Revista Iberoamericana de
Economía Solidaria e
Innovación Socioecológica
Vol. 4 (2021), pp. 87-107 • ISSN: 2659-5311
In midst the ongoing COVID19 pande-
mic, there is an inherent need to consider the
effects on education in poorer regions of the
globe. Students from Western countries and
more privileged backgrounds have managed
to continue learning albeit Universities having
closed in the most difficult moments of the
Pandemic. Students from disadvantaged re-
gions and poorer backgrounds however, very
often remained isolated when their institution
shut down during the pandemic.
In this paper the authors discuss a socially
innovative initiative that enables building a com-
munity of international learning based on a po-
pular methodology named COIL (Collaborative
Online International Learning). The methodolo-
gy relies on the use of openly available online
platforms that allow students and lecturers to be
connected digitally, thus making learning resour-
ces available to students no matter their location.
It allows for an intense peer-to-peer learning en-
vironment and promotes the virtual teamwork
on real cases and assignments.
En medio de la actual pandemia de CO-
VID19, hay una necesidad inherente de con-
siderar los efectos en la educación en las re-
giones más pobres del mundo. Los estudian-
tes de los países occidentales y de entornos
más privilegiados han conseguido seguir
aprendiendo, aunque las Universidades hayan
cerrado debido a la pandemia. Sin embargo,
los estudiantes de regiones desfavorecidas se
quedaron, a menudo, aislados cuando su insti-
tución cerró durante la pandemia.
En este artículo, las autoras discuten una ini-
ciativa socialmente innovadora que permite cons-
truir una comunidad de aprendizaje internacional
basada en una metodología popular llamada
COIL (Collaborative Online International Lear-
ning). Basada en el uso de plataformas online de
libre acceso que permiten conectar digitalmente
a estudiantes y profesores, poniendo así los recur-
sos de aprendizaje a disposición de los estudian-
tes sin importar su ubicación. Permite un entorno
de aprendizaje entre pares y promueve el trabajo
en equipo virtual sobre casos y tareas reales.
Gloria Aznar
CEU San Pablo University
Elizabeth Frank
CEU San Pablo University
COIL (Collaborative Online International
Learning); E-learning; International Coopera-
tion for Development Education; SDG.
P 
COIL (Collaborative Online International
Learning); E-learning; Cooperación Internacio-
nal para el Desarrollo de la Educación; ODS.
códigos jeL
: I29.
Fecha de recepción: 29/03/2021 Fecha de aceptación: 10/07/2021
89RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
The global range of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unparalleled
interruptions in education around the globe. Many professors, researchers,
policymakers and other stakeholders such as the general public have
expressed an increasing interest in determining how education systems
in general respond to these new challenges and how as a result, students’
educational experiences are changing worldwide.
In this article, the authors would like to shed more light on the educational
challenges, ramifications and repercussions of the pandemic for students,
lecturers and Higher Education Institutions. We will be taking a closer look at
the education scenario of poorer regions of the globe, taking into account
objective four from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 4) that aims
to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong
learning opportunitiesfor all”. This goal aims to provide equal access to
affordable vocational education, eliminating gender inequalities and wealth
disparities. The objective being to achieve widespread access to quality
higher education.
In this situation, the University plays a key role in the implementation of
the Agenda, not only as a key institution working towards the achievement
of SDG 4, but also as an instrument in the formation of responsible and
committed citizens. Through learning and teaching, students get equipped
with the knowledge, skills and motivation to understand challenges and
implement solutions. Fostering the capacity development of students
and professionals in all countries and endowing and mobilizing youth
also leads to social leadership. Overall, a reinforcement of the university’s
public engagement and involvement can be observed. Thus enhancing
cooperation and cohesion for providing quality education involving cross
country collaboration (SDG 4 and SDG 17). This will help form future socially
responsible leaders that will be involved in the social challenges of society.
Companies of the 21st century need business leaders that are more aware of
their responsibility towards society, more knowledgeable about the impact
of their companies. Leaders who join forces to face the global challenges of
the fight against poverty (SDG 1).
