Combine Efforts

by André van den Heuvel


About the COIL project
I did a COIL project together with two German universities – or Fachhochschulen – in Kleve and in Brühl. Our relationship with both universities goes back several years, and contact is very good. We work well together with both of them, though the experiences are very different, because Kleve is a public or governmental university, and Brühl is a private university.

We’ve previously done separate projects with each university, and students could choose which one to participate in. However, two years ago we had a problem: we only had a project with Brühl, not with Kleve. As a solution, we decided all three of us would work together, and that went very well. This is the second year we’ve done the project with three universities, and we’re now also working together with Quyntess as an external partner that facilitates the logistics. The project is business-related, which can be quite challenging for HRM students. I noticed it was quite exhausting for them, but they worked very hard, and also worked well together with the international students.

The assignment of the project is for the students to assess an efficiency calculator and find buyers for the tool; at the end, they present their findings to us, their teachers. The students divided themselves into groups based on a task: for example, one group did Acquisition (finding the buyers), a second group did Interviewing (what do the buyers want or need from the tool), and a third group did the presentation. In total, about 26 students were involved in the project, and they all had their own role.

Struggles and successes
As the topic of the project was quite challenging for HRM students, they needed an extra boost to their motivation. We did this in a number of different ways; to start, Quyntess organised information sessions to give them a deeper understanding of the content. Second, the teachers each coached one of the groups, and were on hand to give advice or information. Third, we organised feedback sessions where students could ask questions or seek specific information. And last, the students gave themselves a specific role within the project, which really helped make them feel more involved and motivated.

Another issue was of course that unlike last year, the students in the project this year could not meet in person because of the pandemic. We were concerned that there might not be as much of a bond or connection between the international students because of that, but we actually found that the bond between all the students was no less strong! I still think that a combination of a COIL project and a visit to the partner university would be best, because it also gives students a deeper understanding of international differences or similarities in (student) life, but it’s great to experience that students can and will still bond strongly even when the whole project is done online.

Tips for colleagues new to COIL
Before starting a project, think about what you want to achieve with it: do you want the students to gain a deeper cultural understanding and sensitivity, or do you want them to intensively work together with international students on a project or assignment? Choose your partner accordingly. 

If the project is very intensive, or the topic isn’t something your students are very familiar with, make sure they are well-informed and well-prepared before the project starts.

Lastly, COIL is a fantastic experience for both lecturers and students, and you should definitely give it a try – it offers so many amazing opportunities!

André van den Heuvel has been a lecturer at HRM for about 10 years. He teaches different courses within the programme, and has a background in Business Economy, which in his own words comes in handy with certain projects or international contacts.

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