The State University of New York has received a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of State to create online courses with SUNY campuses, colleges and universities in the U.S. and in 18 Mexican states. According to an Oct. 8 press release on the SUNY website, SUNY’s Collaborative Online International Learning Center will be in charge of the funds. A total of 1,500 students and 70 faculty members in the U.S. will have the opportunity to participate in this program for the next two years.
Geneseo’s COIL Coordinator Dave Parfitt explained that COIL’s overall goal is to “make it easier to facilitate international experiences into courses [by] giving students exposure into international experiences and helping to facilitate faculty exchanges and connections.”
According to Parfitt, Geneseo’s COIL already has partnerships with Universidad de Monterrey, Universidad La Salle, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey and Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico.
“It’s really up to [Geneseo] faculty members—in the sense that the way COIL works is faculty members can incorporate these types of online international experiences into any course,” Parfitt said. “If it makes sense for faculty members to partner with one of these Mexican institutions and have this exchange, then they can do it.”
Parfitt added that Geneseo has a wide variety of faculty members across multiple disciplines that all “specialize in some aspect of Latin America.”
“I’m looking at this SUNY COIL partnership with Mexico as a way that we can kind of get them involved and kind of further some of our interests in Latin American studies,” he said.
Assistant Provost for International Programs Rebecca Lewis noted that COIL programs also boast many financial and social benefits to students. “[It is] less expensive than study abroad and, in some ways, is a more intentional interaction with students from another culture because you’re working on projects together or in discussion boards together in a way that may not always happen if you just study abroad for a semester.’’
Parfitt expressed his desire to see an increase in the scale of the COIL program at Geneseo. “I would like to see more faculty members adopting this type of teaching. I’d like to see more international partners in addition to Mexico. I’d like to see even more connections within SUNY as well,” he said. “I think it’s a great benefit to faculty members to be able to collaborate with each other and it’s great for students to be able to connect with other SUNY institutions, as well as institutions worldwide.”
Parfitt noted, however, that there are still challenges to this type of learning. “Time is ever limited in terms of developing their courses, developing their labs, the number of advisees, the number of students they have,” he said. “It takes time to learn the technology for this, to find partner institutions that fit with their classes.”
According to Parfitt, professors can be rewarded for their hard work with a “course development stipend to try to offer this new type of technology and this new teaching into the course.”
Geneseo has had COIL online programs similar to the upcoming program with Mexico in the past. Associate professor of communication Meredith Harrigan led a partnership with the Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia in spring 2012 for COMN 317: Intercultural Communication.
“Students [worked] in diverse teams [and] had to create these social advertisements for both the U.S. and Russian culture,” Harrigan said. “Layered in that were all these team-building activities that were really designed to help them to get to know one another and learn about the culture in more of a casual or interpersonal sense.”
Harrigan added that she utilized a variety of online tools to work with the Russian students, including video conferencing and VoiceThread.
“Students can collaborate asynchronously online and hear each other’s voices and see each other’s image, but it’s across time as opposed to real time,” Harrigan said.
Lewis believes that programs like those through COIL are “part of campus internationalization.”
“[It’s] making sure that every student at Geneseo has some sort of significant and meaningful interaction from people of a different culture because it’s part of the liberal arts and sciences that you understand things from more than one perspective,” she said.