Collaborating in the Global Classroom

Meet COIL – Collaborative Online International Learning

COIL is a program developed by media instructor John Ruben. John got two groups together: American students and students in Belarus and Lithuania. Together they produced amazing videos and John thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to do more of these kinds of collaborations?”
Inspired by his work, I have led several COIL programs. One was a collaboration with design professor Roberto De Uslar and his students at La Salle University in Mexico City, Mexico.

Logistics Of Working Together

The technology we used was simply the ubiquitous Facebook and Skype. Known all around the world, Facebook is actually used even more outside of the United States.
We built the entire course in Facebook, so the syllabus, the course notes, resource information, photographs were in Facebook, in files and photos.

Then we had students post their entries and each professor would comment on the other professor’s students’ work.

We as the Professors would write critiques and students would then submit audio and images in response.

Additionally, we would meet online via Skype. So we and the students could actually look at each other.

The night before a Skype video meeting, the two professors would review the work and make comments to each other and decide what we were going to say the next day. Then we would meet the students and talk about what we thought about their work.

NY Collaborates with Mexico City

Once we had these tools in place, both Professors had 10 students and paired them up. We started with ice breakers so they got to know each other better.

What we wanted to do was to have them work together as designer and client to produce a product.

Students took on both roles in the program giving each a chance to design packaging for a product that was specific to their partner’s interests and personality. Examples: Karla, from Mexico, designed a bag of spicy, tortilla chips named “Inferno” based on what she learned about Sandra. American student Sebastian collaborated with Karen and designed “foma” bubble bath.

Why it is Important for Students to Have International Collaboration

These programs are so valuable today because they get students out of their comfort zone. We get very comfortable in our neighborhoods, countries and college environments. Students from America’s more rural areas are not often given the opportunity to meet and collaborate with people from around the world.

Though they are studying to become designers, what they are really being trained to do is become problem solvers.

Given our current global economy, programs like COIL open up the opportunity to work for people around the world and more importantly, it allows them to think about working remotely in a new technological landscape.

It is becoming more and more common that people conduct business online. That is not only how we communicate but how we create products and collaborate with colleagues and customers at the start of 21st Century.

COIL takes students who actually may never meet each other, expand their mutual employability, build their resume’s and portfolios. Yes, this certainly does help them to become more employable, but more importantly, they develop confidence and the skills to communicate with the world they inhabit.

Technology, learning, lifestyles…it seems that everything is accelerating and education needs to keep up.

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