Collaborative Online International Learning

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) promotes virtual, interactive educational opportunities by connecting faculty and students through shared experiences across international borders. Other terms used in global education for similar initiatives include virtual exchange, global digital exchange, and telecollaboration.This page focuses on online global learning in the curricular context. For co-curricular global learning, please refer to the Student Engagement page.

In the COIL model, faculty from NC State and colleagues at institutions abroad collaborate on parts of their courses to incorporate educational activities that promote global learning and cultural competency. Examples of collaboration can range from guest lectures, shared components from course syllabi, cross-cultural dialogues and group projects, all the way to deep, full-semester partnerships.

During a recent interview with the North Carolina Japan Center in June, 2021 with the Ambassador of Japan to the United States, the Honorable Koji Tomita, the Ambassador was quoted as follows:

“…North Carolina State [University] is making a pioneering effort and engaging Japanese universities [in COIL programming], and I think that these efforts are commended, not just to fill in the vacuum created by the pandemic, but something that would add value to the traditional way of academic collaboration.”

How does COIL work?

Using internet-based technology, faculty from US institutions pair with colleagues from colleges or universities abroad to identify shared learning objectives in similar or related courses where content may overlap. They may co-design a shared syllabus, or simply a series of shared classroom sessions, that emphasize experiential and collaborative student-centered learning. Students participate in sustained, deliberate interactions with their peers abroad, developing deeper cultural understanding.

Students engage in small groups with peers from the partner institution to learn from each other and reflect on their perspectives as they complete shared projects. The goal is to create opportunities for professors and students to have meaningful international and intercultural learning experiences on their home campuses, with a secondary goal to motivate interest in future study, travel, or work abroad.

Through virtual teamwork, participants build their intercultural communication and critical thinking skills—key competencies for effective global citizenship and employment. While the international component of the course takes place online, the individual courses may be fully online or may be blended with traditional face-to-face sessions taking place at both schools.

Benefits of COIL

For Students

COIL collaboration (spring 2021) between Dr. Jessica Liao (“PS 342: Politics of China and Japan”) and Dr. Mieko Nakabayashi (“Postwar US-Japan Relations”)
  • Interactive format makes it more appealing to participate in class, especially at a time when students are experiencing “Zoom fatigue”.
  • Provides real time global engagement with peers without leaving home.
  • Increases accessibility to global learning for those who cannot or who have not previously considered travel abroad.
  • Results from other institutions that incorporate curricular online global learning show that students are positively impacted by the experience.
    • A study at East Carolina University will soon be published, showing that virtual exchange through their Global Understanding course has had a significant impact. Using the Cultural Intelligence scale (Ang et. al, 2007):
      • Students demonstrated a 16.7 point increase in cultural intelligence after participating in this course, compared to an 8.2 point increase among students who had studied abroad without such a course and had started at a higher point on the scale.
    • Although the Global Understanding course was not intentionally designed to encourage study abroad, and enrollments were not targeted to any group, students participating in the course showed an overall 7.7 percentage point increase in the probability of subsequently studying abroad, including significant increases among first generation, Pell eligible, African-American, and Hispanic students.

For Faculty

  • Increases student engagement in both course content and assignments due to the collaborative nature of the curriculum.
  • Offers funding opportunities for curriculum development and implementation.
  • Builds relationships with global partners that may lead to future collaboration in other areas, including research and grant funding.
  • Supports Global Learning For All and the broader NC State strategic plan.

Below Dr. Makoto Kobashi from Nagoya University shares his experience about participating in a COIL-type course for the first time. Learn more here.

Getting Started

How do I get started?

Incorporating curricular online global learning into a course involves collaborating with a faculty member abroad. To begin:

  • Review your course offerings and identify potential partners from your personal or research connections. Consider your international travel or exchanges with visiting faculty from abroad. Existing relationships will be the easiest to build upon.
  • Need contacts?  NC State Prague and the Japan Center can assist in making connections in the Czech Republic and Japan.
  • Additionally, the Office of Global Engagement collaborates with institutions throughout the world on a variety of educational, outreach, and research focused projects. Explore our Global Partners Database to learn about the 130+ connections we have worldwide.

Next Steps?

