COIL on the Theme of Education with Chiang Mai University in Thailand

Learning from Local Voices through Online Tools

A Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Program was conducted from May 5 to July 2, 2021. Participants were 16 Sophia students taking the Seminar in International Educational Development from the Department of Education, Faculty of Human Sciences, and 14 students from Thailand’s Chiang Mai University (CMU), a student exchange partner of Sophia.

The theme of the program was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the areas of immigrant workers, the new economy, local economies, regional communities, and education. Sophia students focused especially on access to education and its quality, for minority communities in Northern Thailand, and deepened their studies while working with CMU students.

First, there was a three-day session in early May that combined online lectures and discussions. After that, students from the two universities formed mixed groups and conducted joint research through late June. During the research, CMU students mainly took charge of surveys through fieldwork, including work such as conducting interviews in Chiang Mai. Sophia students mainly worked on literature-based research, sharing their findings with each other as they proceeded with their studies. In addition, this program made use of social media, and students advanced their research while receiving instruction from coordinating faculty members of the two universities. The groups presented their final results on July 2, the last day of the program.

The students held meetings on Zoom to prepare to present their final results. On the day of the presentations, the two groups reported on the educational issues faced by immigrant children from Myanmar living in Chiang Mai. Each group’s presentation focused on the economic conditions, policies, and education system of the immigrants. In addition to ongoing issues such as language barriers and visa problems, the students reported on the deteriorating educational environment for immigrant families due to the heavy burden of school closures and worsening economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The students then discussed the need for subsidies for educational institutions and support for immigrant families, as well as policies to address this.

The students conducted research and prepared for their presentations for about two months. A CMU student said, “It was a valuable experience to be able to have discussions through online meetings based on the perspectives of each country.” A Sophia student stated, “Although I was not able to travel to Thailand to do fieldwork, my studies were deepened by having the CMU students share their fieldwork results with us and being able to compare them with the information from literature.” This program was a meaningful opportunity for collaborative learning fully leveraging online tools.