About COIL

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is the term that we use at Coventry University to refer to ‘virtual mobility’ experiences that are embedded into the formal curriculum and provide students with an opportunity to interact with peers at international universities and professionals, so they can develop intercultural competences and digital skills while working together on subject-specific learning tasks or activities.

There are four key elements that define any COIL project:

  1. It involves a cross-border collaboration or interaction with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
  2. Students must engage in some sort of online interaction, whether it is asynchronous or synchronous.
  3. It must be driven by a set of internationalised learning outcomes aimed at developing global perspectives and/or fostering students’ intercultural competences.
  4. There must be a reflective component that helps students think critically about such interactions.

Beyond these basic requirements the possibilities are almost limitless. COIL project leaders can decide how (and to what extent) their project is embedded into any of the modules they teach. Projects can vary in duration and format. Some COIL projects might involve for example a ‘live’ interaction for no more than one hour, whilst others will involve a series of activities scheduled throughout the entire duration of a module.

COIL Projects can take place in ‘real-time’ so that students from different countries are communicating and interacting ‘live’ simultaneously. However, projects can also take place ‘asynchronously,’ which means students from each country can interact and work together at different times. This may be helpful when time differences between countries are not manageable or complementary to schedules.

Likewise, COIL project leaders can select the type of activities and tools that are more suitable for their students and amenable to subject-specific needs. Apart from university-powered tools (e.g. Virtual Learning Environment), many COIL project leaders have exploited a wide range of online resources, such as blogs, social media, video-conferencing and video-sharing platforms.


Animation courtesy of our OIL partners (Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico)


Benefits to students

Participating in an COIL project is one of the key actions that may help students become Global Graduates. Most notably, it will provide them with an invaluable opportunity to:
  • Interact, engage and collaborate with peers they would have not otherwise have the chance to work with.
  • Share understanding of one another’s societies, ways of living, and perspectives to develop valuable intercultural skills and mutual understanding.
  • Observe, listen and learn about differences in communication style, non-verbal cues and body Language; increasing their Intercultural Communication capacity for understanding and managing interactions in diverse, complex and novel scenarios.
  • Experience, interact and gain insight into cultural differences in human relationships, behaviour and communication that are relevant to their discipline; enhancing their ability to effectively manage and appropriately respond to diverse opinions, beliefs and values that might be different to their own.
  • Develop digital skills that are key to life in the 21st Century, especially those that will enable them to participate in team-work involving networks of geographically-dispersed professionals.

For further details see

Villar-Onrubia, Daniel, and Brinder Rajpal (2016). ‘Online International Learning: Internationalising the Curriculum through Virtual Mobility at Coventry University’. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education 20, no. 2–3. A full copy of the article might be downloaded here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YheZK5nwp7NJMDMuCwt7/full