Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is a form of virtual exchange founded by Professor Jon Rubin at SUNY. Since 2006, the SUNY COIL Center has been a leader in this field. COIL allows a U.S.-based classroom to connect with a class at a college or university abroad, and work together on one or various assignments. Faculty and students will have increased opportunities to enhance their global and cross-cultural knowledge with international peers.

BMCC is currently participating in Global Scholars Achieving Career Success, a 2-year virtual exchange initiative where students and faculty from 5 CUNY schools and 4 universities in the Middle East and North Africa examine how UN Sustainable Development Goals affect their communities. Led by LaGuardia Community College,  other partners include Abdelmalek Essaâdi University (Morocco), the American University of Cairo, Guttman Community College, Hostos Community College, Jordan University of Science & Technology, Palestine Ahliya University and Queens College.

Getting started with COIL

Full-time and part-time faculty across departments are encouraged to develop a COIL module to use in an existing course. Visit the BMCC COIL OpenLab site for guidance on finding a partner, COIL project examples, research and virtual exchange communities. You will also find guides to help you develop a COIL module with your international partner.

COIL support

Faculty can receive support from the Office of Internships and Experiential Learning, the Digital Education Center, and the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Scholarship. Faculty are also encouraged to join the CUNY Academic Commons COIL site to connect with other faculty for partnering, research and conferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

How would I use COIL in the classroom?

COIL can be used for one or more assignments in an existing course. Students at BMCC will work online with the overseas partner classroom. A minimum of 4 weeks is generally recommended for the collaboration between the two classrooms; COIL collaboration is not expected for the entire course. Classrooms can partner across disciplines and institutions and can be used in online, hybrid and face-to-face course. Below is a sample course outline:

  • Week 1: Faculty prepares students for COIL project
  • Week 2: Student introductions
  • Weeks 3 – 4: Collaborative team project
  • Week 5: Student feedback of project, reflection and evaluation

How is the exchange between the two classrooms facilitated?

Faculty should choose technological platforms with which they are comfortable. They will receive support from our Digital Education Center to troubleshoot any issues before and during their course. Examples of technological platforms include Dropbox, Facebook, email, Google Drive, Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

Does the COIL segment need to be in English?

While our BMCC courses are taught in English, it is possible to partner with a classroom with a different primary language. For instance, if you are teaching a language course you might partner with a classroom in another country which uses that language so your students can gain practice. If the two classrooms do not have the same language level, it is important to discuss and account for this discrepancy when planning the course.

What are the benefits of teaching a COIL course?

As a cost-effective initiative, COIL allows a larger number of our students to gain international exposure, global competencies, and real-world problem-solving skills that make them more competitive in the workforce. These goals align with the BMCC Strategic Plan 2020 – 2025. In addition to expanding global learning and digital literary in the classroom, faculty will have the opportunity to expand their professional network internationally and consider new ideas for research. See this COIL Publishing Guide from LaGuardia Community College.

Do I need to propose a new course?

A new course proposal is not required to participate in COIL. It is preferred that faculty modify an existing syllabus to enhance the global dimension of the course, without altering the overall course learning objectives. Faculty should consider which type of international collaboration will enhance student engagement with the course and further develop cross-cultural understandings.

The following questions from the SUNY COIL Faculty Guide may assist in this process:

  • Which components would be enhanced if students could discuss their implications with peers in another country?
  • Which components of your course might be de-emphasized and which could be more foregrounded to encourage time for extensive discussion and collaboration?
  • How would having multiple or different cultural perspectives enhance your students’ understanding of the course content and energize your classroom?
  • Are there projects that the two student cohorts could develop together or are there photos, videos or other course-related artifacts that students could exchange and discuss cross-culturally?

How do I find an international teaching partner?

For those who are interested in COIL, but do not yet have an international partner, we encourage you to explore partnerships within your professional networks and partner-finding websites such as and

As you begin your search, here are some questions to consider:

  • What geographic global perspective(s), if any, would best suit your course content?
  • Do you have colleagues in that part (or those parts) of the world? Do any of your colleagues?
  • Does your college have a partnership with an institution in that part of the world from which you can draw?
  • Are there academic communities or disciplinary associations that could help you connect with a colleague?
    – If they have a listserv or portal where colleagues can directly communicate with each other, you may wish to post a description of what you are seeking to do.