115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Energizing Language Programs Through Inter-Institutional Collaboration

Neal Abraham, Five Colleges Incorporated

We have successfully re-energized or expanded language programs through shared curricula, shared co-curricular programs, shared staffing, and a variety of options for shared courses. 


Russian and Hebrew language programs were facing declining enrollments on neighboring campuses.  We successfully re-energized these programs through sharing: curricula, co-curricular programs, and staffing, and a variety of options for shared courses.  We have also used these principles to build stronger programs in Arabic and Korean, for which the flexibility of shared curricular structures, shared courses and shared staffing persuaded the Deans of collaborating institutions to invest in program expansions. 

Beginning in 2007, we have applied collaborative principles to develop shared language programs.  First the campuses developed a program in four-skilled Modern Standard Arabic.  Initially staffed by two shared faculty members teaching at three campuses, the program with an integrated set of curricular offerings has grown to 5.5 shared faculty members serving all five campuses.  Shared curricular offerings optimize students’ preparation to shift from course at one campus to courses at another.  Shared faculty members allow scheduling of their teaching locations to meet student enrollment demands with minimal travel inconvenience.  Shared co-curricular programs build larger cohorts of student learners, energizing them to continue their language students and to explore study-abroad opportunities.

We have used these operating principles to successfully rebuild offerings in Russian for three of the campuses and offerings in Hebrew for two of the campuses.  While declining enrollments may have threatened continuation of these programs, the deans in each case were persuaded to try collaboration before concluding that enrollments would never justify sustained investment. 

Similarly, Korean Language programs serving three campuses were stymied by low enrollment in upper-level courses and long waiting lists for elementary courses.  The deans were persuaded to invest in expanded staffing on the commitments of the language lecturers to sharing curricular offerings and co-curricular programming, sharing staffing (with each faculty member teaching on at least two campuses each year with flexible scheduling), and exploring a variety of course-sharing technologies and schedule strategies.  In addition to conventional video-conference connections of classrooms on different campuses, we have explored having a conversation partner/TA in the classroom where the faculty member is not present, having the students meet together sometimes during the semester, and having the faculty member alternate campuses during the semester.

Results of these shared endeavors have helped the campuses to meet their goals of persuading more students to study languages and to persuade more students to study languages at greater depths.