Koya University hosts EPP funded development project 

Published: May 24, 2024

Students from Koya University have completed the winter semester of a collaborative international project with support from the Education, Peace and politics project.

The COIL initiative was founded with the aim of exploring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and explore ways businesses can contribute to sustainable development. The project invited students from seven different countries to work together for six weeks to study cultural differences in relation to development goals.

Each team conducted weekly meetings, brainstormed new ideas, and collected the results of their research on the United Nations SDGs. The businesses were a selection of recent global business innovations chosen from the pool of AIM2Flourish stories provided by the Fowler Centre at Case Western University.

COIL was founded by Dr Ruben Burga at the University of Guelph. Who is currently a University Teaching Leadership Fellow in Interdisciplinary and Experiential Teaching and Learning. Dr Burgawas joined by Sophie Brown, one of the EPP team is also a PhD researcher at Guelph. 

After meeting Dr Burga at a Teaching and Learning Innovations conference, Sophie realised that COIL would be a good extension of the goals of EPP project at Koya University. 

“COIL connects students from a diverse range of backgrounds into teams with a common goal.”

The local instructors guided their students when dealing with virtual team communications and cross-cultural challenges. Meanwhile the COIL coaches provided instructional material on the SDGs, on the AIM2Flourish business innovations, and support for the various assignments, which included weekly questions, a poster, and a final reflection. The posters created as part of COIL 2024 can be viewed in a virtual reality gallery space. Access to the poster room is available by clicking here.

One student said the project helped to identify people’s skillsets. Yousif Muayad Bahnam, said: “This project was our chance to shine and show what we’re good at, as well as helping us find skills we didn’t know we had.”

EPP researcher Sophie Brown said: “The project reflects so many aspects of what is needed in higher education. The knowledge required to enter the workplace is changing all the time but the competencies of collaboration, innovation, technological agility, and interpersonal skills remain as needed as ever. 

“COIL connects students from a diverse range of backgrounds into teams with a common goal. They must negotiate time differences, cultural differences, and language barriers with maturity and understanding for the benefit of the whole team. In an increasingly globalized society, the importance of these skills cannot be overemphasized. And all of that is before mentioning the content of the course, which encourages students to consider sustainability in a range of sectors. The small role I played in COIL 2024 was to connect Koya University to the project and offer a supporting role to the students and staff as they tested out this project in a new context.”

Sophie added: “What struck me the most was the gratitude of the students. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as with many fragile and conflict-affected places, higher education institutions can become isolated and opportunities for international collaboration can be scarce. COIL created a space for Koya University students to be part of a global learning community. I hope that this project continues to provide meaningful inclusion for students, and continues to create ways for higher education institutions to support one another and leverage resources for the benefit of students worldwide.”

“I am struck by the transformative power of global collaboration in fostering innovative approaches to sustainable development . . .”

Grant Manager, Dr Bnar Jawdat Ahmed said: “As I reflect on my involvement in facilitating the connection between the Business Administration Department at Koya University and the COIL project, I am struck by the transformative power of global collaboration in fostering innovative approaches to sustainable development.”

“The collaborative nature of the COIL project fostered a sense of global citizenship among the students, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our actions and the importance of collective responsibility in advancing sustainable development. By working collaboratively across borders, students not only gained valuable insights into different cultural perspectives but also learned the importance of empathy, communication, and mutual respect in addressing common challenges.

Soran Kakarash Omer, who was also in attendance said: “In my view, [COIL] promotes individual and collective learning by providing opportunities for students to collaboratively create knowledge and share experiences. 

“The program was robust and successful with strong staff support and technical provision. Most significantly, the strength of the project lies in the opportunity for students to beautify and improve their learning. It creates a desire to participate, solve, and innovate, all of which I hope will grow in the coming years. As educators, we want to leave a legacy to our students; to beautify and improve the human experience and benefit the environment around us. This program was a way for me to do so.”

Mehrnaz Ahmadian, Co-Coach, University of Guelph, Canada said: “For me as a co-coach in this COIL project, it was full of joy and interest to read the students’ reports and reflections each week. 

“As time passed, it was obvious that they were increasingly eager to do their best in researching business innovations and related SDGs. Also, their enthusiasm in providing the creative posters surprised me. In my opinion, the most valuable aspect of this project was the synergy among the international teams. Mehrnaz added: “They worked diligently to complement each other’s strengths and cover their weaknesses. The collaborative effort and teamwork were evident throughout the project, making it a truly enriching experience.”

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