May 8, 2024

Smith’s New Coil Initiative Is Bringing Global Experiential Learning Into the Classroom

Smith COIL Faculty Fellows bridge classrooms across continents, fostering collaborative learning in business education. Pioneering initiatives shape the future of globalized academia.

Having two classrooms of students, one at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and the other at a business school in another country, learning together virtually isn’t new. Collaborative Online International Learning or COIL, funded by support from a federal grant has been done before at Smith. But Smith COIL Faculty Fellows is different.

This program is borne out of an initiative of Smith’s Center for Global Business and funded by the Title VI Centers for International Business Education (CIBE) in partnership with four other campuses across the country; San Diego State University, Ohio State, Florida International University and the University of Washington. Training programs are being developed to introduce professors to COIL and demonstrate how it can be valuable to business courses.

Rebecca Bellinger, executive director of Smith’s Center for Global Business, spearheaded the effort to have the business school participate. “At the center, we see a real applicability and value to having students work across teams. It’s part and parcel to how business works today.” She notes that many students can’t study abroad and “many can’t do a global case competition, so why don’t we bring international experiential learning into the classroom.”

COIL Faculty Fellows are picked from each of the business school’s departments to attend national COIL workshops in year one, commit to developing their own COILs in year two and serve as mentors to other Smith faculty in year three. Amna Kirmani, Dean’s Chair of Marketing, Ralph J. Tyser professor of marketing and area chair of marketing, has completed the national COIL training along with Assistant Dean of Experiential Learning and Clinical Professor of Management & Organization, Nicole Coomber.

Coomber is partnered with a professor in Dubai at American University in the Emirates, while Kirmani’s counterpart is at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The classes will be offered in the 2024-2025 academic year. Kirmani and her Dutch colleague will team teach global marketing. She says that course “lends itself to COIL because students at both universities will be putting together a market entry plan for a local company in the other country.” The Dutch students will formulate a plan for introducing a Dutch brewery’s product in the U.S. and the Smith students will do the same for a Maryland company in the Netherlands.

Smith’s new active learning classrooms, with their digital whiteboards, screen sharing and online platforms are perfect for this kind of instruction and Kirmani says her COIL course will be taught in one of them.

Coomber will teach her consulting class with her partner in the United Arab Emirates. Both she and Kirmani feel this kind of collaborative teaching is the future of business education. “I just never want to be one of those professors that’s like ‘oh let’s get out the same playbook and execute it again,’” says Coomber, “because that’s not necessarily great for our students or us as a school.”

This attitude about teaching is common among Smith’s professors and is one of the main reasons why the school is always on the cutting edge of innovative business education. Smith COIL Faculty Fellows is a fresh new way to remain in lockstep with that.

The COIL program at the Smith School is supported in part by CIBE, a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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