In this article, the authors would like to present some specific projects and
methodologies that have the capacity to empower students and lecturers
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no matter where they are located. These presented tools are replicable and
scalable and can also cater for the needs of internationalization of the Higher
Education Eco-system. Since there are still many aspects that need to be
faced, there will be a formal discussion about some of the main challenges
that may be encountered along this journey.
The paper is structured in seven sections. Starting with an outline
describing the current situation of the educational sector after the COVID
19 pandemic, the authors continue by presenting the methodology of
COIL projects (Collaborative Online International Learning) and explain in
depth how the COIL activity at the heart of this article was conceived. The
theoretical background is provided whilst the objectives are described,
before continuing to explain in detail how the implementation of this
particular COIL project took place. The authors then take a critical look at
the results before raising some interesting questions for further discussion.
As times change, the necessity of adjusting learning styles and teaching
methods increases. As Burner (2018) points out, there are several reasons
why we need to conduct a change in education. He mentions, amongst other
aspects, the increasing level of globalisation and technological innovations.
In a globalized world, we are more and more connected and interdependent
from each other. There is also a proliferation in society of combining two
elements, the new and the social, as Herrero de Egaña (Herrero de Egaña,
2018) describes with the definition of social innovation as “new or novel
ways for society to address relevant social challenges (RSRs) that are more
effective, efficient and sustainable”. Herrero de Egaña describes the social
innovation not as a sum of innovation and social innovation, but rather
merging both concepts operating as one.
In recent months, the COVID 19 pandemic has aggravated the overall
educational situation and the need for change. It has exposed emerging
weaknesses in the traditional education systems around the globe. It has
become more and more evident that the world needs to rely on a more
adaptable, flexible and more robust education system, especially as we are
facing an increasingly unpredictable future (Wahab, 2020).
A growing number of universities have been obliged to find alternatives
to traditional teaching, many turning towards online or digital learning,
especially during lockdown scenarios that left University campuses closed
for weeks and months. By March 2020, schools in more than 180 countries
worldwide had to close which affected a humbling 87.4% of students
worldwide, overall more than 1.5 billion, see Figure.1 (Raluca et al., 2020).
The pandemic and lockdowns have affected many regions in the world.
One of the main challenges has subsequently been, to provide students access
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91RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
to education that permits a seamless continuation of their higher education.
In many regions, efforts were made to support students to continue their
education, by use of technology switching to online learning where possible.
In some areas of the globe, especially poorer regions, educational television
and the use of radio broadcasts and SMS were introduced to effectively
communicate with the vast student population. This was and still is especially
relevant in areas where internet is not available, connectivity not reliable
or were the student community lacks devices to connect online. Providing
accessibility to students is key to providing quality education.
On a positive note, Willms & Corbett (2003) discuss the high level of
technology acceptance of students also when technology is integrated into
the education system. They furthermore state that a majority of students
have mobile phones as they use them for texting, using social media or
applications, which leads to the assumption that students are receptive to
using technology also in a learning environment.
We have not yet returned to normality with many Universities continuing
to provide classes online only, others adopting a hybrid teaching model,
Figure 1. Percentage of Students affected by COVID-19 school closures,
Source: Policy Brief - Education during the COVID-19 crisis (April 2020)
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based on a student rotation system that allows for a reduced number
of students being present in the physical classroom. It is unclear when
Universities will return to pre-Covid like class settings, if at all. It may well be
that the changes that we have been experiencing are here to stay.
Yet, there are more challenges ahead. Whilst policymakers are taking
action to support students in their efforts to continue their education
remotely and online, other challenges are just around the corner, such as a
global pandemic-induced economic recession, political instabilities, further
healthcare emergencies and overall educational challenges.
For the past years, the authors have been following the business proposal
of UNIMAK University in Sierra Leone and have observed the inclination
towards entrepreneurship. They agree with Lakovleka that individuals
with entrepreneurial ambitions within developing countries show a higher
engagement compared to individuals in developed countries (Lakovleka,
2011). They manage to seize opportunities by planning their own business
and showing entrepreneurial spirit.
