Online Learning Bridges U.S.-Japan Higher Education
November 05, 2018

​Teams from U.S. and Japanese colleges and universities met in Washington, DC, Oct. 24-26 to begin developing new collaborative online international learning (COIL) courses.i Their work together is part of the U.S.-Japan COIL Initiative, a two-year pilot project to test the promise of virtual exchange for deepening U.S.-Japan higher education ties. 

The initiative is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and coordinated in partnership with Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, told the teams, “The COIL courses that you are developing are an innovative mechanism through which to leverage technology, reduce barriers to engagement between U.S. and Japanese students, and further strengthen U.S.-Japan relations through educational exchanges.”

Kazutoshi Aikawa, minister plenipotentiary and deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of Japan, emphasized the project’s urgency: “Those who can succeed on the global stage need understanding and tolerance to diversity, and students are expected to have these skills by the time they graduate university. It is expected that universities will promote student exchange in both directions and switch to interactive classes that encourage students to be autonomous and proactive.”

Invited speakers discussed the value of online collaboration as a new mode of exchange in the historic and evolving relationship between the two countries’ higher education systems. Representatives of the SUNY COIL Center and Kansai University Institute for Innovative Global Education (KU-IIGE) as well as other experienced practitioners presented guidance for creating shared learning outcomes for a joint online module, even across disciplinary boundaries. 

Keiko Ikeda, vice-director of KU-IIGE, gave advice from her own experience launching a COIL program on her campus in Japan, including: who to have on your campus support team; idiosyncrasies inherent to virtual communication; and the importance of understanding the higher education system in a partner country. 

Representatives of the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange and TeamUp Japan discussed the broader significance of higher education collaboration in the context of bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as government resources to support partnerships and student exchange activities.

Participants offered their own suggestions for technology tools tailored to specific types of student learning in COIL courses. After working together for two days, the U.S.-Japan teams sketched out a work plan to deliver their courses by December 2019.

Following a national call for submissions in March 2018, ACE selected six U.S. institutions for the initiative: DePaul University (IL), James Madison University (VA), the University of Alabama, Sinclair Community College (OH), the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and City University of New York College of Staten Island. 

The Japanese partners are Nagasaki University, Kansai University, Chiba University, J.F. Oberlin University, and Kagoshima University.

In the coming months, participating institutions will join ACE webinars on COIL-related topics, complete an online professional development module developed by the SUNY COIL Center, and host ACE review teams on their campuses. 

If the pilot proves successful, ACE hopes to expand the initiative to include more U.S. and Japanese partner institutions.

For more information about the initiative, see the press release or email Follow along on Twitter under the hashtag #USJPCOIL. 

iCOIL, developed and disseminated by The State University of New York’s (SUNY) COIL Center, is a method of linking faculty and students in two countries for shared teaching and learning using online communication.