How Collaborative Online International Learning Aids Education

Carolina Jacobs

Nov 26, 2021

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As an educator, you want the best for your students. Many people choose to become teachers and professors to help the next generation prepare for the futures they have always dreamed of. With collaborative online international learning (COIL), students get to experience working on a project with partners in a class from another country. These projects can help your students break down barriers and teach them more about what it means to be a global citizen.

Hundreds of thousands of international exchange students came to the United States to study in 2020. Exchange students are far from a new phenomenon, and learning about the world you may not get to see often is more critical than ever. Through online learning, your students can partner with students in a class overseas and learn how their educational system works while also learning about their culture.

What Is Collaborative Online International Learning?

Though the term might be a mouthful, COIL is a way to connect different classes of students in other countries. You might teach a math class in the United States and want to get the perspective of another region, so you could connect with a math class in the United Kingdom, for example. The purpose of connecting with classes overseas in the COIL program is to teach your students about different perspectives and challenge their ways of thinking.

You can think of collaborative online international learning as a virtual “exchange student” program. Through the comfort of their screens, your students can experience classrooms of other cultures and learn how students there solve problems. It’s a challenge that mutually benefits both classes that participate in COIL.

By allowing your students and the other class to work on a major project together, you can have them learn more about this different culture and teach them new methods of critical thinking and problem-solving. If you can make the connection to another class, it’s an excellent way to teach your students about the world while allowing them to absorb course material at the same time.

Benefits of Collaborative Online International Learning

When you teach students to work collaboratively, you’re benefiting them in the long run. As they learn to work with others, they’ll be better prepared for the rest of their lives, when they’ll inevitably end up working alongside coworkers or colleagues. As their educator, you equip them with the tools necessary to excel in class and life beyond.

COIL can benefit students in numerous ways. This program can help students adapt to new situations and learn about cultures and lifestyles different from their own. This knowledge could come in handy when traveling or studying abroad in the future, or it could influence someone’s decision to study abroad during their college years.

Additionally, collaborative online international learning can be a valuable tool for practicing language or communication skills. For students who are currently learning a language, hearing others speak in that language can improve their comprehension. Further, even if both classes speak the same language, they may have phrases or vocabulary they don’t understand. To communicate effectively, they must find a way to better articulate their ideas without relying on idioms.

While working with students from other countries, your students will learn more about their partners’ cultures. At the very least, they will learn about the educational system in their partners’ home countries, but they may get to know one another more if they establish a bond. Having a greater understanding of cultural differences leads to having a more open mind toward and knowledge of different ways of life.

How to Get Started With Collaborative Online International Learning

The COIL program is a great way to prompt students to become world citizens and realize what unites them with other people who don’t live in the same area. Luckily, the process is a bit easier to start than it sounds, so with permission from your supervisor, you can potentially introduce your class to one overseas with relative ease.

Use a service or organization to find another school abroad participating in the COIL program. You should join a network of online classrooms to find another class that will add life to your curriculum and help teach your students about learning in other countries or regions. Consider what sort of classroom would fit in with what you’re teaching your students. Would they benefit from hearing a European or African perspective over any others? You might teach a subject where connecting with a specific culture doesn’t pertain to the curriculum, but you may find that your students still benefit from learning about the educational system in other countries.

After you’ve decided on a class to exchange with, you can have your students make initial contact with the other students, similar to how they would introduce themselves to penpals in elementary school. After everyone makes an initial connection, implement a project that would involve your students working with the other class.

When thinking of how to pose this project, consider finding something relevant to the course material of both classes that can require a great deal of collaboration. While there may be language or time zone barriers in some cases, you can encourage your students to think of innovative ways to collaborate with their partners in real-time.

Once students have completed their project, they can remain in contact with their partners if they choose. You’ll need their valuable feedback on how they liked the collaborative online international learning structure, including their opinions on any elements that didn’t work as planned or factors you should consider for the future.

Widen Your Students’ World With COIL

This world inhabits so much more than just one culture and language. By showing your students the ways of life of other countries, you’re teaching them more about the world around them while innovatively covering the course material. If you’re interested in connecting with classes abroad, reach out to the higher-ups in your institution. They may have the resources you need to set up a collaborative online international learning project of your own.

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