For the past twelve years, motivated students, lecturers and employees of
the University CEU San Pablo alongside inspiring and inspired professionals
from different private sector companies have been working alongside
each other in various projects in the West-African country Sierra Leone.
These projects are aimed at combatting poverty and empowering Sierra
Leoneans from diverse backgrounds through educational programs and
civic engagement. Social innovation projects address many challenges, the
economic discipline being one of them (Pol, 2009).
Currently, the University CEU San Pablo team is formed by representatives
of different disciplines, such as the Faculty of Medicine, the Pharmaceutical
Faculty, Physiotherapy, the School of Media and Communication, the
School of Business and Economics as well as the Faculty of Architecture.
The Faculty of Architecture was the pioneering Faculty that initiated the
Cooperation between Spain and Sierra Leone, in particular with UNIMAK
University in Makeni. The School of Business and Economics joined the
cooperation project in 2016 ensuring that the project was truly aimed at
continuous international development cooperation not merely as one-off
volunteering work.
Traditionally the University CEU San Pablo would organize two trips to
Sierra Leone each year, to ensure continuity of the different projects in the
diverse areas. Due to the severe situation caused by the COVID 19 pandemic,
a physical trip was out of the question in 2020, and the idea evolved to
substitute the yearly journey by a digital journey, thus connecting students,
lecturers and professionals from the different countries and locations. The
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93RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
option of introducing a set of online workshops to mitigate the dramatic
situation was supported by both Institutions. This would guarantee the
continuous relationship between both Universities, UNIMAK and University
CEU San Pablo, establishing a solid cooperation and collaboration. This is
to institutionalize and integrate stakeholders (students, professors, business
individuals, and other personnel) and community members. The focus is
not only on education, creating and transferring knowledge but also on
integrating the development of the country and the society. Hence, it is a
win win situation.
The organization of an online collaboration and knowledge exchange
was endorsed, giving participants the opportunity to develop a series of
competences, skills and academic knowledge through a COIL (Collaborative
Online International Learning) project, which will be ongoing in time. An
interdisciplinary and intercultural week course was designed allowing for
an exchange of knowledge and experience. The audience being students,
professionals and professors who collaborate on solutions to specific
challenges that are posed.
University CEU San Pablo students that are currently studying a Bachelor’s
degree in Business Administration and Management, a Bachelor in
Marketing or a Bachelor in Economics together with students from UNIMAK
University from different disciplines such as the Master of Finance, Business
and Administration, Economics bachelor, and students from the Agricultural
Faculty, were invited to take part in an intensive online event between both
The organizers of the joint event decided to implement the methodology
of COIL, Collaborative Online International Learning. The COIL Handbook
as published by the University of Minnesota (2016) defines this approach
as “…a model for teaching and learning that promotes the development
of intercultural competence (the ability to communicate effectively and
appropriately with people from other cultures) through a shared online
multicultural learning environment..
In the Faculty Guide for Collaborative Online International Learning as
published by the leading SUNY COIL Centre in New York, a similar definition
can be found: “COIL, also referred to as globally networked learning and
virtual exchange, is a new teaching and learning paradigm that promotes
the development of intercultural competence across shared multicultural
learning environments. Through the use of internet-based tools and
innovative online pedagogies, COIL fosters meaningful exchanges between
university-level teachers and students with peers in geographically distant
locations and from different linguacultural backgrounds.
As both definitions indicate, a COIL activity focusses on the intercultural
aspect of participating students, by providing activities and assignments
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that are developed in cooperation with students at different locations and
varying backgrounds, relying on technology and digital classroom settings.
As Hans de Wit describes it in his article COIL – Virtual mobility without
commercialisation (2013): “The term ‘collaborative online international
learning’ combines the four essential dimensions of real virtual mobility:
1) It is a collaborative exercise of teachers and students;
2)It makes use of online technology and interaction;
3) It has potential international dimensions; and
4) It is integrated into the learning process.
