International Photography Collaboration


RMIT Bachelor of Photography students led by Rebecca Najkowski, completed a COIL collaboration with SUNY Genesee Community College in upstate New York. Across hemispheres, students employed photography to look at how humans interact with the environment around them by focusing on the exploitation and manufacturing of natural materials, reflecting on the impact of colonisation, performing artistic interventions, or finding traces of overlooked daily human involvement with nature. The project explored a range of ‘natural’ and urban environments, from tourist hotbed Niagara Falls and rural regions in New York State, to the Melbourne metropolitan area and the Mallee region of Victoria and New South Wales. In these varied explorations, landscapes can be seen through a diversity of interpretations.

The students compiled an online gallery here which was also exhibited at RMIT Melbourne city campus and SUNY Genesee.

RMIT’s first COIL collaboration

Rmit’s first collaboration with the SUNY COIL network was back in 2015. Lisa Dethridge from Screenwriting in Media and Communications gathered students from across several subjects, in an extra curricular project on the topic of Transhumanism. The collaboration partner was Damian Scofield a professor in computer science from SUNY Oswego in upstate New York. The project was combined with a study tour. Students worked together to create science fiction scripts for robots that the SUNY students were programming. The result was some extraordinarily creative outputs:


Students were interviewed about their experience of the collaboration.

Thanks to Lisa for her pioneering efforts in helping COIL become established at RMIT.

Damian Schofield on COIL

It was great to see presentation at RMIT from Damian Schofield, Professor of Computer Science from State University of New York Oswego. Damian is an experienced COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) practitioner and is the other ‘half’ of the collaboration with Lisa Dethridge from RMIT on Transhumanism. Transhumanism is the study of the crossover between humans and machines; and Damian has a programmable computer chip embedded in his hand. There were a number of points I took from Damian’s presentation –

  • For international collaboration to work the students have to like their professor. They want to go to places they know about. The experience must include local knowledge. And it must be affordable.
  • BEFORE any work – get to know your partner. COIL lives and dies on personal relationships. It’s a good idea to visit if possible. Use contacts in the COIL network you already know, where possible.
  • Cost effectiveness. They can be cheap and sustainable. Program information shows to students the COIL activities and the expectations for global collaboration.
  • Damian’s collaborations usually last for about 4 weeks, mostly involving video conferencing. There is a 14 – 16 hours time difference between his students in New York and RMIT in Melbourne. Damian’s New York students were happy to come in the evening for the teleconferences.
  • Collaborate on small projects. Keep things separate in terms of tasks and assessments.

Damian has worked with other overseas projects

  • VR Interviews between Suny and Spain.
  • Using AR teaching kids to build lego robots with Brazil.
  • Facebook games – with students from India – exploring cultural differences in gaming.

Why do COIL? – for students it’s fun. So few students get interactions like this elsewhere or in their upbringing. And it’s an easy way to create publications.

As well, student confidence rises dramatically, as does self awareness and overall satisfaction. For staff, job satisfaction rises. COIL also enables opportunities for travel, new research, and increases employability of both staff and students.

A good example of employability skills is in a unit on software entrepreneurship that Damian led. Small groups of students were given a small amount of cash with which to hire designers and developers from overseas to build an app. The skills acquired included working in international groups and managing international teams.

On a side note Damian won many hearts in the room when stating that he refuses to use his university’s preferred LMS, using instead his own instance of Canvas.