Virtual and Physical Learning Spaces Combined in Online International Collaboration

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SUNY's COIL initiative is marrying the traditional classroom with virtual learning tools in a powerful collaboration.


The College of Westchester's President Karen Smith explains how "the world is our classroom" in this recent blog post, CW to Panama at Lightning Speed. Thanks to the combined efforts of CW Professor and Associate Chair Janet Thompson and Dr. Patrice Torcivia of SUNY Empire State College, students in New York have been collaborating online with business students located in Panama as part of this truly global experience.

There are so many inspiring outcomes resulting from this collaborative use of information technology in an instructional application. Take the level of student engagement for example. Sean Capossela, Director of IT Operations at The College of Westchester explains, "I've never seen anything quite like it - when the collaboration is taking place, students in the class are immersed in the dialogue on the screen where the remote students are conversing with the students in our classroom. No one is glancing at their phones or distracted, they are paying close attention and are highly engaged".

The passion and determination demonstrated by the students is noted by President Smith. "Having the opportunity to share with students in Panama allows for a broader perspective, more rich experience and learning opportunity beyond the class materials. CW and SUNY Empire State hope to continue and expand this very well received collaboration. Also worth sharing is the drive and determination of students in Panama to connect and learn. On the date of the scheduled session it was discovered that the government was going to shut down electrical power to the schools as a result of a power shortage. Not to be deterred the students and their instructor found a way to move forward by moving to a hotel where power was available. Now THAT is a mobile classroom!"

Watch a video of the students engaging here.

The COIL initiative from the Office of International Programs (a part of New York's SUNY college consortium) and Purchase College in New York has been evolving since it was founded in 2006. Through this program, thousands of college and university students have participated in international collaborations across the globe and across the spectrum of academic disciplines. COIL is open to participation from higher education institutions all over the world. Learn more at

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