Online collaboration, it’s all in the imagination

Wise words from Anne Smith, one of the presenters of this week’s  coffee club session. Anne, along with our GCU LEAD colleague Sabine McKinnon gave an overview of the GCUs involvement with the COIL (collaborative online international learning) project, some reflections on the recent COIL conference and project experiences.

GCU has been a COIL partner for almost 2 years now and was the first Scottish University to join the partnership scheme.  An international collaborator, Anne was quick to give some pragmatic advice about international collaborative projects.  Firstly, you can do short collaborations lasting one or two session (for example debates) and then work up to longer, more in depth projects. As Anne said, it’s all about your imagination and thinking about how you can take an activity you already do and tweaking it to work  with a partner. Using existing learning outcomes is also a good starting point. Once you have those initial elements,  then you can start to  think about potential collaborators.

Anne shared her experience of the Saki and Irn Bru project, which was a collaboration between entrepreneurship students here at GCU and students from Kansai University in Japan.  This was a collaborative project based activity. Using wikis groups of students contributed to the creation of a report. A range of technologies including wikispaces, skype and Facebook. Facebook was only use for social learning/cultural exchange and was very much a student owned space.  Skype proved more problematic both in terms of stable connections and also, it seemed to be a technology that our students didn’t really use that much and weren’t particularly comfortable using.

Experiencing different cultures is a fundamental part the COIL scheme for students (and staff). It’s fair to say Japan and Scotland have one or two differences, so to help the students prepare for the experience, they were given a lecture on Japanese culture from a Japanese colleague.

Overall the experience has led to more innovative ways to achieve learning outcomes in an international setting, and enhanced “intercultural literacy, curiosity and sensitivity through real-world international group working”.

Sabine and Anne have been evaluating their experiences to date and you can read more about it in their recent paper:  A Window to the World: Using Technology to Internationalise Entrepreneurship Education, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 3, issue 3, pp.15-23

You can find out more in from the slides from the session.


2 thoughts on “Online collaboration, it’s all in the imagination

  1. Many thanks to Sheila and Jim for giving us the opportunity to share our work with the ‘coffee clubbers’. Our experience shows that the main ingredient for a successful COIL collaboration is what you could call an adventurous spirit, an interest in pushing the boat out and leaving your comfort zone. Once you have found an international partner who shares your attitude you can design an exciting new experience for your students who might never had the opportunity to meet their international peers. Having learnt to overcome some of the difficulties we came across in the Japanese collaboration Anne is already developing a new project with a SUNY (State University New York) campus.
    The COIL conference celebrated 10 years of COIL with 400 delegates from 150 different institutions. For me the main theme was how COIL can bridge differences ; differences of time, of discipline, of programmes, of institutional contexts and technologies. They can all be overcome with enthusiasm and a passion for international learning. We heard many presentations from truly interdisciplinary projects such as collaborations between engineers and creative writing academics from universities in Turkey, the USA and Japan. You would think it would never work but it does .
    Let’s keep COILing!


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