COIL allows collaboration between students and teachers from different
universities without the need to travel abroad. In times of a global pandemic,
this is the beauty of COIL. It can easily be implemented since it guarantees
social distancing and sanitary safety, and yet it provides students the
pleasure of working with peers in different countries around the globe.
The collaboration takes place in an online environment and it is carried out
through planned activities usually integrated into the program of a specific
subject. It merely requires the collaboration of lecturers of both institutions,
whose task it is to define the activities to be developed by the participants in
mixed international groups during the actual COIL module. Lecturers then
ensure the correct implementation and evaluation of the activity.
In the following diagram (Figure 2) you can see in more detail what a
COIL consists of and the competences that students and also involved
lecturers can develop.
Figure 2. COILs What, Why and What For
Source: CEU ViceChancellor International Reations CEU,2020
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95RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
The benefits of COIL are derived from the direct interaction between
participating students that have different perspectives. In many instances
these differences are culturally motivated. It is therefore a good idea to
focus on team projects and active learning, providing students a discussion
platform where they can exchange their views, ideas and where they can
work jointly on an assignment.
The design of COIL projects works best when lecturers share the
responsibility for the developed activities and content. Co-developing
courses and modules however is not always possible. The design of the
CEU-UNIMAK COIL was based on the specific methodology used for the
development of an online course. It was built upon the following six stages
(Marciniak, 2017):
1- Analysis of the educational problem, which was the inability to travel
to Sierra Leone amidst an ongoing pandemic while intending to
ensure continuity in the international development cooperation
and providing the students with the opportunity of an international
2- Justification and objectives of the project, which clearly involved the
idea of providing students with the possibility of gaining international
experiences, touch-basing with peers from abroad, but from home.
In addition, the aim was to improve students’ competences, such
as remote teamwork, improved communication, planning and
organization skills in an international and online environment as well
as intercultural competences.
3- Proposed project perspectives, with the ideal scenario being a
successful implementation of this COIL activity, effectively achieving
objectives as outlined above and further below. The alternative being
the non-implementation of the project, thus depriving students of the
possibility of acquiring the knowledge, competences and contacts
provided by the project, and off course the international experience.
4- Pedagogical planning that allows introducing an activity, independent
of the curriculum and related to international development
cooperation, which is so cutting-edge and relevant that it has not yet
been integrated into any formal syllabi at either Institutions involved
in the project.
The COIL activity was designed by University CEU San Pablo and shared
with UNIMAK´s Dean and professors to assure the alignment. The time horizon
of each task was defined, the mode of collaboration between international,
mixed teams and the required learning outcomes and deliverables were
agreed upon as will be discussed in more detail furtheron.
5- Design of the pedagogical proposal which is based on a twofold
approach. On the one hand, there are master classes which are
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designed in a way that students obtain the theoretical knowledge
needed to perform a given assignment or challenge. On the other
hand, students work in international, mixed groups that allow for
a more engaged and applied learning experience. According to
research carried out by Hoag and Swan (2000) amongst others,
collaborative learning is most successful when projects are executed
by small groups. Following this insight, the creation of groups was set
at a maximum of five people per group.
6- Planning of operational aspects, which resulted in the use of the
platform MS TEAMS, which was hosted and organized by the
University CEU San Pablo. Technology, in this case, becomes an ally
(Martinez, 2014) allowing contact and participation using also social
platforms as WhatsApp, Skype.
The material that was used in Master classes was furthermore made
available by email to the participants, mainly due to the technical limitations
on the side of UNIMAK, which will be explained in more detail further down.
7- Evaluation system including the academic grading of the activity
and how students evaluated the project. Bringing the students from
different continents and different backgrounds together. Although
the project was not graded, students were still enthusiastic about the
possibility of working together as can be reviewed in the RESULTS
section of this paper. Students were eager and motivation was high.
