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Collaborative online international learning (COIL) in UK higher education: Reloaded

Sathees Kunjuthamby, Coventry University Matthew Bennett Xue Zhou, Queen Mary University of London

The concept of ‘collaborative online international learning’ (COIL) has been conceived as an educational approach that provides students from different geographical and linguacultural backgrounds opportunities to attain cross-cultural competence and intercultural awareness without leaving their home campus (Guth & Rubin, 2015). In this blog we recommend that business simulation and virtual trips become part of the wider COIL project, which will reap learning benefits for students on business courses. COIL projects enable many students to have international encounters virtually on a given, course-related ‘project’; our recommendation is designed to help nurture a globalised everyday working life.  

COIL projects enable students to develop their digital technology skills through working in group collaboration activities while using different applications to engage in learning with their global peers. This form of pedagogy supports students with the acquisition and improvement of their digital literacy; however, in times of social distancing and online learning, many UK universities have had mixed experiences delivering digital education (Dyer & Harris, 2020). This prompts the question: if UK universities would like to consider alternative means to achieve better learning outcomes during the current Covid-19 pandemic, could COIL projects help? As a means of supporting theoretical knowledge gained on business-related modules, resources and efforts should be invested to develop COIL projects that allow both home and international students to gain the highest degree of experience with the categories and subcategories of the revised taxonomy by Bloom (2001), with particular emphasis on applying, analysing, evaluating and creating knowledge.

Business simulation

In collaboration with a simulation provider with extensive experience and simulation portfolio, a full-day COIL Business Simulation event was organised for the MSc Project Management course at Coventry University, School of Strategy and Leadership. This COIL event allowed students to train their cognitive abilities and apply the learning that has been interspersed in their semester one modules. Student feedback demonstrated that students appreciate such practical opportunities, where they could apply skills and knowledge that were obtained through pre-recorded lecture and seminar activities – for example: ‘a project has to be conducted a certain way for the project to be successful’ and ‘patience is needed in dealing with the client or the employees as there might be a couple of changes or setbacks throughout the process’. This form of engagement using a business simulation COIL project provided a different student experience from sitting in the classroom or attending an online teaching session, and supported the students in developing employability and intercultural competencies as well as skills in the project management discipline.

Virtual field trip

While international student field trips are currently limited due to Covid-19, it is still possible to deliver a level of cultural experience within the university. A ‘virtual field trip’ can be constructed from a mixture of asynchronous and ‘live’ learning and thereby embraces the COIL attributes outlined above. In light of the omission of Erasmus from the UK–EU ‘Brexit’ deal – a scheme that since 1987 has provided a variety of student mobility opportunities (see for example Adams, 2020) – the use of virtual field trips may help many UK universities to offer alternative means of student exchanges. Students can be prepared for the ‘field trip’ with a range of information covering language, culture, geopolitics and business. The live learning can then be hosted by and delivered jointly between the home and partnering institution overseas with a series of interactions that can include guest lectures, video feeds and interviews. The current pandemic has made students far more comfortable with virtual learning and this ‘virtual field trip’ uses this new capacity to good effect.

Conclusion

Future COIL designers may consider embedding business simulation, virtual field trip or other packages to deliver equality of outcomes and meaningful extracurricular opportunities to prepare business graduates for the competitive and yet complex and diverse workplace.


References

Adams, R. (2020, December 24). UK students lose Erasmus membership in Brexit deal. Guardian. Retrieved from https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theguardian.com/education/2020/dec/24/uk-students-lose-erasmus-membership-in-brexit-deal

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Dyer, S., & Harris, L. (2020, October 16). Let’s take the remote out of online learning [Blog post]. Wonkhe. Retrieved from https://wonkhe.com/blogs/lets-take-the-remote-out-of-online-learning/

Guth, S., & Rubin, J. (2015). How to get started with COIL. In A. S. Moore & S. Simon (Eds.), Globally networked teaching in the humanities (pp. 40–57). New York: Routledge.