Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

Personal Experience with COIL Classes: Mike Skinner

On this page:



My COIL course was established using the third framework. I teach ASAN 120: Japanese Cultures I at Hawaiʻi Community College. HCC has contacts with the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan and they put me in contact with Professor M who teaches a world cultures course.

The professor and I devised our own three week COIL course that was embedded with our respective semesters. The main theme of our COIL course was cross cultural discussion and the curriculum for the three weeks was devised as follows:

Week 1 - University of Ryukyus and Okinawa

  1. Prof M provided a short overview of the University of the Ryukyus, the history of Okinawa, and a presentation on the Shuri castle, which had recently burnt down.
  2. Students from the University of Ryukyus shared about life in Okinawa, their typical day as a university student, and important features of Japanese culture.
  3. HCC students asked questions about Japan, Okinawa, and student life.

Week 2 - Hawaiʻi Community College

  1. I led a discussion about Japanese migration to Hawaiʻi in the 19th Century and how Japanese culture has influenced Hawaii.
  2. HCC students discussed Hawaiian and American culture and their typical lives as a university student.
  3. University of Ryukyu students asked questions about life in Hawaii, America, and student life.

Week 3 - Follow Up Discussion

  1. No structured presentation by either Professor. Summarized some main ideas from Week 1 and 2 discussion.
  2. Students asked more direct questions about respective cultures in dialogue format.

The COIL classes were held on zoom at 6:00-7:30 pm Hawaiʻi time to accommodate the time of the course in Japan. This evening time was decided because my class was asynchronous online, so my students did not have a set class time. Because my class was asynchronous I could not require my students to attend the COIL course and it was offered as optional.

In Fall of 2020 I had five students participate from HCC and UofR had about eight students (their enrollment was down due to Covid restrictions). Overall we had great discussions. Starting off Week 1 and Week 2 with a more guided discussion helped to make this more of a college course setting and facilitated later discussion. Transitioning to questions among the students took a little bit of encouragement, but both Prof M and I were able to formulate open- ended questions that resulted in a cross-cultural dialogue. One main point that was discussed is the similar history between Okinawa and Hawaii, both being colonized and trying to revitalize indigenous culture, traditions, and language. In Week 3 some of the topics that came up in the earlier weeks were conversed about in more detail.

Overall, I felt this COIL course was very productive and educational. The students shared a lot of interesting ideas and realized the connections between Okinawa and Japan. The students also realized they had a lot in common in their college experience, like balancing studies, work, and life.

We coordinated a similar COIL course in Spring 2021. The UofR course was much larger this semester, about 15 students, and they were from all over the world: Japan, Indonesia, and Europe. Unfortunately I could not get as much participation in my course with my students and only two attended the COIL discussion. I think at this point people were tired of being on zoom and the evening time for the COIL course in Hawaiʻi lowered attendance. Also, I could not make attendance compulsory because of the asynchronous format.

The format of the Spring 2021 COIL course was similar, Week 1: UofR and Week 2: HCC, with both weeks starting with a guided lecture followed by cultural discussion. We ended up canceling the third week because of the lack of attendance from HCC students. However, the discussions for Weeks 1 & 2 were great. Lots of sharing about cultural similarities and differences from around the world.

For Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 I could not get any students to sign up for the COIL course. I am switching to hybrid face to face for Fall 2022 and plan to restart the COIL section of the course. Now that I can assign times to meet, I plan on giving points for attendance and making the COIL course a compulsory component to ASAN 120.

Personal Evaluation of my COIL Course


  • Format of starting each session with a structured lecture then transition to open discussion was effective. Students were about to expand on the topic and then ask more questions about student life and cultural differences.
  • Students seemed interested in comparing life in Japan and America/Hawaii. Conversations touched on if students in Japan need to get a job, how many hours do people spend on school work, and how they balance life and school.
  • Was a little worried that the professors would need to guide the discussion sessions but students were engaged
  • Similar history of Okinawa and Hawaiʻi brought about some very solid discussion.


  • Not being able to make my course mandatory really detracted from participation. The evening timing of the COIL cours also made it difficult for students to attend.
  • The lack of points for COIL participation further detracted from attendance
  • Could have devised some more leading questions for students, but as mentioned above they did a good job of carrying the conversation.

Ways to Improve

  • Need to integrate COIL as a component of my course and give points for attendance and participation. Will need to devise some evaluation rubric for the course. Without points and a clear learning outcome, students will not want to attend.
  • Although student discussion went well, both myself and my colleague could devise more directed questions related to Japanese, American, and Hawaiian culture.