08/03/2022 Opinion

Marina Vives Cabré, Home Internationalization and COIL technician at the URV

“Aurora expands online collaborative learning opportunities for students and teaching staff”

The URV has arranged the first virtual fair of International Collaborative Learning Online (COIL). The fair is intended for teachers of the Aurora network who want to implement the methodology and internationalize their subjects

Students from the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Psychology, led by Professor Conxa Torres, participate in the first plenary session with the Technological University of Monterrey in March 2020.

The COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning), also known as “Virtual Exchange”, is a teaching and learning methodology that brings together two kinds of universities from different countries and cultural environments. COIL activities are based on cooperation, as the name suggests, since the teachers of both universities first work together to design the task that the students will undertake and, subsequently, the students work in mixed teams to carry it out in a certain time frame.

COIL’s virtual, internet-based interaction allows for great flexibility in communication: it can take place synchronously (through videoconferencing, for instance) or asynchronously (using discussion tables, shared documents or email exchanges). COIL activities, therefore, do not require the use of any particular platform, program or learning management system.

Since COIL is part of a subject, it usually lasts between 4 and 10 weeks. It begins with ice-breaking activities among participants, followed by collaborative activity, and it ends with a session that allows students to share their results, impressions and knowledge. The teachers accompany the students throughout the COIL experience and also guide them in intercultural communication. At the end of these weeks, each teacher scores the students within their own subject.

Here at Rovira i Virgili University, we have been practicing this methodology since the 2019-20 academic year, implementing and developing it thanks to a clear institutional support. This translates into training courses for interested teachers, counseling for the design of the activities and for the search for partners, and advice and monitoring of the teaching staff who have been practicing it for a long time. In this sense, COIL is part of a broader strategy that promotes internationalization “at home” (everything we can do to have a more “international” or global university without having to increase mobility).

We are firmly convinced that COIL is a good tool to further internationalize our institutions, and for this reason the URV promoted and organized the first Aurora COIL virtual fair, which was held on February 17 and brought together 35 teachers searching for a potential partner with whom to start a COIL collaboration. It is just one example that shows that the consortium has great potential for the development of exchanges, interaction and mutual enrichment, even remotely.

The assessment and responses we have received from this first fair are very positive. We will continue working so it will be the first step of a future network of teachers who practise COIL within Aurora, with multiple matches of teachers from various disciplines and origins who use this methodology. This way, not only will they internationalize their curriculum, but also their own competencies and those of their students.

We will work to hold more fairs like this so that more and more teachers can get in touch. But, in the meantime, URV teachers who are interested in looking for a partner within Aurora can contact coil@urv.cat to receive help in this search.

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