COIL – an extraordinary experience

Michele, master student at ZHAW school of social work, reports about a «Collaborate Online International Learning» – course, he just took.

I was just about to start my semester as I received an e-mail with the note, that we were able to join an additional course about international collaborative learning. Already intrigued by the fact, that it will be with the focus on sustainable food, I immediately signed up when I realised that we‘ll be working together with students from Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S.

The course had two phases. In the first one, the groups were put together with students from all four countries. An introduction video we had to upload helped us getting to know each other. Our task was the analysis of the value chain of a product from one of the big corporations. My group for example chose the drink Pepsi from PepsiCo. As a second step, we applied the sustainable goals of the U.N. and made statements about sustainability. Finally, we decided about the best recommendations to these companies, with the goal of a more sustainable production.

For the second phase the students of Switzerland and the Netherlands were put into new groups. The plan was to meet up once in The Hague and Zurich but due to the COVID-19 measures we weren‘t able to do so. Our task was to create an innovative and sustainable catering concept, such as for example my groups Veg-Gon Foodtruck selling vegan burgers.
Even though a part of the work was a lot of research related to food and catering, the main focus was on the collaboration in the group. For both phases we would write a memorandum of understanding, agree-ing on the way we will work together. We were responsible for doing regular meetings and handing in part of our work every two weeks. Especially in the first phase it required a lot of understanding and tolerance because not everyone in the group had the same level of English.

I specifically chose to participate in this COIL project because of my interest to do social work in an in-ternational context. It‘s a very good opportunity to learn and improve skills related working together online. We had to overcome time zones and language barriers and had to learn about each other’s culture and unique abilites. It was a chance to do something out of the ordinary and broaden my horizon.

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