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, co-designed by educators 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 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;
  • and ensure equitable access to digital forms of global learning.

Who Should Participate

Institutions 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.

Fulbright US-UK Global Challenges Teaching Awards

Join us in addressing the pressing issues of our time through collaborative international education initiatives. The Fulbright US-UK Global Challenges Teaching Awards, supported by AAC&U in partnership with the US-UK Fulbright Commission, offers a unique opportunity for faculty from both sides of the Atlantic to co-create virtual exchange programs for undergraduate students. This initiative fosters transatlantic partnerships aimed at addressing four specific global challenges: Racial Justice, Inequality, Climate Change, Polarisation and Division. Selected grantees embark on a year-long journey with the AAC&U Institute on VE/COIL with professional development, online collaboration, and in-person exchanges with their partner institutions.

Now accepting applications, this program is an invitation to educators passionate about global issues to join us in bridging the gap between traditional in-person exchanges and creating inclusive, innovative solutions.

Visit the Fulbright Commission's Global Challenges Teaching Awards page to learn more about how you can be part of this transformative endeavor.

Norwegian Panorama VE/COIL Partnerships Initiative

Discover how AAC&U is shaping the future of higher education through transformative global partnerships. Proudly sponsored by The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, the Norwegian Panorama VE/COIL Partnerships Initiative is an innovative program designed to foster stronger connections between higher education institutions in Norway, the United States, and Japan.


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