Scaling COIL: Stories of Impact from US Virtual Exchange Leadership Institute Alumni

Since 2019, FIU has hosted the COIL Virtual Exchange Leadership Institute, bringing together interdepartmental leadership teams from higher education institutions around the world to start and scale COIL virtual exchange programs. 41 institutions located in 10 countries on 4 continents have participated so far, each developing a customized strategic plan and new COIL network to address their unique campus contexts.  

Here are the experiences of seven US Institute alumni. Read about their diverse visions, challenges, and achievement milestones and how the FIU COIL Virtual Exchange Leadership Institute helped catalyze the future of COIL at their institutions. 

Agnes Scott College

Agnes Scott’s desire to provide global learning to their student body started seven years ago when they embarked on a comprehensive internationalization strategy. From the beginning, their goal was to move beyond physical mobility and provide students with multiple opportunities to build global connections. “There’s a role for in-person study abroad and a role for COIL which brings people together around problem solving,” insists Dr. Gundolf Graml, Agnes Scott’s Associate Vice President and Dean for Curriculum and Strategic Initiatives. COIL’s ability to prompt students to seek answers to communicative problems that obstruct solution making perfectly aligns with Agnes Scott’s mission to address the intellectual and social issues of our time. 

Dr. Graml adds that the Institute helped him and his colleagues to see that COIL isn’t solely about the end product. “Collaboration, understanding tasks, scheduling meetings, and intercultural communication are just a few aspects that make COIL such an impactful experience,” he says. He is happy to say that COIL remains a strong, strategic initiative at Agnes Scott. They continue to receive great feedback from students and many professors have expressed interest in continuing to COIL. Agnes Scott is now working with FIU COIL to host a custom COIL Design Workshop that will produce 10-15 COILs during spring 2023.   

CSU Stanislaus

Prior to attending the Institute, CSU Stanislaus had heard about COIL but had no prior experience creating COIL exchanges. According to Dr. Betsy Eudey, Professor and Director of Gender Studies and Interim COIL Coordinator, the 2021 fully online Institute provided everything the CSU Stanislaus team needed to go from zero to starting a COIL program. This included  opportunities to network with partners, connect with other COIL Coordinators, and design an Action Plan to develop short- and long-term objectives. Her team immediately put their knowledge into practice. CSU Stanislaus has since completed six COIL exchanges, involved 35 faculty in COIL Learning Communities, engaged 20 additional faculty in active partnership planning, and involved 130 students in a COIL course. They’re not slowing down. “It was completely clear that COIL addresses institutional commitments,” Eudey says, such as providing students unable to study abroad with a meaningful global learning experience.  

The team has encountered setbacks along the way. Global issues such as the war in Ukraine and teacher strikes in partner countries have impacted COIL projects. Closer to home, administrative turnover required renewed advocacy efforts to get buy-in from key stakeholders. These challenges have not deterred CSU Stanislaus from working toward its strategic COIL goals. Taking their cue from the California Department of Education's focus on global education as an area of importance, CSU Stanislaus is integrating COIL into teacher education and the K-16 pipeline. “Our position as a teaching-oriented university creates unique opportunities to connect students in the College of Education with the surrounding K-12 system using COIL methodology,” says Eudey. 

More about COIL at CSU Stanislaus

Lehigh University

Lehigh’s engagement with universities around the world has included internship programs and class-based partnerships, so COIL was a natural next step. The in-person 2020 Institute in Miami offered a retreat space for the Director of Global Partnerships and two key academic leaders to examine their current COIL support resources, determine how to obtain faculty and institutional buy-in, and plan growth strategy and logistics.  

Mark Ouellette, Director of English Programs at Lehigh, is adamant that COIL can facilitate a truly globally engaged classroom. “COIL can break down the borders of the classroom for faculty, students, and researchers to transcend intellectual and geographical borders to address complex world problems.” As COIL continues to grow, he intends for the English Department to serve as a mentor for other departments seeking innovative, meaningful global learning strategies. 

