LMS (e.g., Canvas and Blackboard) in order to COIL. In general, institutional contracts do not allow unaffiliated teachers and students to enter and use the college or university’s LMS. What’s more, when one of the COIL partners becomes a “host” and the other a “guest,” this can throw off the COIL’s equal power dynamic. Instead, faculty look for a “third space” to deliver instructions and receive student work. Padlet, Trello, Flipgrid, VoiceThread, and Slack are commonly used for this purpose, as are free LMS applications such as Canvas Instructure, Google Classroom, and Moodle. Students can also communicate and collaborate using common tools such as Google Workspace and WhatsApp.

  • Do you need an MOU in order to COIL?

    Florida International University does not require a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) nor an Agreement in order for faculty to COIL together. COIL does not involve an exchange of money, credit, nor grades. If you would like to add COIL to an MOU or Agreement, contact for sample language.