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

“To the Rescue!”: The Great Lakes Colleges Association Shared Languages Program

Gabriele Dillmann, Denison University

This presentation provides an overview of the GLCA Shared Languages Program and how such a program has the potential to remedy the dire situation of upper-level under-enrolled language courses and expand the language offerings that no one institution could afford. The program's logistics, its corresponding pedagogy, and student learning assessment will also be discussed. 


Language departments across the country struggle to keep their programs afloat during current times where budget cuts often force our college administration to hold low student enrollment against the sustainability of lesser enrolled courses and eventually entire programs. Even for a language such as Spanish with very high elementary and intermediate level enrollment numbers, programs struggle to adequately meet the student minimum in their upper-level courses. This is certainly true for the other traditional languages such as German and French. At the same time, many institutions make a real effort to expand their language offerings to so-called lesser taught languages. These vary from institution to institution, but in the case of for example Arabic or Portuguese, the problem colleges struggle with is to take the language offerings in these offerings beyond the 6th semester – if even that far. This creates a catch-22 scenario with students not seeing any purpose of starting with a language that they cannot pursue beyond the basic level during their undergraduate studies and expansion of a program hinging on student enrollment. 

Contemporary digital technologies allow us to search for new types of solutions to this seemingly cyclically returning problem. Over the past three or four years, several institutions have come together to pilot courses that are cross-institutional and collaborative, so-called “shared” courses, where students from these individual colleges can benefit from the course offerings of the partner institutions. The Great Lakes Colleges Consortium Shared Languages Program received a major Mellon grant to institute the course sharing initiative for a pilot period of 4 years. It allows students from thirteen different colleges to take courses at a partner institution for full credit as they join bricks and mortar courses virtually. The Shared Languages Program may not secure faculty positions as such, but it does attempt to preserve the languages taught and add further languages that each college alone could not afford.

In this presentation, I will give an overview of the GLCA SLP and how such a program has the potential to remedy the dire situation in most of the languages, discuss its logistics, its corresponding pedagogy, and student learning assessment.