International cooperation between universities through COIL

The digital transformation requires agile approaches and research into innovative teaching methods at universities. One of the most popular of these in recent years is COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning). COIL is an online learning environment in which two or more universities from a different country deliver a course together.  The shared curriculum and relatively simple technologies allow students to engage in intercultural exchange. These courses can be a way of getting students interested in studying abroad. But they also have other advantages.

In order to draw attention to these and facilitate knowledge exchange, Movetia, in cooperation with swissnex in India, offered the training module "Mastering the Art of Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)", in which 25 educators were able to convert their own teaching topic into a COIL format for the first time with the support of international COIL experts. Since the outbreak of COVID at the latest, when digitalisation brought with it a new variety of solutions for university teaching, COIL has established itself as a teaching method and is increasingly being integrated into the common pedagogical forms of universities. Thanks to the continuity in the testing and implementation of COILS, they are increasingly at the top of the list of possibilities for transnational forms of collaboration among universities. Although COIL requires a certain amount of effort both for the administrative implementation and for the teaching staff themselves, it has a very positive effect for all those involved. Those who have tried it out praise it as an experience that brings out interpersonal skills, critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, professionalism and interdisciplinarity to a new degree. As a new pedagogy, this teaching method also embodies other aspects that are much discussed in the global education arena, namely a more environmentally friendly continuation of international exchanges for students and lecturers while avoiding an excessive carbon footprint and the inclusion of all those students and lecturers who, for various reasons, were previously unable to study and teach abroad. COILs are very promising and their successful implementation requires adequate preparation and training of lecturers.

COIL from A to Z
The aim of the Movetia COIL master class was to provide such training for Swiss lecturers with international experts for the first time. The COIL master class is a contribution by Movetia both to the process of internationalisation of teaching and to the promotion of intercultural exchange for all. Between January 25 and February 22, the 25 registered teachers from the Universities of Zurich and Basel, the Lucerne University of Teacher Education and the Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana SUPSI, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, the Haute École Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale HESSO, Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences met for weekly sessions, each led in tandem by two international experts. The composition of the team of eight COIL instructors was special, as they came not only from the European continent but also from Colombia, Brazil, South Africa and Japan. 

In addition to assessing their existing level of competence in COIL, the graduates learned the underlying skills of digital pedagogy that are required to deliver an engaging, effective COIL course. They are now familiar with the different types and elements of COILs, such as sprint COILs, semester COILs, COILs involving third parties and COILs between two academic institutions. They will also be able to select the digital applications that best suit their COIL course and plan the logistics of implementation.

Other relevant topics of the lessons were intercultural learning and the impact of COIL on the intercultural competences of all participants as well as learning about strategies for internationalized learning outcomes. The networking factor was high for all participants in this COIL master class. It was not only the international dimension that played a role. The course offered the opportunity to network with colleagues from other Swiss universities.

COIL Lessons Learnt
The master class was very diverse. In the last module, participants had the opportunity to present their concept ideas for their own COIL course. The HSLU presented their COIL ideas with a project on interculturality and sustainability in collaboration with the Berlin University of Applied Sciences HTW, as well as another HSLU project, "COIL Open Innovation", in which students are to learn the relevance and scope of the concept of open innovation in both theory and practice and which is being implemented in collaboration with the Lviv National Polytechnic University Ukraine. Furthermore, the Lucerne University of Teacher Education presented its project on language teaching, which is being implemented with the State University of Campinas, Brazil.

Together with the ZHAW, HESSO is implementing a COIL course on the topic of sustainability with lecturers and students from the Azerbaijan State University of Economics (UNEC) and the NJC Al-Farabi Kazakh National University Shanghai University. SUPSI has designed a COIL course for which no international partner institution has yet been found, but in which students from the healthcare professions will be given the opportunity to reflect on concepts of culture and intercultural communication, promote cultural awareness and sensitivity, practice intercultural relations and make comparisons with the healthcare context of other countries. And finally, the University of Basel, which, in collaboration with Fribourg and Strasbourg, organized the COIL course "Sustainable Cities? Exploring our Cities through the lense of the Sustainable Development Goals. Apply. Analyze. Act." It is a project that emerged within the European Universities Alliance Eucor/Epicur and introduceed the SDGs approach and a critical analysis of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. This included a reflection on the meaning of this approach in the students' own (local) reality and an awareness of cultural, geographical and political differences in the local implementation of global, universal goals.

Further ideas for COIL could not be presented due to limited time resources, but are nevertheless well on the way to realization, such as a COIL course at the UZH Graduate Campus, which focuses on the topic of "Post-Doc Supervision".

Stimulating international exchange through COIL

It is a fact that COIL plays a key role in higher education in the context of internationalisation at home and provides an incentive for mobility through intercultural exchange. The innovation that COIL offers for teaching in the age of digital change is also guided by a basic tenor and that is collaboration as co-creation. As a teaching method in global learning environments, COIL offers opportunities to build relationships with people from other countries. Being in dialog with people anywhere in the world can create new opportunities for students and lecturers to spend time abroad. This can have a positive effect on personal mobility. It can also create international partnerships between institutions and expand existing ones.

In its funding activities, Movetia pursues the approach of continuously integrating internationalisation at home and thus facilitating international and intercultural exchange for as many target groups as possible within a Swiss university. With this in mind, Movetia has been initiating various training and development opportunities for Swiss universities with the Movetia Academy as competence hub since 2020. In order to promote the continuous aspect of learning in this area, COIL graduates - now COIL Ambassadors - will now also have the opportunity to join a Movetia Peer Learning Group, which is made up of alumni from all modules completed to date.

Partnership with swissnex in India
This project was a collaboration between the Movetia Academy and Swissnex in India. Swissnex is the global Swiss network that connects Switzerland and the world in the fields of education, research and innovation. It supports the reach and active engagement of our partners in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent. Movetia has already successfully collaborated with Swissnex in India on projects such as "nexHack Edtech #LearningTomorrow" in 2020 or "Rethinking International Exchange with Digital" in 2021 and was able to experience a valuable exchange for the Swiss higher education landscape from their global knowledge network.

Masterclass in Collaboration with swissnex in India

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