Maintaining ICGC in Higher Education through Virtual Exchanges

As a member of the ICC Virtual Working Group, I would like to share how Intercultural & Global Competence (ICGC) maintained traction as a learning outcome in higher education during the pandemic. In the past two decades, U.S.-based institutions have placed more importance on international institutional partnerships between U.S. institutions and foreign counterparts, but the 2020 global pandemic unleashed restrictions which hampered physical mobility between nation states. In response to this and other challenges to ICGC in curricula, institutions adopted innovative solutions in the form of Virtual Exchanges and Collaborative Online Intercultural Learning (VE/COIL) to maintain global partnerships and serve internationalization at home efforts.

VE/COIL is not new to academia; instead, the pandemic enhanced and accelerated its adaptation on campuses. Research-based and reliant on established pedagogical methods, VE/COIL allows institutions to partner across borders via the internet to deliver access to existing courses, modules, creative offerings, and more. Since VE/COIL programs bring together students from around the globe to collaborate on projects or achieve shared learning outcomes, participants are simultaneously able to build on or enhance their intercultural competencies.

How does VE/COIL work?

Faculty from partnering institutions in two countries select courses from their catalogue of existing courses, align a course or a module within these existing courses, or develop a new module to offer jointly. Partnering faculty then co-teach the course/module while their students team up to work on assignments. The academic adaptations can be offered synchronously, asynchronously, or both. Synchronous meet-ups between faculty and students from the two countries are strongly recommended to meet targeted competencies. Courses or modules offered through VE/COIL must meet all the partners’ institutional requirements, including both measurable academic outcomes as well as intercultural competence goals and outcomes. While access to the internet allows VE/COIL to flourish and provide relatively easy access among physically distant locations, it is important to note that the digital divide at the local and global level is still a considerable barrier. 

Our Working Group currently develops a guiding framework for VE/COIL implementation on university campuses, but the basic principles can apply more broadly to other types of institutions. Join us to learn and share how technology can be leveraged to implement intercultural and global competence worldwide.


Veerasamy, Y. S. (2021). U.S. National Higher Education Internationalization Policy: An Historical Analysis of Policy Development between 2000 and 2019. The University of Toledo, OH, U.S.A. 

Ward, H. H. (2016). Connecting Classrooms: Using Online Technology to Deliver Global Learning. American Council on Education Special Edition: Internationalization in Action. Washington, DC: American Council on Education. 

What is Virtual Exchange? (n.d.).

The Virtual ICC Working Group collects and shares information on experiential intercultural training in virtual spaces, including but not limited to best practices in facilitating and executing virtual intercultural programs and activities. Contact the co-chairs, Constantina Rokos and Emily Pelka, for more information.

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