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Embracing Collaborative Online International Learning: A Key to our Internationalization at Home strategy?

In an increasingly interconnected world, where the boundaries of business are no longer confined by geographical limitations, it’s crucial for business schools to prepare their students for a globalized marketplace. While traditional study abroad programs have long been a staple of international education, Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is emerging as an approach that enhances the concept of internationalization at home.

Exposing students virtually to to different cultures, even within one’s home country, promotes cultural awareness and sensitivity.

The job market is becoming more globalized. Employers seek candidates who can work effectively with colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds. Internationalization at home prepares students for this reality, making them more competitive in the job market. With strong academic partners, an institution can do all this online. Virtual exchange challenges students to think critically about their own cultural biases and assumptions. It encourages them to question the status quo, explore new perspectives, and develop a more open-minded approach to problem-solving. Not all students have the means to participate in traditional study abroad programs due to financial, family, or other constraints. Therefore, BI is exploring how we can implement this into select courses and programs. I’m proud to take on this challenge on behalf of our institution. Here are a few notes of what I’ve seen this week:

Understanding COIL

Collaborative Online International Learning, often referred to as virtual exchange, involves connecting students from different parts of the world through online platforms, enabling them to collaborate on projects, engage in discussions, and learn together despite being physically separated. COIL transforms the traditional classroom experience by fostering cross-cultural communication, global awareness, and intercultural competence among students, all without the need for international travel. There are three reasons why we are exploring this:

Accessible Global Learning: COIL provides an opportunity for students who might face financial, logistical, or personal constraints that prevent them from participating in traditional study abroad programs. It makes international experiences accessible to a wider range of students, democratizing global learning.

Real-world Readiness: In the business landscape, working with international counterparts and clients is the norm. COIL simulates this environment by exposing students to diverse perspectives and business practices, equipping them with skills that directly translate to their future careers.

Technological Fluency: In a world driven by technology, COIL cultivates digital literacy and communication skills. Students become adept at using various online tools for collaboration.

The road ahead is winding, yet rewarding

Establishing partnerships with international business schools that share similar values and educational goals. This collaboration is vital for designing COIL experiences that align with the curriculum of both institutions. BI have multiple network and partnerships, both through research and faculty. We are actively looking for new likeminded partners to develop virtual exchange experiences with.

However, there are several challenges that arise due to the unique nature of online collaboration across borders. The most obvious is technology. As it is all online, technology can sometimes fail, leading to issues with video conferencing, document sharing, or other collaborative tools. The live element is a key part of this delivery, so time zone challenges can lead to scheduling conflicts and potential student fatigue. Although the cultural differences between student groups is a huge driver, both language and culture it can pose a barrier and cause misunderstandings. Og even conflicts. The assessments need to be fair and equitable. There’s no point if one partner does not evaluate the work properly or does not integrate it in their course delivery. Both student groups need to have skin in the game. And finally, faculty and administrative staff need training and support, to manage COIL activities. And the time to commit to deliver a world class COIL experience.

Addressing these challenges and dilemmas requires careful planning, training, and ongoing support from institutions and faculty members. I find it really exiting to be part of the team that will explore virtual exchange at BI. In our view, it is not just a benefit to individual students but also to society by fostering understanding, collaboration, and solutions to global challenges.