About Us


Center for Online Innovation in Learning Logo

Penn State created the Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL) in 2012 as a cross-discipline research and development center focused on building and sustaining a culture of innovation, collaboration, and invention focused on improving teaching and learning. In doing so, Penn State set out to build upon its experiences from more than 100 years in distance education and to focus on its successes gained from pioneering online education through Penn State World Campus. In pursuit of its mission, COIL engages the University’s extensive research enterprise across multiple disciplines in order to improve learning through online innovations at and beyond Penn State.

COIL serves faculty, staff, and students interested in the transformation of the educational paradigm by sponsoring programs that fund research grants, host world-class thought leaders, and create local conversations around new and emerging trends.

COIL is sponsored and supported by Outreach and Online Education; the College of Education; the College of Information, Sciences and Technology; and Information Technology Services at Penn State. Additionally, institutional leadership development in online learning is served via the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning in partnership with the Online Learning Consortium.

Our Initiatives


COIL RIG LogoCOIL’s Research Initiation Grant (RIG) Program provides “seed funding” during the development and “proof of concept” stages of research projects that have the potential to enhance teaching and learning through online innovation. These grants are intended to generate the preliminary evidence to pursue external funding for larger-scale and subsequent studies.

Research teams including faculty, staff, and/or students from any Penn State Campus are eligible to apply for Research Initiation Grants. Applications are encouraged from interdisciplinary teams and teams that include research and developers as well as tool builders from other institutions and organizations.

COIL RIG proposals are sought through a bi-annual call for proposal and must include a Penn State-related principal investigator. Grant funds may be used to support the development of new technology-based learning tools and/or environments, research investigating innovative online learning tools, environments, or approaches, including research design and consultation, data collection and aggregation, instrument development and/or purchase, secure data storage, data analysis, and report generation.

Priority will be given to proposals/requests that demonstrate considerable promise for enhancing learning through online innovation and the potential to stimulate significant proposals for external funding. Awards of up to $50,000 may be granted for each study proposed.


Fischer Speaker LogoThe COIL Fischer speaker series is an opportunity to engage the Penn State community and beyond with world-class scientists, researchers, industry leaders, and theorists on a wide variety of topics impacting innovation in education and the transformation of the educational process. Funded by a gift from Dr. Richard and Claudia Fischer, this speaker series is delivered in a hybrid format with a live audience as well as live-streaming to a world-wide audience. Speakers are invited to visit the Penn State campus and interact with students, staff, and faculty in both formal and informal gatherings. The COIL Fischer talk is generally hosted in the Foster Auditorium on the University Park campus in State College, Pennsylvania.

The COIL community is encouraged to suggest topic areas and/or speakers for consideration as a COIL Fischer program. Additionally, the COIL community is engaged to host the Fischer guest by providing introductions, hosting meetings, and conducting interviews. All COIL Fischer Speaker Series are recorded and archived for additional access and the archive can be found on our Youtube ChannelThe COIL Fischer Speaker Series is co-sponsored and hosted by Penn State Libraries


COIL Conversation LogoCOIL Conversations is a community-centered webinar series that seeks to stimulate conversation and idea sharing around emerging technologies or pedagogies. Informed by and conducted by the community, these events are billed as “local” conversations among like-minded inquisitive colleagues. The 1-hour format typically feature a brief presentation followed by a moderator-lead discussion. Many COIL Conversations enable opportunities for both face-to-face and live-streamed interactions. The COIL community is encouraged to suggest topic areas and/or speakers for consideration as a COIL Conversations program. All COIL Conversations are recorded and archived and can be found on our Youtube Channel.


COIL Perspectives LogoAs a way to extend the benefits of our COIL guests, each have been invited to reflect and react to three short questions relating to teaching and learning and online innovations—leading to the creation of, COIL Perspectives. The design of these questions requires, on average, a 3-5 minute response.

COIL Perspectives ask each guest the same three questions. This allows for a review of different perspectives from multiple viewpoints. The questions are used for one year. Sometimes we have special questions based on the interest of the guests. These are the “bonus tracks” and hopefully shed additional insights around our guests special interest.

For more information on COIL Perspectives and to view the previous year’s questions as well as the current year’s productions please visit the COIL Perspectives playlist on our Youtube Channel.


BYOP LogoBring Your Own Problem (BYOP) workshops feature hands-on implementation of specific technologies or methodologies, and are structured to inspire and support the application of online innovations into personal practice. Focused on new tools, technologies, hardware, and pedagogies, BYOPs cover both initial introductions to the tools or concepts as well as guided and structured application to real-life scenarios brought to the event by participants. Whether exploring new tools together or bringing research to practice, BYOPs are COIL’s way of addressing the real life challenges faced by today’s teachers and learners.


IELOL LogoThe Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) is a unique blended-learning leadership development program sponsored by Penn State and the Online Learning Consortium. The program has been offered since 2009 and has a growing alumni base. Registrations are limited to 50 individuals per year and participants are selected through a review process.

This institute is designed to serve the leadership development needs of professionals in the rapidly expanding field of online learning. IELOL is a four-step leadership development program that includes a three-week IELOL Primer, four-day Immersion experience at University Park, a three-week online Project and ending with a preconference IELOL Masters Class at the annual Online Learning Consortium conference in Orlando.