Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Comes to Valencia

Thursday, May 27, 2021

By Lindi Kourtellis, Manager of Study Abroad Programs

COIL is a virtual exchange model that stands for Collaborative Online International Learning. COIL emphasizes collaboration, internationalization, cross-cultural competence, technology and accessibility.

In the COIL model, students from different cultures enroll in shared courses with faculty members from different countries co-teaching and managing coursework. COIL has been pushed to the forefront of learning since the pandemic happened last year. As the world became closed and traditional study abroad opportunities dissipated, institutions worldwide joined forces to keep globalization alive for students.

With the COIL model, internationalization is promoted at home. Students do not have to travel by plane to have meaningful, global experiences. This is why, in summer 2020, the Study Abroad and Global Experiences (SAGE) office joined forces with SUNY COIL to learn how to implement, sustain, and scale a virtual exchange initiative for faculty and students at Valencia College.

SAGE also identified and recruited prospective faculty members to engage in virtual exchange, both through formal COIL collaborations and informal co-curricular exchanges. After a semester of planning, the inaugural COIL exchange at Valencia College took place in spring 2021 with Professor of Computer Programming and Analysis Jerry Hensel entering into a collaboration with Universidad de Sonora (UNISON) in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Jerry partnered with Dr. Julio Saucedo, an astronomy professor, to help create a database and website for tracking asteroids in the solar system. Saucedo will use the prototypes to help in research of statistical properties of asteroids and locate the trajectory of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that might someday be on a collision course with the Earth.

Jerry taught CIS 2910 (IT capstone course) in spring 2021, which allowed 20 of his students to collaborate with 10 astronomy students from UNISON to develop and create the database and website. Along the way, SAGE offered guest speakers and provided icebreaker events so that students from both institutions could get to know each other and build trust.

The course lasted for 16 weeks and was completely interdisciplinary from two STEM fields — IT and Astronomy. The collaboration allowed students to appreciate different cultures, customs, languages and perceptions from the two different countries.

Daniel Stanbury, a student in Jerry’s class, shared that he had very positive experience.

“In my experience, it is always a good thing to get input and feedback from people who think differently than you, not only academically speaking, but also culturally,” he shared. “Having people from different backgrounds allows for many different opinions, processes and ways of thinking. I feel very fortunate to be able to live this experience. I think this project will be a strong resume builder and a unique opportunity to be a part of something bigger. I have had the good fortune in life to be able to travel and meet people from all over the globe. The international collaboration is probably my favorite part of this class.”

If you would like to see what the IT Capstone students developed, you can visit the following links; 1), 2) and 3)

During this process, the SAGE team gathered faculty perspectives on COIL. The following is feedback from Jerry Hensel on his COIL experience:

SAGE: What do you feel are the greatest benefits that you took away from your COIL Experience?

Jerry: In the beginning, I did not know what to expect. I knew I was taking a risk working with another faculty member that was living and working in a different country and how they would affect the learning of my students. After the first couple of weeks, my anxiety went down because I could start to see how students were impacted by learning from their Mexican counterparts about their culture, language, and how they approached problem solving. 

SAGE: How do you think COIL ties into the Equity initiatives the College has started?

Jerry: That’s a great question. I think the COIL experience put everyone involved at an equal level and allowed them to give their opinions and suggestions without feeling that people were not including them. Every student worked in groups and had an equal footing in putting forth their input on how the project should be developed. Overall, the students from Valencia learned about global competencies, cultural differences and how to appreciate them, and lastly to learn how to improve their problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills. Another point to equity is the fact that I lead a study abroad trip every year overseas. Due to COVID-19, I was unable to do that in 2020. In response, I wanted to create an environment based on equity where all students enrolled in my IT Capstone class would have the opportunity to interact with people from different countries. This allowed them to experience the culture in Mexico without having to travel there. I recognize that studying abroad is expensive for students and many Valencia students do not have the funds to travel on a study abroad trip. COIL offsets the cost for them because it is free, which creates an equitable environment for everyone.

SAGE: How is COIL going to impact you professionally? 

Jerry: Honestly, I will have an internationalization component in every course I teach now. In addition, I plan on internationalizing the learning outcomes as well. This opportunity also allowed me to expand professionally because I used this as my Action Research Project that is tied to my Faculty High Impact Practice. I now have new friends and colleagues in Mexico that I can visit in the future. Lastly, the COIL experience has allowed Valencia and myself to gain national attention. I was invited to speak at the NOVA Going Global conference and to participate in a faculty exchange program through SUNY. Also, NAFSA will be featuring an article where they will include Valencia College’s first COIL experience and this project between UNISON and Valencia College.

The SAGE Office would like to thank Jerry for being an early adopter and leading the first official COIL collaboration. In addition, SAGE wants to recognize the hard work of the IT Capstone students who participated. Their participation and dedication to COIL was extraordinary. Thank you to Alaric Benitez, Julio Bermudez, Jonathan Bernaber, Jenelle Blyden, Luis Gomez Jaramillo, Richmond Lao, Gregory Lauture, Allen Litchfield, Peter Loncsar, Israel Mendez Crespo, George Parker, Talal Rasheed, Alejandro Reyes, Kellee Roberts, Michael Serrao, Daniel Stambury, Anthony Tran, Michael Virella and Courtney Watson.

The SAGE Office invites faculty from all disciplines to participate in virtual exchange. If you would like to collaborate with an international partner or to learn more about COIL, please contact Manager of Study Abroad Programs Lindi Kourtellis at or at 407-299-5000, extension 1344.

1 Comment

  • Karen Murray said:

    I think this is great. The US is generally too self-focused, and internationalizing can bring important, far-reaching benefits.

    PMFri, 28 May 2021 15:52:25 +0000Fri, 28 May 2021 15:52:25 +0000pm21,3:52 pm

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