Once you have identified and connected with an international partner, consider how you will most effectively incorporate COIL into each of your courses. To start:

  • Identify areas of overlap with your course and that of your colleague.  Can you offer a full semester of shared learning and interaction or simply several sessions?  At the outset, a few shared sessions may be sufficient. Even an exchange of guest lectures is a great starting point for building collaborative relationships that may lead to more interactive opportunities in the future.
  • Student interaction between the two classes (one at NC State, and one at an international institution), should preferably be synchronous.  Time zone considerations will be critical here.  One option is to make these sessions part of an “international experience” for your class and not tied to the regular meeting times to allow for time differences.
  • To be successful, your collaborative learning objectives should have a measurable outcome (i.e. project, problem solving, lab completion).
  • Contact us at for further questions

COIL encompasses a range of academic activities and outcomes. At NC State, faculty in several colleges are currently incorporating global learning into their courses. Some examples include:

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

  • “Interpersonal Communication” (COM 112) + “Intercultural Training Methods” (Nagoya University)
    • “Icebreaker” virtual meet-up/cultural workshop, asynchronous readings, synchronous student-to-student engagement and collaboration on a project based on readings (2-week period in April 2021
  • “Introduction to International Relations” (PS 231)  + “International Relations for Exchange Students” (Prague University of Economics and Business)
    • Synchronous virtual sessions on shared readings, breakout rooms for discussion and response paper (2-week period in February 2021)
  • “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” (WGS 200) + “Feminist and Queer Theory on Contemporary Art in Central and Eastern Europe” (Charles University)
    • “Ice breaker” virtual introductions, student presentations, facilitated breakout rooms for discussion (March 2021)
  • “Politics of China and Japan” (PS 342) + “Postwar US-Japan Relations” (Waseda University)
    • “Icebreaker” virtual meet-up/cultural workshop, asynchronous readings, student group interviews (2-week period in April 2021)

College of Materials Science & Engineering

  • “Composite Materials” (MSE 556) + “Seminar on Advanced Process Engineering” (Nagoya University)
    • Asynchronous video lectures, readings, synchronous final presentations based upon lectures and readings (2-week period in April 2021)

College of Education

  • Teaching Fellows Program
    • Discussion seminars with Czech students and NC State fellows, lecture introduction to the Czech Education system (NC State Prague), virtual visit to a Czech classroom

NC State DELTA Faculty Help Desk

  • For assistance with distance learning technology, contact the DELTA Faculty Only Learn Tech Help Desk. Email, call  919-513-7094, or submit an online help request at

NC State DELTA Online Learning Workshops

The Collaboratory: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Dept of State-Virtual Exchange Toolkit

FIU’s Office of Global Learning Initiatives Faculty Resources

HubICL: The Intercultural Learning Hub’s Digital Toolbox

  • A digital collection of intercultural tools to be used in classroom settings including group activities, course designs and content, multimedia, and assessment materials. Website also contains a database of publications about intercultural learning and a free membership to join chats, groups, and forums.

International Virtual Exchange Conference (IVEC)

Journal of Virtual Exchange

  • Online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal aimed at practitioners and researchers in the field known variously as telecollaboration, virtual exchange, or online intercultural exchange.

Stevens Initiative



  • European based cross-disciplinary professional organisation for telecollaboration and virtual exchange in Higher Education. Website includes resources, publications, project ideas, a Virtual Exchange Partner Finding Tool and much more. Well connected to institutions in the European Union.

The Office of Global Engagement has several seed grant and starter funding programs for which faculty can apply to assist in the implementation of Collaborative Online International Learning. Monies may be applied to a variety of activities including, but not limited to:

  • Supporting an undergraduate or graduate assistant involved in COIL course development or implementation.
  • Technology training specific to virtual educational exchange.
  • Developing collaborative websites to share information and course content.

Please visit the OGE Global Funding page for a full listing of opportunities. Funds which may be of particular interest for creating COIL experiences are as follows:

Internationalization Seed Grants

Global Project Supplement Fund

Harry C. Kelly Memorial Fund for U.S.-Japan Scientific Cooperation

  • This fund supports and facilitates NC State faculty in cooperating with Japan-based scientific and technological institutions and organizations, and to develop lasting relationships with such entities.

AC21 Special Project Fund