OIL.UP course design

Selecting Contents

After agreeing with your colleague about what you want to teach during the collaboration you need to select the contents that will finally be part of the course. We recommend to distinguish your contents in a binary scheme of must have and nice to have. All must haves are a central part of your course, this can be essential learning goals or relevant contents for your examination. The nice to haves can be integrated into the course in case of unexpected incidents during the semester. Those nice to haves should be flexible to be integrated during the course and should be replaceable by must haves. This becomes relevant if some contents or joint activities take more time than planned in the first place. A good pre-structuration with the suggested binary scheme can reduce workload and stress levels when it comes to quick decision-making on how to successfully finish the course despite time limits.

Communication Technologies

To make your students digital mobile, some basic technical knowledge should be at your hand. Some questions have to be discussed in advance to reduce uncertainties and to become familiar with the applications you are going to use.

To make sure that all systems work, you have to pay attention to technical compatibility between your intuitions. Some e-Learning services, such as Learning-Management-Systems, might only be used by members of the providing institution.

Your collaboration will be mostly determined by the technologies you are going to use. It is important to take that into account while planning your course. A few reflective questions should help you to narrow down possibilities.

  • Will communication (also between student groups) be only via e-Mail or should  formats like the virtual classroom be a priority?
  • Will there be (online) student group work? Which platform (e.g. Facebook, Researchgate) is best suited for this task? Please also take your student wishes concerning privacy into account when using social networks (e.g. using online nicknames and not full names, ask for permission before uploading pictures showing your students)
  • Do the selected platforms grant equal access for students of both institutions?

You and your colleague decide individually which communication technologies you want to use. When using Web 2.0 applications and software it is recommended that you are already familiar with basic features and can give students instructions on how to start participating. Your knowledge will help the students to easily start right away.

The OIL.UP team provides a technical support for your collaboration. If you encounter any problems or have further questions on integrating technologies into your course do not hesitate to contact oilupuni-potsdamde

On our website we provide further information and contact details of University of Potsdam staff for technical issues.

Teaching methods and examination in digital spaces

The internet provides a massive amount of new tools and methods for teaching. Thanks to fast connections, most ideas can be easily internationalized. To give you a better orientation about these potential tools we developed some best practice examples as so called spotlights, which are available on our website. Spotlights will shed light on a specific didactical task and offer a solution on a single page.

As most parts of your course, examination can also be integrated into the international collaboration. If you decide to do that, it is useful to discuss terms of examination with your colleague in advance. For higher transparency and fair evaluation of student’s work, a rubric with your expectations can be of great help. The rubric also allows you to better communicate with your colleague about examination. Using the same expectancies for both seminars allows better comparison of students from different institutions working in international groups.

Depending on your course contents, different methods of examination can be used. Besides classical written exams and term papers, you can use a form of examination within the international collaboration. This can either be (academic) blog posts, joint project reports or posters that were created in group works. The form of examination is depending on the modalities by the collaborating institutions. The degree of freedom to choose a certain form of examination varies from department to department.

In the following we list some alternative forms for international examination, that were already used at University of Potsdam.

Group tasks Reflective Journals
For collaborations focusing the international experience and intercultural exchange, group tasks provide a good form of examination to get students in a deep exchange with their peers. Group tasks demand the highest intercultural communication and an ongoing ex-change between the students. Therefor self-organizing, working in a team, intercultural competence and foreign language skills will be developed and put into use by the students. The groups can organize themselves via online applications or by mail. When deciding to use group tasks you have to develop the tasks together with your col-league. When assigning groups make sure that equal proportions of students from the in-stitutions are in each group. Usually courses are set up to a certain structure. Meaning that contents are dependent on one and another and only the connection of the different seminar sessions allows students to understand the big picture the course is trying to teach. A reflective journal can be used to help students associate the different sessions. In the reflective journal (or learning diary) students describe on a regular basis their impressions and new gained knowledge from the seminar. The reflective journal should contain some questions regarding contents, state clear what wasn’t well understood during the session and repeat the main topics of the seminar. The reflective journal is done individually and encourages self-reflection, besides that it gi-ves you a feedback about the international collaboration and what was learned in your class.
Poster Blogs
Scientific posters deal with a specific issue or hypothesis with graphical displays and text elements. Students can create posters in groups. International teams can use online tools to create a poster together and present it in their class or share it digitally. The creation of posters links the benefits of group tasks with a specific task that includes creative elements. Different approaches to display and transport information can be practiced and implemen-ted. To design a poster various software can be used. With Microsoft’s Power Point it is easy to design posters for a printable format. Piktochart allows to collaboratively create info-graphics and posters online, several templates make it easy to use. The final posters can be digitally shared to any computer. Students can write own (small) articles that discuss an issue. The process of writing pro-motes the skill of academic writing and deepens the understanding of selected topics. The public writing on an academic blog gives your students the feeling of being “real scien-tists”. Motivation for and quality of blog posts increases considerably. The comment function of blog platforms can be used to open discussion in the digital sphere and give feedback to the entries. Your students will interact more with each other when giving a comment or feedback is mandatory.With various offers in the internet it became easy to create your own blog and let students publish on it. At University of Potsdam we made great experiences with the academic blog platform NewsActivist.

Digital media as didactical tools

The possibilities of Web2.0 applications and modern communication technologies are sheer endless. With several options higher didactical demands arise. The didactical embedment of digital media is a significant factor for success of your course. You should discuss with your colleague what you expect from the technologies and how it helps to deliver your contents. It should also be clear what functions the students need to use and how to operate the systems. The right set of technology use can greatly enrich your course and make the international collaboration much easier. Hints for didactical use of digital media is given in the spotlights. The OIL.UP team also offers a consultation regarding didactical digital media use.


Insecurities and fears on the interaction level of students can neglect the benefits of OIL.UP classes. To get to know each other and to reduce uncertainties we use Ice-Breaker-Activities at the beginning of the course. The purpose is to get a first impression of the other class. Different activities can be used for that, in all Ice-Breaking-Activities the personal introduction plays a crucial role. Short, self-made videos of the participants can already “break the ice” and the threshold to contact an unknown person via the internet is lowered. The activity can also include course relevant parts, for example you could let your students explain their motivation for the course, what do they expect and what prior knowledge they already obtained.

Reflection and Evaluation

Reflecting together with your students after collaborative sessions or elements within your course is an important part. Problems and insecurities can quickly be identified due to reflection and possible solutions can be applied. Depending on your class it can be necessary to talk about intercultural communication and the experiences made, difficulties should be addressed sensitively.

When doing group tasks or projects, regular updates about the progress should be made by the students. Presentations can be a good tool to combine the reporting with sharing gained knowledge with the other students and you. You will also get a good impression about how much effort was put into the assigned tasks.