By News 4’s: Kayla Green @KaylaGreen04
Students at the College at Brockport are making connections across the globe – literally. State University of New York COIL, or Collaborative Online International Learning, gives students the chance to interact with students at other universities all around the world.
Part of Brockport’s strategic plan is to expand global opportunities for students. Brockport COIL coordinator, Ann Pearlman said that being part of COIL helps achieve this goal by working with an organization that is developing international courses.
Faculty interested in teaching a COIL class are paired with an international partner. They then co-teach, in a way, between their two campuses. The professors plan lessons that coordinate and that will give students a lot to talk about during class meeting times.
There are currently five different faculty members teaching a COIL class on the Brockport campus. There are classes in education, social work, kinesiology, sports studies and physical education, and women and gender studies.
Dr. Pamela Haibach-Beach is one of the faculty members who teaches a COIL class. She said COIL intrigued her because it is a good alternative for students who may not be able to study abroad for various reasons.
“So most schools it’s about one percent of the population can study abroad, so I figured this is one way to incorporate some cultural competencies and experiences for students who don’t have those opportunities,” Haibach-Beach said.
Students in Haibach-Beach’s class collaborated with students in the Netherlands for the first half of the semester, and are currently working with students in Lebanon for the second half.
Students in both classes were broken down into smaller groups to focus in on a topic. The Brockport students focused on nutrition, while the students in the Netherlands focused on steroids.
Each individual group created a video project and shared them with each other at the end. They then watched each other’s videos, which kinesiology student Steven Reinke found very exciting.
“It’s been very interesting, actually, to find out their personal experiences with their aging family members, friends, etc, and how they’re keeping active. The Netherlands is typically a little bit more of an active country on average than us, so it’s very cool to compare and see how they’re doing compared to our population over here,” Reinke said.
Although the topics the students chose were somewhat related, Haibach-Beach said this does not have to be the case with COIL classes. You do not necessarily have to find a school that is teaching the same class, or even the same field.
Haibach-Beach’s specialty is fitness and aging, and the Netherland partner’s was nutrition, so those matched up pretty nicely.
However, the next partner, Lebanon, is focused on technology. The plan during that portion of the class is to look at the influence of technology on fitness and aging, which gives a totally different perspective for students in both the countries.
During the duration of the project, students in Brockport and the Netherlands kept in contact using What’sApp. This can be used on a computer or a smartphone, and it made it easier for them to communicate even when they were not in class. Video chatting proved to be nerve racking for some of the students, so the texting option was a good alternative for them.
As they talked, Brockport students said they noticed cultural barriers, but they did not get in the way of the ultimate goal. Reinke emphasized the challenges with the language barrier.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of a language barrier, so that was interesting to get around. You know they do speak very good English but obviously some of our idioms fall a little bit short. Otherwise, culturally, I feel like they came off a little more reserved a little more professional, definitely more professional than the average college student over here,” Reinke said.
Alternatively, Haibach-Beach said that the Netherlands students actually seemed a lot more comfortable and casual than the American students. She said the first day the two groups met over Skype, each student had to introduce themselves by saying their name, major and cultural background. The Brockport students were very rigid and to-the-point with their introductions, while the Dutch students were joking around and did not seem nervous at all. Haibach-Beach added that this made a lot of her students feel more comfortable; seeing how excited and relaxed the Dutch students were.
Ultimately, Pearlman and Haibach-Beach want to expand COIL across other fields on campus.
Until this happens, however, all students are encouraged to take a COIL class, even if it falls outside their discipline area.
Haibach-Beach’s course fulfills the contemporary issues element required in the general education curriculum, which gives flexibility and room for students to step outside their comfort zones.
“It’s nerve racking the first time you meet them, cause I think when you’re immersing yourself in a different culture you expect them to be so different but really when you meet them you realize they’re just like you,” said exercise science student Madeline Gibbs.
“Even if it makes you nervous to participate in it, I think it’s necessary just to kinda get to meet other people from different cultures without even leaving.”
For more information, you can visit the COIL website.