A Brief History of the SUNY COIL Center

In 2004, The Office of International Programs (OIP) and the Office of Learning Environments (OLE) at SUNY System Administration began the Cross National Project (CNP), in an effort to help to develop more online courses with an international dimension throughout SUNY. The idea was to work with faculty across SUNY to develop courses that would be team taught with a partner abroad and would enroll students both from SUNY campuses and from the partner institution. The CNP goals were drafted in 2004, and later served as a basis for the mission of the COIL Center. The goals are as follows:

  • To extend the enriching benefits of international education to a broader spectrum of SUNY students, faculty and staff than presently are able to study abroad.
  • To encourage and support the development of courses incorporating international collaborations which have a significant online component.
  • To develop a network of faculty, administrators, staff and students from SUNY and campuses abroad who are committed to online international education and to provide venues, including an annual conference, where their ideas and experiences can be shared.
  • To meet the international market demand for educational opportunities at SUNY by locating, contacting and developing foreign partners who are interested in collaborating on online international projects.
  • To educate ourselves and our colleagues about practices and technologies that can enhance our ability to create inspiring cross-national courses and to create a repository of online resources to facilitate this work.
  • To enhance the development of hybrid teaching models by sharing faculty between SUNY campuses - both virtually and in the classroom.
  • To demonstrate and promote model online international courses through online meeting spaces, dedicated web pages and in-person presentations throughout the SUNY system.
  • To develop funding sources that can support the incubation and development of innovative international online course work, degree programs, training and professional development, and life-long learning.
  • To foster the sustainability of online international scholarship, by promoting the "bottom-up" culture of individuality, entrepreneurship and creativity inherent in the academic community.

In the fall of 2006, OIP joined with SUNY's Purchase College to create the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). COIL developed from the efforts of a group of SUNY faculty innovators who were each exploring ways to bring international students into their classrooms using technology. One of these innovative professors was Jon Rubin, a Film and New Media Professor at Purchase College, who was appointed as COIL’s Founding Director.

The early mission of the COIL Center was to develop more online courses with an international dimension throughout SUNY. By presenting workshops across many campuses, hosting two conferences (2007 and 2008), and by receiving funding from various agencies such as the National Endowment of the Humanities and Open Society Institute, COIL engaged faculty and staff at over 20 SUNY campuses and in over 10 countries, helping to develop courses that were team taught with an international partner. Students enrolled in these courses at their own institution and met online with their peers abroad, working together within a course module or over a full semester.

Recognizing its ability to enhance curricular internationalization throughout SUNY, COIL was invited in 2010 to move from Purchase College to join the new SUNY Global Center in New York City. Becoming a unit of the SUNY Global allowed COIL to not only better support SUNY campuses and their international partners, but also to play a larger national and international leadership role in the emerging field of globally networked learning. In support of this expanded role, a second full-time staff person was hired: COIL’s Assistant Director John Fowler.

Since moving to SUNY Global, COIL's reputation and leadership in the field has continued to expand. Through revenue generation and grant funding, COIL was able to expand its staff to four in 2013 with the hiring of two Program Coordinators for International Collaborations; Sarah Guth and Julie Ficarra. COIL's staff has done extensive outreach at international conferences and through campus visits around the world to help spread the uptake of globally networked learning. This has been aided by several feature stories on COIL in prominent publications including the Chronicle for Higher Education and University World News.  In addition to this outreach, below are some of the major project areas in which COIL has undertaken since joining SUNY Global to help spread the development of collaborative online international learning both at SUNY and around the world..

Nodal Network

This is COIL's primary internationalization vector within SUNY. The COIL Nodal Network held its first in-person meeting at the SUNY Global Center in November 2010 with the seven founding: Binghamton, Cobleskill, Cortland, Delhi, New Paltz, Purchase and Ulster. The mission of this consortium of SUNY campuses is to promote curricular internationalization through the innovative use of technology. Through a network infrastructure, COIL works to nurture stronger working relationships both between and amongst these campuses and COIL. Crucial to this growth has been the creation of a cohort-based grant program in which new prospective faculty can apply to become part of each year's Nodal Network Academy to receive training and support to develo their COIL courses.

Each participating campus has made a commitment at the Provostial and/or Presidential level to the COIL model and has designated a campus Nodal Network Coordinator. These coordinators call regular meetings for interested faculty and staff, help coordinate support with the campus’ international programs and/or instructional technology offices, and communicate through a website developed by COIL. In 2012, Corning, Empire State, Geneseo, and Oswego joined the Nodal Network. The network continues to expand with Alfred, Genesee, Old Westbury, Oneonta, Onondaga, and Buffalo joining the network in 2013.

COIL is working on a new structure for the Network to be unveiled in 2014 which will include multiple tiers of membership, including a range of support services participating campuses can contract with COIL to provide. The network is also being expanded to include international and other U.S. institutions which will be part of COIL's newly named Global Network.

Annual COIL Conference

Since joining SUNY Global, COIL has hosted three major annual international conferences which have included participants from nearly 50 SUNY campuses and more than 100 institutions from around the U.S. and the world. The annual conference brings together faculty, international programs staff, instructional technology staff, and university and college administrators to share experiences and innovative GNL models and best practices. The conference agendas include sessions from both noted international scholars, as well as those resulting from an international Call for Presentations. As the leading event in the field, the COIL Conference has become the must attend event for both new and experience practitioners in collaborative online international learning. In order to allow individuals across the world who may not be able to attend for geographic, financial, political, or other reasons to benefit from the many informative sessions at the conference, COIL has each year offered a free live webcast and an online video archive of all conference sessions on the COIL website.

COIL Institute

In 2010, with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, COIL created the 3-year COIL Institute for Globally Networked Learning in the Humanities. Through the Institute, COIL, with the support of leading experts from around the world, trained and supported institutional teams comprised of over 100 humanities scholars, instructional designers and international programs staff from 22 institutions across the U.S., including 6 from SUNY, who worked to develop globally networked programs with nearly 30 international partner institutions from all of the world’s permanently inhabited continents.

The Institute marks the largest ever working group of GNL practitioners. As a result, it has provided an ideal opportunity to learn more about the impacts of GNL on institutions offering such courses and the students taking part. As a result, we developed and implemented a two-part student survey to help measure and better understand the student experience in COIL courses. We also guided each international team in creating a detailed case study about their joint course development and implementation process. The full results of these assessments will be made available on the COIL website in late 2013.

Moving Forward

Late 2013 and into 2014 will see the launch of several new large-scale COIL projects. This includes COIL's New Latin America Partnership Program which with grant support from Santander Universities will involve COIL developing eight partnerships between SUNY and members of the Santander Universities in Latin America over the next three years to create and pilot collaborative online international learning environments.

In late-summer 2013, COIL was pleased to announce a new collaboration with the American Council on Education (ACE) on a new Internationalization through Technology award program. The awards will be announced in 2014 and will recognize, support, and promote the use of technology to enhance institutional internationalization and global competence among students at U.S. colleges and universities.

Over the past years as COIL’s reputation has grown, the Center has begun to receive inquiries from institutions, both within and outside SUNY, seeking support to develop globally networked courses and programs, as well as expertise in integrating them into their campus internationalization plans. In these discussions it has become clearly evident that many institutions require and desire a more intensive model of engagement with COIL in order to be successful. This has led COIL to develop a fee-based program which provides additional facilitation to enable such campuses to more quickly and robustly utilize globally networked learning to internationalize their curriculum. This new Tier Two Program has been piloted with two SUNY campuses in 2013, and in 2014 will be launched for participation by other SUNY campuses, as well as interested institutions in the U.S. or abroad.