Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

Personal Experience with COIL Classes: Prof. Okuyama

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Yoshiko OkuyamaOkuyama-sensei The following experience was shared by Dr. Yoshiko Okuyama, a professor of Japanese with the Department of Languages.

What made you interested in using COIL in your class?

I attended the first workshop on COIL at our campus a while ago (2019?) and was intrigued by the idea of cross-cultural, course-based collaboration. When we were forced to teach remotely due to the pandemic, I took the situation as an opportunity for creativity and innovation where I could try something that I would not normally do in face-to-face teaching. To seize the moment, I decided to incorporate the idea of international collaboration into my online teaching.

How did you find an international partner?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was just about to conclude the process of establishing an agreement between UH Hilo and Toyo University for the promotion of student and faculty exchange. I first approached one of the professors at Toyo’s Department of International Culture and Communication Studies who were involved in the work. He recruited another colleague from his department in Fall 2020, and we began planning together. The event of cross-cultural interaction between their students and my students of JPNS 102 Elementary Japanese II (4) took place in Spring 2021. Approximately 50 people participated in the event. We went on to offer another cross-cultural event between their students and my JPNS 101 Elementary Japanese I (4) students (and some from my JPST 382 Gender & Disability in Manga (3) ) in fall 2021.

Teaching a class with COIL

How did you integrate COIL into your class? What objectives did you have for your COIL collaboration?

My version of COIL is a simple, one-time opportunity for course-based exchange. Although we spent several hours preparing for it, from collecting cultural topics and questions from Toyo’s and UH Hilo’s students to the designing of specific activities and testing the technologies, the format itself was simple: one-day event in which both groups of undergraduates interact via Zoom. Activities included small group discussions and whole-group feedback sharing which were easy to follow. The main objective was for both universities’ undergraduate students – Toyo’s students studying English and UH Hilo’s students learning Japanese -- to experience an authentic cross-cultural learning opportunity via online.

How did your students react to collaborating with international students?

In both Spring 2021 and Fall 2021, the event went successful. Here are some of my UH Hilo student comments:

“What I enjoyed most about this cultural event exchange was getting to talk with a Japanese college student and also exchanging questions about how Japan is right now and also them asking us questions about how Hawaii is and what they can expect when they get the chance to travel to Hawaii once the pandemic is over.”

“I really enjoyed the event, being able to talk to people native from Japan is a rare opportunity and talking with them was very fun. I was able to get to know my partner and his perspective as a resident of Japan. I think this insight is very important and something I can also consider in the future.”

“My favorite part of the event was just simply having the opportunity to talk to people that live in Japan. It was a fun way to get to know about Japan as a whole a little more, as well as what it's like there right now. I think it was also a really good way to continue improving our listening and speaking ability.”

“Easily the best part of the event was trying to get to talk with students from Japan that were my same age. I was really nervous in the beginning and was not super comfortable speaking Japanese in front of them. However, I think getting to talk to them about issues in Japan and how everyday people see their society was super interesting. …. I thought that was a unique situation that only happened because we had this event from our homes and otherwise would not have happened.”

“I enjoyed the event overall! I think it was very smooth, at least in our group. Me and my group members were able to exchange a lot because our student from Toyo university was extremely good at English and translating. I think it allowed us to ask more questions about Japan and her to ask more questions about Hawaii. I learned about tipping in Japan …...

Additionally, we learned about the completely different transportation conditions here and in Japan, as in, most people in Japan do not have a car and have to pay a huge amount for driving school. They are very reliant on trains, taxis, and other methods, which I found very interesting. It was very effective in helping me gain a new understanding!”

Personal Evaluation of my COIL Course

What were the challenges you encountered in organizing the COIL interaction? (i.e. time differences, language barriers, communication with partner)

There is no language barrier since my Toyo University partners and I are bilingual, and their students are learning to speak English while my students are learning Japanese. The time difference was a bit tricky (Japan is 19 hours ahead of us), but we managed to overcome this challenge primarily by planning on the event months ahead and putting it in our course schedules. This allowed me to inform my students of the event at the beginning of the semester so the majority of them were able to attend it even though the event itself was outside of class time. (If had I announced the event in the middle of the semester, I would not have gotten a high turnout). Unfortunately, things happen in life: one of the partners became ill and retired early in Spring 2022, and the other professor also left Japan for sabbatical. I haven’t found the right replacement for starting a new event this year. That is my only challenge.

What was the most rewarding aspect of your COIL collaboration?

We designed both events in the easiest, least stressful way. So, the best aspect of our collaboration was the fact that we were able to keep our preparation simple and maximize our students’ benefit from this cross-linguistic, cross-cultural experience. I felt most rewarded when I received positive feedback from our participants, including requests for more events like this.