The goal was to stimulate social innovation (Herrero de Egaña). This
is the new paradigm, not only focusing on technology and industrial
society and avoiding any social hype but creating cohesion that
brings changes to the development of Sierra Leone. A youth willing to
take ownership in development projects and inspiring other students
from both cultures (Spanish and Sierra Leone´s) to initiate changes,
enhances cooperation and cohesion for gaining quality education
(SDG 4 and SDG 17). The company of the 21st century needs different
business leaders, more aware of their responsibility to society, more
knowledgeable about the impact of their companies. Leaders who
join forces to face the global challenges of the fight against poverty
(SDG 1)
After several months of planning, following the onset of the Covid19
pandemic, both Universities implemented the project together and the pilot
was successfully launched on July 21st, 2020, at the end of the academic
year 2019-2020 (See appendix for details of the program).
Cooperation for development and international experience are
gaining more and more importance for students. Building intercultural
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97RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
competencies are important components in the internationalization strategy
of Higher Education Institutions. Interculturality is summarized by Deardorff
as the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural
situations on the basis of one’s intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes
(Deardorff, 2006). According to Bennet, 1998, intercultural sensitivity is not
something static, but can be progressively developed through training and
Inspired by the Theory of the psychology of Use and Gratification, it is
assumed that people actively use those means that they find satisfactory.
In order to achieve good learning results, we want to offer an activity that
learners find attractive and engage in, in order to find rewarding elements.
Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch emphasize an essential point: if the assignment
is optional and not evaluated, then the mere fact of competing to offer the
best work is a motivation in itself for participants. Even if it is not taken into
account for a grade, the members themselves will qualitatively evaluate the
work of their peers and their own (Sluijsmans, 2003).
The authors have chosen the COIL (Collaborative Online International
Learning) project based on the learning needs of students and also to
be able to create satisfaction for the students, besides being able to
achieve gratification in the process, which refers to the satisfaction that
the participants experience when joining in the process itself (Cutler and
Danowski, 1980).
To complete the above, it is imperative that the professional possesses
a deep understanding of diverse cultural contexts. Successful work in an
increasingly globalized and virtual world requires specific skills to navigate
cultural differences. This terrain can be treacherous, especially when people
come from very different cultures and backgrounds and are expected to
work together in harmony. Even with English as a common language, it is
easy to fall into cultural traps that can jeopardize careers and risk business.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognizes the upsurge
of globalization and in its program of Digital Transformation includes a
complete course on Cultural Awareness when doing Business in Global
Contexts. The program recognizes the importance to understand the
culture’s diversity (MIT,2020)
One of the main objectives of this COIL-project is to promote the
cooperation between University CEU San Pablo and UNIMAK University,
helping the well-being of Sierra Leoneans and to make a positive social
impact by designing solutions and providing recommendations to
economic challenges. Recognizing the social challenges and applying social
innovation. We refer to social innovation not only looking for brand new
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ideas but also old ideas applied differently (Philis, 2018). Social innovation
provides novel and original ways of tackling ‘problems’.
From an academic point of view, the overall objective of creating a
global experience is at the center of this project. The goals can furthermore
be classified into general objectives and specific objectives.
The general objective is to carry out an innovative project at international
level in collaboration with an international partner to ensure global, relevant
and multicultural training for students and teachers and continuing our
relationship and development cooperation.
The specific objectives fall into several categories. First, there is the
international experience for students, professors and professionals, without
the need for geographical displacement. The COIL module as a teaching
method facilitates interaction with students from other disciplines and
nationalities, in mixed working groups, using English as a language and
without the need to travel abroad, but taking advantage of the benefits of
collaborating in a virtual, intercultural and stimulating environment.
Second, a number of professional competences are developed.
This project enables students to improve a series of transversal skills
and competences that are valuable for their subsequent professional
development. It enriches the Curriculum Vitae and fosters knowledge of the
business and cultural environment and the challenges that may arise in the
future. Students work on a wide range of skills and competences such as the
ability to organize and plan work, self-management, responsibility at work,
the ability to work in a team, both nationally and internationally, autonomy
and proactivity, the ability to solve problems and adapt to unforeseen
changes and challenges, initiative and the management of interpersonal
relationships, besides improving oral and written communication skills.
