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Coordination and Planning

Exchange of information at the beginning

After successfully searching partners, it is advisable to exchange information, a fundamental step in developing the COIL course jointly. This can include circumstances, wishes and individual ideas on the following topics:  

  • general contact information  
  • time aspects 
  • linguistic aspects  
  • course content  
  • assessment of learning 
  • technology 
  • institutional cultures and expectations  
  • administrative and institutional support  

Coordinating and jointly planning your teaching collaboration, especially for Full-COIL scenarios, requires time and regular exchanges to develop shared ideas about teaching-learning objectives and activities, as well as forms of assessment. This includes discussing different ideas and finding compromises.

Factors for a successful coordination and planning process

Equal commitment  

In order to fully make use of the potential of multiperspectivity, interculturality and, if necessary, interdisciplinarity for the joint event, a comparable level of commitment and obligatory levels of action are required from both partners. The latter applies above all to reliable and regular communication in the planning phase. When both/all sides contribute their approaches to a topic and their ideas about didactic implementation, an imbalance in perspectives, dominant understandings of content, and unbalanced implementation are prevented. On the one hand, this is a challenge for all participants, but at the same time it is also a rewarding goal, since not only students benefit from international collaboration. 


For newcomers to international teaching, it may be advisable to start enriching existing courses with international, collaborative elements and to look for partners who teach comparable courses in the same field. However, to stick to the syllabus of one's own teaching and to try to transfer it 1:1 into international teaching formats would leave the specific advantages of COIL courses unused: to expand the topics of one's own course with the help of the offerings at other universities and to jointly develop them beyond the original course content. Openness to new topics, formats and perspectives on teaching and learning is a basic prerequisite that can be of great help (not only) to teachers in an international context.

Joint course planning  

Depending on the ideas and the wealth of experience of the partners involved, the goal of internationalization of courses can go beyond the enrichment of existing courses to the joint development of a new course structure. The focus is then on the suitable linking of (different) subject content with elements of intercultural exchange, the use of digital tools and the use of specificmethods and forms of international cooperation. The cooperative conception and development of a syllabus enables the discussion and possible combination of initially different teaching-learning objectives, a balanced content orientation in which both partners can integrate their relevant course content and the bundling of teaching experiences and didactic competences. Difficulties in implementation (in terms of content, technology, time) can at best be identified and dealt with at an early stage. 

Communication as a key element

Successful collaboration depends on regular communication based on mutual trust. Since the partners usually work at institutions that are sometimes far away from each other, the use of digital communication technologies is necessary and has become commonplace, especially in the recent past. Video conferencing and virtual classroom systems such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect or Skype are particularly suitable for bridging the spatial distance and at the same time offer the enormous efficiency advantage of direct verbal communication. The visual connection of the partners helps to build up a basis of trust in regular (online) meetings. This also makes it easier to formulate one's own ideas and expectations for the course, to discuss challenges and solutions, and to find a way of communicating with each other in unfamiliar or conflictual situations. A stable working community established early on, built on commitment, open-mindedness and trust, can make later implementation much easier and allow the maximum potential of a COIL.UP cooperation to be exploited.

Tips for online communication in the international community 

  • Agree on an appropriate response time for emails. This can vary depending on the phase. For example: one week at the beginning of course planning, 1-2 days during the joint semester.  
  • Set dates for regular online meetings, preferably as video conferences.  
  • If you are contacting each other for the first time, bear in mind that technical difficulties may arise and plan accordingly. 
  • Jointly established rules for communication (during class and behind the scenes of the seminar) can prevent misunderstandings.  
  • Address problems openly and early on.  
  • Agree on joint reflection of and regular feedback on the course sessions and the way of working within the cooperation.

Intercultural communication - anticipate, sensitize, learn

Exchanges, discussions, and joint work in COIL courses involve the clash of different cultural perceptions, backgrounds, and characteristics. These concern both the differing teaching-learning cultures and a variety of other culturally related differences. Uncertainties and misunderstandings can arise during exchanges between teachers and students and, in particular, between students themselves, some of which can already be taken into accountin the planning stage. This can concern the interpretation of presented materials, but also the direct exchange. Humor, sarcasm and irony can thus become stumbling blocks should the cultural background remain unadressed. Sensitization between you and your partner in the coordination phase already, but especially sensitization of your students at the beginning of the course can prevent unpleasant situations.  

At the same time (depending on the course content) a respectful "Clash of Cultures / Culture Shock" can also contribute to the generation of new knowledge. Irritations and moments of misunderstanding between the participating groups offer potential learning opportunities that can be made fruitful by the course leader in a moderating and accompanying manner. Good preparation of the reading materials and exchange between teachers can limit the uncertainties of intercultural communication. Likewise, there should always be a double check of what is understood; after the first intuitive assessment of a statement, a cultural perspective should also be taken, which can help to classify the content of the statement.