Oullette has learned valuable lessons while helping Lehigh faculty create COIL courses with their international partners. He emphasizes the need for COIL partner institutions to share clearly articulated expectations, values, and learning goals in order to support successful COIL projects. “It has to be an equal relationship,” Oullette says.  

More about COIL and Virtual International Experiences at Lehigh University

Ohio State University

Like many institutions, Ohio State University aimed to increase online global learning options as a response to the pandemic. The 2021 online Institute enabled the team to learn from and with new and experienced international COIL peers and practitioners. The Institute’s Action Plan template was an especially helpful tool for designing and expediting objectives—many of which were launched within a year. Since the Institute, Ohio State has developed a leadership structure for supporting COIL projects, including creating a Faculty Learning Community and embedding COIL in the General Education curriculum.  

Another impressive milestone: growth in intercultural learning as demonstrated by COIL students’ responses to the Intercultural Development Inventory. “We’ve never seen these growth gains before, even in study abroad,” says Dr. Cindy Jiang who attributes gains to the prolonged engagement COIL students have with their international peers. Looking forward, Ohio State’s COIL leadership team will continue building awareness of COIL and its impacts across campus and at educational conferences. 

Shenandoah University

COIL has grown by leaps and bounds at Shenandoah University since their team attended the 2021 online Institute. Shenandoah faculty have been awarded funding through Fulbright and the Stevens Initiative to improve and scale their COIL courses. “We’re known on campus,” proudly declares Younus Mirza, founding Director of Virtual Global Learning, Shenandoah’s COIL program. Yet with all their accomplishments, Mirza sees a lot more room for growth. Future goals include integrating COIL/Virtual Global Learning into the university’s General Education curriculum and even helping other Virginia universities in their consortium adopt COIL.  

Reflecting on the most valuable aspects of the Institute, Mirza cites the capstone activity, an elevator pitch, as having been particularly helpful. The persuasive statement the team wrote and presented during the Institute enabled them to recruit faculty and concisely articulate the value and relevance of COIL to their community immediately upon returning to campus.   

More about COIL/Global Virtual Learning at Shenandoah University

University of Denver

For the University of Denver, or DU, the Institute was a unique opportunity to bring together three strategic COIL stakeholders who otherwise seldom collaborate due to busy work schedules: the Executive Director of Internationalization, the Director of Strategic Partnerships, and the Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning. For a few hours each day across six weeks, the University of Denver team focused on how COIL could help overlap all three departments’ strategic pedagogical and internationalization goals.   

Working together, the team created an interactive Introduction to COIL Canvas Module Plan for faculty and partners, and they believe COIL has the potential to extend and enhance the University’s already strong mobility program. Casey Dinger, Executive Director of Internationalization, highlights COIL’s ability to consistently expose students to diverse perspectives, whether COIL is experienced by students in their first or last year of college.   

When discussing the challenges of implementing COIL, Casey Dinger highlights the careful planning required far in advance to develop COIL courses due to DU being on a quarter system. "Faculty prepare more courses a year than they would otherwise, so the turnaround is very quick", he states. Still, he says faculty who are interested in COIL strongly believe in its pedagogy and ability to show students diverse perspectives and enhance their intercultural learning.   

Valencia College

Valencia College's COIL program was fairly mature when the institution sent a team to the 2021 online Institute. Among the program’s proudest achievements: developing a language translation software with Universidad de la Sabana, Colombia. “We were past the initial stages of how to start a COIL program and were more interested in how to sustain it,” says Lindi Kourtellis, Manager of Study Abroad and Global Experiences. Valencia’s team received both validating feedback on their prior efforts and new ideas for moving forward during their 1-on-1 consultation with the Institute’s co-facilitator, FIU COIL Director Stephanie Doscher. As travel resumes, Valencia will maintain and grow its COIL program. To this end, the College has developed a formal process for professors to initiate the design of a COIL course, including receiving departmental support through a permissions form that includes a dean’s signature. 

 Learn more about COIL at Valencia College