Third, COIL enables the personal development of learners. Involved
students achieve meaningful and relevant social learning and social
innovation with the aim of scaling impact. It aims to develop learners of
integrity, with the capacity for understanding and critical analysis. The aim
is to develop relevant solutions to challenges that simulate business reality.
This type of activity encourages perseverance, decision making, negotiation
skills and conflict resolution skills, cooperation in a virtual environment,
inspiration of critical thinking and judgment, improvement of intercultural
skills and knowledge of the other country as well as improving language
skills. The continuous use of different communication channels allows the
learner to better understand and use digital tools. All of these improve the
graduate’s profile and increase employment opportunities.
Fourth, a COIL can be introduced and consolidated as a learning strategy
that favors the motivation and interest of learners to learn. It allows intrinsic
and extrinsic motivation to be fostered through various factors that are
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99RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
included in the collaborative activity. Through challenges that need to be
overcome, students’ curiosity and creativity are awakened. This also allows
for greater involvement, participation, motivation and commitment on the
part of the students.
Fifth, the strength of the project lies in the diversity of the participants
who are part of this initiative. The aim is to pool the knowledge and best
practices of all participants and jointly explore the application of digital
technology to enhance collaborative learning internationally. The full
potential of innovative technologies to solve today’s education challenges
can be harnessed.
Sixth, by diversifying the modalities of cooperation, this allows an
Institution to increase the degree of internationalization. It is no longer
sufficient to exchange students at ERASMUS or bilateral level. Universities
have to play a greater role, which translates into a diversification of
international activities, intensification of inter-university collaboration
that can lead to the joint development and design of activities, modules,
subjects, courses and degrees, in order to meet today’s demands and to
be more competitive. Not only does it strengthen the cooperation between
universities at an international level, for a Faculty this can provide a strategic
advantage compared to other Higher Education Institutions.
Finally, a COIL awakens the desire for internationalization in students who
have not shown interest in international mobility. And going further, it can
positively stimulate the interest in international development activities and
support for underprivileged regions, communities and individuals. It allows
students to develop social and emotional competence, allowing them to
become aware and understand the differences in education opportunities
around the world. Building a community of committed individuals should
also be part of the overall objective.
The COIL activity in format of a digital journey to UNIMAK which was
jointly organized and launched between CEU San Pablo and UNIMAK
University, was a means to tackle the impossibility of organizing the yearly
trip to the African country of Sierra Leone due to the ongoing COVID-19
pandemic. It is foreseeable that the project will continue to be proposed in
the online version even after the end of the pandemic situation, regardless
of the trip taking place or not, as more individuals can join.
A number of professors at each Institution was involved in the preparation
of this online event, to ensure that the proposed activities were indeed
aligned with the learning objectives at each Institution. Faculty of both
institutions exchanged feedback and agreed on the concepts to be applied
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as well as the timelines, dates, participants, logistics and expected learning
It was decided that the technology to be used was to be MS Teams,
hosted and organized by University CEU San Pablo.
A document (“First Steps Guideline”) was prepared with a general timeline
including milestones of the different preparation activities, assigning tasks
to each member of the organizing committee. Thus ensuring that no aspect
of the COIL was overseen or forgotten. A general checklist was formulated
including aspects such as:
Commitment of the teachers involved
Ensuring institutional support from both sides
Contact of external professionals (who will be invited and who is in
Exchange of list of final participants from each country
Create teams and exchange student contact details, including explicit
permission to share contact details, such as emails and telephone
numbers (in order to comply with privacy laws in both countries)
Determine the agenda and make sure we reach agreement on the
dates and timelines
Define dates of presentations of the previously realized successful
projects from previous years, including updates
Fluid communication between Universities
Discuss progress in class to optimize the experience
Invite other professors to join the project.
Both institutions agreed on the date of July 21st, 2020 for the Kickoff of
the Virtual Journey - COIL. The Agenda items for the following days included
an Institutional Welcome from the highest University Authorities of both
Institutions, followed by a general presentation of each of the Universities
to all connected participants. In the second part of the program, the COIL
project was presented, including the benefits for students and Institutions.
