Creating global connections through COIL

As part of the efforts made by SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) to advance the Global Learning for All initiative, Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) components have been introduced into the curriculum by the university’s staff and faculty.

In a nutshell, COIL connects students and professors in different countries through collaborative projects and discussions as part of their coursework, providing meaningful, significant opportunities for global experiences built into programs of study.

Relationships built between students and faculty at participating universities has yielded many positive results and connections that will last a lifetime.

Forensic Biology from NY to Mexico

In the spring semesters of 2022 and 2023, students in Dr. Pallavi Gupta-Bouder’s Forensic Biology course participated in a four-week long project with friends across the southern border, in the city of Sonora, Mexico. Professor Katherine Mungaray teaches Neurobiology and Neuropsychology of Criminology course at Universidad de Sonora. Together, the two professors created a module: “Forensic Sciences and Cultural Influences on Crime Investigations.”

For the project, students were assigned in groups of four, two from SUNY-Poly and two from University of Sonora. They kicked off the program with an ice-breaker introduction, where they also shared their favorite breakfast items and place in the world.

“This fun activity really got them talking about their cultures and what influences their preferences of food and place,” said Dr. Gupta-Bouder.

In week two, students were randomly assigned a criminal case study that took place in the USA or Mexico. These cases with extensive forensic and psychological backgrounds, were meticulously chosen for this project. Students were encouraged to do their research on the cases and dissect them using forensic and neuropsychology analysis tools.

They also asked the students to observe if there were any cultural or social differences when they discussed these cases with their partners across the border. In the last two weeks, students prepared their presentations for their cases and presented them over the Zoom meeting. During this entire process, the professors prepared videos that students used as guidelines for their work each week, while also providing them with their own example of a video of a case analysis and presentation which they used to organize their thoughts and presentations.

Dr. Gupta-Bouder notes that they had many funny moments organizing meetings over different time zones and when they reset their clocks during spring, their partners in Mexico were “zealous and committed,” still waking up early to make their presentations at 6am.

The students received a certificate of completion from SUNY Poly Director of Global Programs Dr. Zora Thomova (2022) and Assistant Professor of Cognitive Psychology Dr Rebecca Weldon (2023), the Coordinators, at the end of the semester.

“Our students’ hard work was reflected boldly through the quality of their work,” said Gupta-Bouder. “Coming from two different parts of the world, these students worked as one unified team. Their analyses were motivated by the principles of science with negligible cultural or social biases. Prof. Mungaray and I could not be prouder of our students and their dedication to education.”

One of the students who participated in this specific COIL experience is SUNY Poly senior and Psychology major, Raj Bala Chaudhary.

Speaking highly of the experience, Raj enjoyed connecting with peers in Mexico, including an older student who was a lawyer seeking credits for their degree.

“It was really nice to be able to share our experiences,” said Raj.  “We exchanged social media, and still keep in contact every now and then. What’s great about COIL is that it’s kind of like studying abroad, without traveling abroad. You’re to connect with people from all over the world and that was something I liked having the experience to do.”

SUNY Poly, Brazilian students thwart ‘misinformation’

In the Fall of 2021, Dr. Weldon teamed up with a former colleague, Dr. Priscila Brust Renck, from Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Unisinos) in São Leopoldo, Brazil. They collaborated on a COIL project with students from their classes (Research Methods in Psychology (PSY 310) at SUNY Poly and Health Research Methods at Unisinos). Together, the duo designed a “misinformation project” in which students examined their own social media feeds for accurate (and inaccurate) information. Students worked in small groups to evaluate information they are exposed to online (e.g., on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok). The groups were comprised of 4-5 students: half of the students in each group were from SUNY Poly and half from Unisinos.

The project consisted of three parts, spread out over the course of three weeks: 1) evaluating a social media post of choice based on intuition; 2) reflecting on why they may believe that this is true (or false) information based on what they knew about the brain’s susceptibility to heuristics and biases; and 3) locating and interpreting the scientific research on the topic at hand, to evaluate the accuracy of the social media post based on data. In the fourth week, they organized a virtual presentation session with all students (over Zoom), in which students summarized the work they had done over the past month.

The professors collected some feedback from approximately 23 students at the conclusion of the project, with similar themes emerging. The majority of respondents felt that COIL helped them develop skills in intercultural competence, which was defined as “a better understanding of yourself and where you come from, greater awareness of others, empathy, and openness to diversity.”

Similarly, Dr. Weldon explains that most students indicated that COIL helped them hone skills in intercultural communicative competence, which was defined as “the ability to communicate effectively with people from cultures different from your own.” Several students also noted improving in digital literacy skills, including how to communicate effectively online, how to use new tools for different types of communication, and where to look for information. Finally, several students noted that they developed skills related to the ability to work in teams, both in class and online.

“As an instructor, I think that the benefits of COIL are tremendous, in terms of expanding students’ global perspectives,” notes Dr. Weldon, “and it increases awareness of different cultures, and hones teamwork skills. I plan to participate in COIL again in the future.”

For more info about COIL, contact SUNY Poly Director of Global Programs Dr. Zora Thomova at