Virtual Exchange/ Collaborative Online International Learning

AAC&U supports the development and implementation of virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning programs and partnerships that help ensure equitable access to learning experiences that develop students’ global competencies.

Higher education—and liberal education, in particular—plays a critical role in preparing students to understand, proactively engage in, and work collaboratively to solve global issues and problems of importance at local, national, and international levels after graduation. This includes preparing students for global citizenship and for careers by ensuring they have the opportunities, through in-person or virtual learning experiences, to cooperate with peers of different nationalities and cultures.

Virtual exchange (VE), including one of its most comprehensive forms, collaborative online international learning (COIL), provides students with affordable opportunities to gain global competencies within their coursework wherever they are. It links together students and classrooms around the world through co-taught multicultural and blended online course work, bridging the physical distance between students through technological means.

VE/COIL experiences, designed by experts and supported by committed institutions, provide specific preparation and training for student learners to develop crucial skills, such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective oral and written communication skills, diverse and global perspectives, and the teamwork skills needed to be employable and successful in their careers. VE/COIL also provides increased opportunities for interdisciplinary innovation and global collaboration between faculty and staff on digital teaching, research, and service-learning strategies for modern learners.

Integrated into collaborative projects with global experts and partners, AAC&U’s VE/COIL Institute helps higher education institutions

  • transform to deliver forward-thinking capabilities like VE/COIL at scale;
  • increase investment and support for cutting-edge global education strategies;
  • strengthen their global partnerships and networks;
  • ensure equitable access to digital forms of global learning.

Who Should Participate

Campuses interested in applying for participation in a project or institute (see below for current opportunities) are encouraged to consider a diverse range of possible team members who represent important stakeholders for scaling and sustaining VE/COIL programs. Participating institutions will be required to establish the following designated roles:

  • One teaching faculty/professor/instructor to codesign, co-implement, and evaluate the VE/COIL curriculum with an international faculty/professor/instructor partner
  • One instructional designer, COIL coordinator, or similar individual who will provide pedagogical support to instructors and help determine and implement appropriate technologies for the partnership’s instructional needs and envisioned student tasks
  • One international education administrator or similar individual who will support the proposed faculty partnership as well as develop a framework for introducing and scaling VE/COIL at the institutional level by seeking opportunities, building global partnerships, advising students, and helping faculty and academic departments foster the integration of VE/COIL into curricula and educational structures
  • (Optional) An additional international education administrator or other administrator who will support the proposed partnership and/or VE/COIL at the institutional level

Current Projects

Collaboration is at the heart of VE/COIL. AAC&U works with a diverse range of partners and sponsors to co-develop and co-implement innovative VE/COIL projects and programs that serve the global higher education community.

Norwegian Panorama VE/COIL Partnerships Initiative

The Norwegian Panorama VE/COIL Partnerships Initiative, proudly sponsored by The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, is an innovative program designed to foster stronger connections between higher education institutions in Norway, the United States, and Japan. The Initiative is bringing together nine leading Norwegian universities with counterparts in the US and Japan to develop cutting-edge VE/COIL courses and programs.

With the support of experts from AAC&U and the Institute on Innovative Global Education (IIGE) at Kansai University (Japan), 19 institutional teams are working collaboratively from March to December 2023 to promote mutual understanding and educational collaboration between faculty, staff, and students from the three countries. This groundbreaking initiative is also creating exciting new opportunities for interdisciplinary innovation and global collaboration in digital teaching, research, and learning. For more information, please see the press release issued by AAC&U or visit the 2023 Institute on VE/COIL information page.

Norway-US Nursing Faculty Collaborate for Sustainable Health Care

In 2020-21, teams of faculty and staff from The Ohio State University’s College of Nursing (USA) and Lovisenberg Diaconal University College (Norway) participated in the American Council on Education Virtual Exchange/COIL Transformation Lab (now a part of the AAC&U Virtual Exchange/COIL Initiative) sponsored by the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills. Both institutions integrated global learning into existing coursework for nursing students, by piloting a COIL undergraduate course that focused on UN Sustainable Development Goals as part of evidence-based nursing practices and patient care in the USA and Norway. The following video provides feedback from the faculty partners about the results and impact of their first COIL collaboration.


Email Veronica Onorevole, Director of Innovative Global Education Initiatives, at [email protected].