Texas Language Consortium: Statement of Shared Purpose
The five colleges in the Texas Language Consortium (Concordia University-Austin, Lubbock Christian University, Schreiner University, Texas Lutheran University, and Texas Wesleyan University) individually offer a limited number and a different mix of modern languages. Additionally, all institutions offered a varied complement of languages or courses.
Prior to the availability of relatively inexpensive and reliable multi-point videoconference systems, students were limited to the curriculum at individual campuses. That restriction has not represented disinterest on the part of students in studying a rich curriculum, or a resistance on the part of institutions in providing a broader array of foreign language courses. Rather, the restriction has been the result of the economics of sustaining the resources necessary for such a curriculum.
Our existing approach was this: we all offered Spanish at the introductory and intermediate level, and—perhaps—we offered the introductory level of a second language. None of us believed that we were providing students the robust experience in a second language that we wanted to provide. A significant part of the problem was that we could not afford to offer the breadth or depth of languages our students wanted and needed to take, and students therefore considered their world language courses a requirement to complete rather than an essential skill for the 21st century. As a result, courses were under-enrolled (and therefore frequently cancelled), faculty were unhappy with their load (teaching primarily introductory courses that were full of unmotivated students), and students were not developing the language or intercultural skills they wanted and needed.
Charlie McCormick, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Beginning in 2010, with the availability of affordable virtual technologies, and again in 2013 with the emergence of best practices for “blended learning,” it became reasonable to begin to develop mechanisms to provide access to a broader curriculum. “By leveraging this technology, students at our institutions are able to have more world language opportunities than they were ever able to have before the consortium was in place.” (From the grant)
The benefits of a program such as the TLC go beyond merely providing access to additional language offerings. The TLC also opens up opportunities to new curricular approaches to our existing language offerings. Nursing majors at one institution have expressed interest in the Medical Spanish course offered at another institution, and business majors have expressed an interest in Business Spanish. There are intersections of academic interest between institutions that such collaboration can identify and leverage to the benefit of the students. Such collaboration reveals previously undiscovered – and rich – connections between curricula. Building a collaborative curriculum helps all of our institutions meet the challenge of giving our students access to an academic career appropriate to a networked world.
Higher education is laboring through uncomfortable transitions in the first decades of the 21st century. The interactive relationships made possible by networked technology are balanced by challenges in funding, changes in enrollment patterns, and emergence of new competitors for the attention of students and families. It is incumbent upon our institutions to respond productively to the potential of such connectivity and to provide the “language or intercultural skills” that 21st century college graduates require. All institutions will face this challenge before they are completely prepared. As noted above, failing to navigate these changes has consequences including the under-enrollment in and cancellation of certain courses just at a time when competencies in global and intercultural affairs is clearly critical.
Beyond technology and global competencies, the institutions in the TLC have encountered the mounting concerns being directed to all sectors of higher education: 1) that we are not attentive enough to affordability, and 2) that the value of the traditional degree is suspect. The TLC institutions see the possibilities provided through collaboration as a way to confidently respond to these concerns. Collaboration enables us to do more without necessarily incurring greater and duplicated costs. Additionally, it allows relatively small institutions to come together and collectively command the enrollment numbers, budgets, and programmatic offerings that otherwise could be found only at much larger institutions. To be sure, collaboration, as it has been articulated through the TLC, is not revolutionary. It is not a new definition of what our institutions accomplish or entirely new processes regarding how we accomplish learning. Though not revolutionary, the TLC’s collaboration is radical. It is radical because it takes a simple model of implementation and removes the bureaucratic barriers that too often have kept this sort of cooperation from occurring; thereby, permitting us the opportunity to achieve more together than we otherwise could alone.
Stakeholders of the TLC include faculty, students, administrative offices, technology services, and librarians. Faculty and students are most clearly impacted by this opportunity in that they are being asked – or may be asking – to teach and learn in this new environment. Administrative offices and staff, including CAOs, registrars, institutional research, and campus business offices are impacted, as this is a business venture in addition to being a pedagogical/academic venture. Technology services have a stake in this venture, as the means of delivery is fundamentally technological. Technology services – including network services, academic or instructional technologists, and data services – are all required to participate in order to ensure the delivery of the program. Additional technology staff such as email system administrators and web content development and delivery staff may also be impacted. To the extent that any course offered in the traditional face-to-face format on a campus include any form of library support for the curriculum of the course, that same support – on one or more of the participating campuses receiving the benefit of that course – may also need to provide a similar level of library support for their students participating in the course virtually. Stakeholders include:
The TLC intends to:
Develop faculty proficiency and excellence in the blended learning environment;
Develop specific strategies and standards for assessing how the blended classroom impacts course outcomes;
Enhance student learning and engagement on a level commensurable with the face-to-face only classroom;
Align institutional processes to ease collaboration;
Expand the world languages offered and the levels at which these languages are offered;
Control costs for the collaborative expansion of student learning opportunities;
Explore and—if feasible—expand Spanish offerings; and
Transform the Texas Language Consortium into the Texas Learning Consortium.