Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

How to start a COIL collaboration?

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Time differences

When working with classes located outside Hawaiʻi there will invariably be time differences to negotiate. This problem can be solved by including asynchronous collaboration, in which students can work outside of class at mutually agreeable times. Working with classes located in Asia is manageable if our classes are in the afternoon, since the classes in Asia will be in the morning on the following day in Asia. Working with classes in Europe or the Middle East can be more challenging due to the 11-13 hour time differences from most of those countries. However, these barriers can be solved with good, open communication between participating faculty.


When working with universities outside the United States, it is important to take into consideration that students and faculty may not be native English speakers. If the collaboration is in English, this automatically places our students and faculty at an advantage relative to the partner faculty and students. This issue should be addressed early on in the collaboration. Depending on the nature of the course, this can be an advantage (such as in a language course where UH Hilo students can have the opportunity to practice the target language), but it can also be a barrier (such as in a situation where the course content is the focus of the collaboration). Since most students in our partner universities use English to some degree, this barrier is far from insurmountable. However, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that some students or even faculty may be less confident using English and to raise the issue at the beginning of the collaboration.

Course content

COIL collaborations do not need to cover the exact same content. Courses in different disciplines can collaborate using shared content. For example, a business course with an ethics component may collaborate with a philosophy course at a partner university on ethics. Another example is a course on sustainable agriculture collaborating with a course on ecotourism at another university. Successful COIL partnerships require creative thinking and identifying course content that would benefit from new perspectives gained through international collaboration.

Formal agreements

While a formal agreement between the two universities is not a necessary condition of engaging in collaboration with an international colleague at a partner university in another country, in some cases it may be required by the partner university or desired if the collaboration will go beyond a simple COIL partnership. In case an agreement is required or desired, please contact the Center for Global Education and Exchange for information on how to proceed.

Ways to establish a COIL course

  1. Work with colleagues at international universities
    • Use existing connections with colleagues at universities in other countries to explore mutually beneficial collaboration. This model allows for great flexibility in creating collaboration that will benefit students in both classrooms, since trust and mutual interest exists between faculty. In this situation, COIL is a useful tool to strengthen relationships with colleagues while internationalizing the curriculum.

How to start

  1. Identify the course or part of the course that you want to collaborate on.
  2. Develop open communication with partner faculty to discuss objectives, outcomes, and methods of the collaboration.
  3. Discuss technical aspects of collaboration (type of platform, access to platform, need for technical support).
  4. Include students in respective courses
  1. Establish connections with an affiliated university

    • Work with already offered courses or create a special course
    • Integrate students at each affiliated university
  2. Embed course within participating universities

    • Have university establish contacts with professors in similar courses
    • Work together to design a course for students


Please contact Todd Shumway for more information.