Bridgewater College’s mission focuses on active participation in a global society, respecting the dignity and worth of every person. And that mission came to life in the spring of 2021 through the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program. More than 9,500 miles apart, Bridgewater students in three different classes connected with students from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) for projects and discussions as part of their coursework.
When Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Melissa Hoover first heard about COIL, she knew immediately it could be beneficial for her History of Math class. Hoover’s students study mathematical developments and spend time talking about what society and culture was like at the time of mathematical discoveries. COIL allowed her class the opportunity to collect their own data and contextualize it.
“I think it was particularly special for me to give them this opportunity to connect with students outside of Bridgewater because it’s not something that they usually expect from a math class. It was enjoyable for me to get them to do connected learning in a place that wasn’t expected and help them realize that it really could be done in any discipline,” Hoover says.
One of Hoover’s students, Kelsi Listman ’22, a psychology and mathematics double major, says her key takeaway from COIL was “how easy it is to collaborate with people halfway across the world.” Despite a 12-hour time difference and managing different technologies and language gaps, Listman says the experience was like a normal group project.
“Our skill sets came together perfectly. Modern technology makes it extremely easy to work with people far away, illustrating how impactful unity can be,” Listman says. “The COIL project certainly built up my cross-cultural communication skills, and this can be generalized to any career. It is part of most jobs to be able to communicate effectively with others, often involving conversations between different cultures.”
Effective communication also helped Jillian Wall ’22, a communication, technology and culture major who took part in COIL, through her Interfaith Studies course with Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Nancy Klancher.
“Communication and working with another person across the world can be difficult through language barriers, time zones and work ethic, but no matter where you are in the world, if you are cooperative, progressive and patient then work can get done,” Wall says. She also noted that the friendship she built with her student partner was an added bonus.
Students in Klancher’s class focused their projects on gaining a better understanding of different religions through interviews and discussions.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for us. They learned a whole slew of skills for engaging in interfaith work with others, and they got to try to put that into action in their work with the students from Malaysia,” Klancher says.
Practitioner in Residence in Communication Studies and Theatre Ady Dewey completed COIL with her Leadership Development seminar class and tasked students with talking about their values.
“In my class, one of the things we emphasize is how you live your values and using those values to define who you are, but also your career goals and what you want to achieve and how you interact with other people. The fact that they could practice living their values as they interacted with students from Malaysia in real time on a project that they had to complete was incredible. COIL is allowing for that type of interaction in the classroom,” Dewey says.
Emily Goodwin, Bridgewater’s Director of Instructional Design, aided the three classes through their logistical and technological differences, ensuring communications happened across differing international platforms.
“For most of our students, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity to work with and create a project with students from a country across the world,” Goodwin says. “The benefits are endless.”
— By Logan Bogert