Following, the objectives of the Digital Journey were outlined and
students had the opportunity to do an intercultural icebreaker activity. This
intercultural icebreaker is a key component of every COIL. This activity
enables participants to get to know each other and to comfortably interact
with each other. There were three steps within the intercultural activity that
was designed for this COIL. In step one, virtual Teams that had previously
been created by the organizers were communicated to students via a
presentation slide shared with all participants in the MS Teams Session.
In Step two, the challenge that students would have to work on in their
respective international teams was launched to the students. The task was
for each group to develop a logo and/or asloganfor the UNIMAK - CEU
cooperation, allowing students to contemplate together on how they view
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the ongoing cooperation. Students were then sent off into their respective
breakout groups in the MS Teams environment where they engaged in
creative discussions. In step 3, each team was to present its developed
solution. This was the first interaction between students from Sierra Leone
and Spain.
The following days’ program included several interactive presentations
that could be best described as Master classes, provided by some of the
Spanish participants involved. There were sessions about SWOT-analysis
(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and PESTEL-analysis
(Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal
aspects), both of which are methodologies that help analyze and understand
a business’ environment and comprehend trends. Both frameworks serve to
develop business strategies.
A further session explained the CANVAS methodology (Osterwalder
and Pigneur, 2010), which allows to describe the business model in a
synthesized form by means of nine blocks on a single page, including
information about customer segments, the business value proposition, the
distribution channels, customer relations, the revenue source, key resources,
key activities, key partnerships and the cost structure.
Another technique that was presented was the Elevator Pitch, this
being a technique that describes a business idea, product, or company
in such a way that any listener can understand it in a short period of
time. The name is derived from the time it typically takes to ride in an
elevator, which usually is just a 2-3 minutes time window. The delivered
description would typically explain who the product is for and its features
and benefits. It briefly explains the skills and objectives of the business.
It works to attract attention and convey it in an understandable, exciting
and passionate way.
Another stimulating presentation was about Design Thinking (Brown,
2008). This is a methodology that focuses on providing solutions to complex
issues or potential problems.
Finally, a creative and entertaining session on Neuromarketing took
place. The science of Neuromarketing studies the brain to gain insight
and predict consumer behavior and consumer decision making. The COIL
Session on this topic was designed in such a way that students had to
proactively associate colors with brands and market segments.
After finalizing the Master-class presentations, students with
entrepreneurial drive became the protagonists. Several students from
UNIMAK presented their respective products or services that they had
previously developed and in some cases they had already launched them to
market. Also students that had no previous experience could present their
ideas and concepts and request feedback.
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Students were supported along the way, but were encouraged to take
initiative, following up with questions and sharing ideas. There was student-
driven competitiveness that motivated students to improve their results.
As supporting element, in each country, Spain and Sierra Leone, one
student acted as a leader/coordinator to assure the continuity of the
program. Delays occurred often as the culture in Sierra Leone´s timing
is different from Spain. In addition, connectivity issues played a big role,
adding to frequent delays.
A survey was carried out using Microsoft Forms to measure the success of
this activity. Some aspects on which information was requested included the
topics of the Master Sessions, the overall program, the Icebreaker activity, the
degree of usefulness, the level of engagement, the collaborative elements,
the competencies acquired during the COIL and overall satisfaction.
Students were asked to include reflections on the contributions of the COIL
in order to measure and improve the event for future editions.
Interest in international mobility with a development country was
generated among the students, although a few showed resistances to
travel to Sierra Leone. The purpose of this collaboration is not necessarily
travelling but working together throughout the year. Sadly, Sierra Leonean
students have many difficulties travelling, as VISAs are difficult to obtain and
a trip is very costly.
After venturing on this Virtual Journey, a large majority of the involved
Spanish students showed interest in getting to know Sierra Leone better.
They have expressed interest in opportunities to be more directly and
actively involved in the development of the country.
There are technological requisites that have to be in place in order to
successfully conduct a COIL. Guaranteeing connectivity is key to a seamless
execution of the COIL. Therefore, it is important to assure a stable internet
connection and that each participant has the device to connect, which can
be a phone, tablet or computer.
