COIL Partnership Brings Lebanese Component to GCC Sociology Course

Batavia, NY- When Genesee Community College students attend their 9:30 a.m. Introduction to Sociology course this spring, their studies will take them far beyond the Batavia classroom to be immersed in the culture of Lebanon. The students will not only be learning from their GCC professor Josephine Kearney, assistant professor of Sociology and Human Services, but also from an instructor and students living in Beirut. Through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), Kearney’s students will learn about life in another country without even leaving the classroom.


“It will be a great experience for our students,” Kearney explained. “More important, it is a rare opportunity to give students a chance to explore another country and culture that may not otherwise have the chance to do so.”


Kearney and her teaching partner Joseph Elgemayel of American University of Technology in Byblos, Lebanon, have developed the COIL Module, “Digital Culture across Borders.” The blend of Kearney’s Sociology course and Elgemayel’s Introduction to Web Design course will analyze the universality of the internet and the relationship between access and mobility, the power dynamics and challenges of the global internet, and the potential dark side to its use. Through interviews, students will measure the impact of the internet on personal, professional and societal life.


“The partnership process took time,” Kearney said, as she described how the online development phase took nearly six months, “but it was worth it.”  


Kearney enrolled in the COIL Course Orientation (CCO) online course last summer. With support from the Stevens Initiative Award, which the State University of New York (SUNY) received over $500,000 in support of COIL programs, she continued through the orientation process with the second phase in November 2016 at the American University in Cairo. There, the pair of instructors met and together developed their module. They received intensive training to design their COIL enhanced courses as well as guidance to teach the course modules. In essence, it brought Kearney’s COIL vision to fruition.


“We spent about four or five days putting together our course and collaborating on learning objectives,” she said. “I believe in experiential learning, and together, Joseph and I developed a module that I believe will be fun, dynamic and very rewarding for students who happen to be worlds apart.”


About thirty-percent of Kearney’s Sociology coursework this spring will pertain to the COIL module, and the rest will follow the regular GCC course syllabus. Through the COIL work, students will take part in food preparation and testing of Lebanese food, lessons dealing with refugees, and contextual analysis of the internet and its effect on culture. Students will use live video conferencing during class time, social media, email and other forms of communication to create a relationship with their partnering classmates in order to complete the tasks of the COIL module.


“It will be an eye-opening experience for some of our students to get to know and understand students from another country and culture,” Kearney added. “While we may be exploring the same topic during the class, the differences in opinions will be interesting to explore, communicate and understand.”


Kearney and Elgemayel are currently working together to set dates and times for their classes to communicate throughout the rest of the spring semester. Students must keep a journal as part of their participation grade for Kearney, and the class will give presentations at GCC’s second annual Scholars Symposium on March 30, 2017. Although online communication can, at times, be challenging and unreliable, Kearney and Elgemayel plan to just “roll with it.”


COIL has provided professional development and institutional partnerships for hundreds of universities around the globe with the purpose of allowing professors to integrate meaningful intercultural learning into their classrooms for more than a decade. The COIL model is built around team-teaching and project-centered course design across cultures and disciplines. Instructors work together to create course objectives, student learning outcomes, and plan communication to connect their classes. For more information on SUNY Collaborative Online International Learning, visit the COIL website at


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Editor’s Note:

For two photographs of Josephine Kearney of GCC and Joseph Elgemayel of American University of Technology in Byblos, Lebanon, partners in a new COIL project, go to: