Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

What is Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)?

COIL is the co-development of a shared syllabus by two or more instructors from geographically distant locations. COIL is an innovative way to engage students in a shared, online multicultural and collaborative learning environment.

As the world expands and becomes more interconnected, there is a need for graduates who are capable of working in cross-cultural environments. Organisations are seeking students that are effective global citizens, have intercultural communication experience, virtual teamwork, and critical thinking skills. The most effective way for students to acquire these skills is through experiential global learning. Developing a COIL can enhance your current unit and complement existing learning abroad.

Florida International University

Faculty Introduction to COIL courses, UW Bothell

1. Modes of Interaction in COIL

There are a number of ways COIL can be delivered:


  • Two or more groups of students residing in different countries enrol in a unit
  • Two or more academic staff teach and manage the unit
  • The curriculum for all students may be identical or specific to the individual units
  • All teaching and interaction takes place online

Dual Hybrid

  • Two or more groups of students residing in different countries enrol in a unit
  • Two or more academic staff teach and manage the unit
  • Each group of students regularly meets face-to-face with their instructor, while the larger group works together on specific assignments and shared productions
  • The curriculum may be slightly divergent for each student group, with only the assignments or projects being the same
  • Students are graded and receive credit from their home university


  • This is not a separate model, but a way to bring stronger closure to the collaborative work process and to add a significant incentive for students
  • One or more students from each participating institution are offered the opportunity to travel to their partners’ country, to present their final project and to meet their peers abroad
  • A visit would typically be for a period of 5-10 days and housing would be provided by the host institution

Online Global Learning

  • In addition to COIL there are many different types of Online Global Learning experiences available for students:
    • Online International Learning (OIL): such as exchange-based online learning with partners (summer schools etc);
    • Internships and practicums with off-shore international organisations: this enable students to expand their communication, team work and problem-solving skills as they work across cultures, time-zones and languages;
    • Work Integrated Learning (WIL): these experiences are developed to enable students’ collaboration in solving real-life business problems, working with international corporations.
  • A COIL can also incorporate some of the above experiences. Further examples can be found on the Western Sydney University Online Global Learning webpage. Provided below are the modes of interaction.

2. Best Practice

Extensive information about the development and management of COIL can be found in the following locations:

The Forum on Education Abroad provides a Guide to Online Global Learning Experiences. This guide has been prepared for university staff who are new to online global learning and want to learn more about how to do them well. The guide is intended for a broad range of curricular or co-curricular global learning experiences.

3. Western Sydney University Policy for Developing Units  

If you decide to develop a COIL, staff are required to adhere to university policy and School/Institute approval processes for unit development.

4. Support for Online Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

The Learning Futures Portfolio is providing support for academics teaching online during the period of social distancing through online workshops and consultations. See Learning Futures.

Other Resources

Resources to assist with your online teaching and assessment design can be accessed by the below.

  • Online Professional Learning Modules
    The Professional Learning and Recognition vUWS site offers a range of self-paced, online teaching and learning modules for Western staff across all roles and levels of responsibility, to complement other professional learning opportunities to enhance teaching practice and student learning experiences.
  • Active Learning Website
    The Active Learning Website provides materials to help you design and facilitate active learning in your online setting or face-to-face classroom.

If you have any queries regarding available support, please contact

5. How do I develop a COIL?

  1. Download the Western Sydney University Guidelines for COIL. This document includes worksheets and exercises to assist in developing a COIL.
  2. Discuss the opportunity with an Overseas Partner and Colleagues
  3. Develop your Concept
  4. Meet with the International Office (advisory session)
  5. Finalise your concept and submit proposal for approval. See Western Sydney University Policies for developing subjects

Working with an Overseas partner

  • If you would like to develop a COIL, however do not have an overseas partner, it is advised that you draw from your personal and professional network to identify possible instructional partners. This may include former visiting scholars, graduate students, members of professional organisations, or online professional networks within your field or the learning area of the course you want to COIL.
  • In addition, feel free to reach out to Western Sydney International (WSI) by contacting . WSI maintains ongoing partnerships with institutions around the world and can help you identify prospective partners, whilst ensuring the correct due diligence process is being followed and the right agreements are in place.
  • Note: if you decide to pursue a COIL, a Memorandum of Understanding may need to be signed between each institution.

How do I discuss a prospective COIL with an overseas partner?

  • Once you have identified an international partner, establish a personal connection with the overseas instructor(s). To learn more about each other, reach out via Zoom or other platforms. Provided below are potential icebreakers:
    • What was the first subject you taught?
    • How would you describe your teaching style?
    • What is your relationship with technology?
    • How are you using technology in your current courses?
    • What are your favourite pastimes? hobbies?
    • What do you see as the greatest reward from participating in an international collaboration? For yourself? For your students?
    • What professional organisation and networks do you belong to?
  • Extensive information about the development of a COIL can be found in the Western Sydney University Guidelines.This document includes worksheets and exercises.


See Information for Staff.