In 2019 (figure 3) there were 6,73 million mobile phone subscribers (The
Global Economy, 2020) in Sierra Leone.
Worldbank data extracted from Sierra Leone’s country profile indicate
that mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) reached 88.5% in 2018
in the African country (Worldbank, 2018a). But only a 9% of individuals of
the total Sierra Leonean population use the Internet. A further important
figure is the amount of Internet Providers in Sierra Leone. There are only
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103RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
three Internet Providers and as a result the cost of Internet Service is high.
Nonetheless, Universities and some cafes provide Wifi for free which would
support the data above (low internet penetration). Young people would
mostly use their mobile phones to access internet (Wittels, 2018).
When comparing with the Worldbank data extracted from Spain’s country
profile, we can observe that in 2018 there were 115% of mobile cellular
subscriptions per 100 people in Spain, with 86.1% of individuals using the
Internet (Worldbank, 2018b). Overall, we can witness an important digital
divide between Spain and Sierra Leone.
In order to be able to execute the COIL activity, UNIMAK University
provided the internet connection. Though some students had connection
difficulties (internet downtimes), the resilience of students from both
countries converted the problem into an opportunity. Students turned to
social media to connect with each other, trying to overcome these difficulties
Since the timing of the Digital Journey coincided with the beginning of
holidays, which students started straight after the completion of the COIL,
the sample of responses is not representative. Next time the survey should
be launched during the sessions to ensure sufficient quantitative and
qualitative feedback.
The common language used was English. A summary of the participants
can be viewed in table 1.
Figure 3. Sierra Leone: Mobile phone subscribers, in millions, 1960 -
Source: The Global Economy (2020)
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The main motivations for Spanish students was to be the principal actors
in the first presentations, for Sierra Leonean students it was the digital
presence of their own professors.
Taking into consideration the repercussions of the global COVID-19
pandemic on education worldwide, policymakers around the globe have
put in place sensible and effective actions to avoid its further spread.
In order to continue and intensify international development cooperation
between partner universities in the field of education, the Virtual Journey
COIL was conceived with the idea of bringing students and continents
together. Promoting collaborative learning amongst culturally diverse peers,
strengthening civic engagement of the student population, practicing
social inclusion and deepening solidarity are at the heart of this educational
project. Furthermore, Higher Education Institutions are still adjusting to
changes in the educational environment by trying to incorporate IT skills
and online learning to the classrooms in order to reduce the skills gap of
students and graduates (Frank and Aznar, 2020).
The presented activity increases the degree of internationalization of
the Faculties involved. It is a tool for quality improvement and increases the
competitiveness of the university, both nationally and internationally. It favors
the professional career of students, professors and researchers, it increases
the quality of teaching and research, and at the same time increases the
possibility of attracting new students. It also increases the reputation and
international visibility of the Institutions.
And finally, the Virtual Journey-COIL presented in this article is clearly
aligned with two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
This project has expanded and improved the traditional configuration
of education, introducing a variety of international, intercultural and digital
elements. The authors believe that every small action like this adds up
Table 1. Summary of participants
Students 26
Professors 4
University Staff 6
Hours 12
Days 3
Source: Own elaboration
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105RIESISE, 4 (2021) pp. 87-107
towards achieving the overall objective of United Nations Sustainable
Development Goal 4 (Quality Education).
In addition, goal 17 of the SDGs which is called “Partnerships for the
Goals that recognizes, enables and encourages different stakeholders
to head out and actively engage in making the world a better place”
(United Nations, 2021). This goal aims to strengthen global partnerships
for sustainable development. Task 17.6 of SDG 17 indicates “Knowledge
Sharing and Cooperation for access to science, technology and innovation”.
It encourages international cooperation in different areas to share
knowledge through improved coordination among Institutions. The authors
firmly believe that the Virtual Journey-COIL as well as other similar initiatives
are a step in the right direction to contributing to both SDGs.
The authors wish to thankUniversity of Makeni and CEU SAN PABLO
University for its crucial support.
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