COIL Institute for Globally Networked Learning in the Humanities


In 2010, the SUNY (State University of New York) Center for COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a three-year project called the COIL Institute for Globally Networked Learning in the Humanities. COIL (also referred to as globally networked learning or virtual exchange) is not a technology, but rather a new approach to teaching and learning that brings together geographically distant instructors and students from different lingua-cultural backgrounds to communicate and collaborate through the use of online communication tools. The COIL method promotes interactive shared coursework, emphasizing experiential learning and gives collaborating students a chance to get to know each other while developing meaningful projects together. This broadens and deepens their understanding of course content while building cross-cultural communicative capacity through academic and personal engagement with the perspectives of global peers.
Participation in the COIL Institute was open to scholars in the humanities in US higher education institutions. In order to be selected, each institution was required to provide:
  • evidence of senior leadership commitment to COIL,
  • at least one faculty member interested in creating a COIL course, 
  • demonstrated support by instructional design staff and/or staff from the international programs office on campus,
  • and an international partner institution interested in developing the course together.

A total of 21 US institutions were selected from a national call for participants to design and develop pilot COIL initiatives. Some institutions developed two courses and/or had two international partners. Thus ultimately the Institute included 25 international partner institutions from 19 countries across all of the world's inhabited continents (see Participating Institutions). Faculty and staff from all institutions were appointed as COIL Institute Fellows and led their campus’ involvement in this new initiative, eventually developing 24 successful COIL courses. Each of the Institute's Fellows (domestic and international) made a two-year commitment to actively participate in:

  • An ongoing online Institute Commons utilizing a customized social networking platform where participants could network and share experiences throughout the two-year Institute with other Institute Fellows and staff during their course development and implementation (June 2011 – June 2013).

  • One of five 3-day discipline-specific workshops at the SUNY Global Center in NYC to focus on: setting disciplinary‐specific learning goals; fostering cross‐cultural engagement and dialogue; evaluating the technical support needs of globally networked learning environments; and engaging and supporting online collaborative initiatives as a means to promote and enhance study abroad (Sept. - Oct. 2011).

  • A follow-up 8-week online course on to build on the globally networked learning ideas discussed in the workshops (Oct. 2011 - Jan. 2012).

  • Teaching and/or supporting a globally networked course(s) involving partner institutions and students in at least two countries (Jan. - Dec. 2012).

  • A 2-day Capstone Conference in NYC where lessons learned during the Institute were shared (April 2-3, 2013) and disseminated through an Institute publication (see Publications).

Based on the proposed course content, teams were assigned to 1 of 5 discipline-specific tracks: Human Societies, Language and Literature, International Studies, Media Arts and Culture, and Freshmen Foundations. Each track was led by two experts with experience developing and implementing COIL courses in that specific area (see Personnel). Together with SUNY COIL Center staff, an Instructional Design specialist, and Cross-Cultural Communications specialist, these experts provided support and hands‐on training in the design, development, and implementation of COIL courses, with a specific focus on cross‐cultural and pedagogical issues related to technology.


NEH Logo