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The Texas Language Consortium

In our final webinar of the year, the ACS was privileged to speak with Silke Feltz, Instructor in German and English at Schreiner University, and her colleague Dan Brown, Multimedia Specialist at Schreiner, who have been instrumental in the formation of the Texas Language Consortium. The TLC represents a collaboration between five small colleges in Texas which have committed to providing shared language courses in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin in order mutually enrich the language programs at each of the five participating institutions. Courses are delivered through regular sessions to a combined group of home-campus students and up to five students at each of the remote campuses, who participate via high definition videoconference. Thanks to a generous donation, the five participating campuses have been able to created dedicated spaces, complete with cameras and sound equipment, to host these high-tech courses. It has taken some to get used to teaching in this fashion: Feltz wears and mic and is aided by a work-study student, who helps control the cameras that can present either a “lecture” view of the instructor or a “conference” view of the Schreiner students, as well as the screen that displays remote students. She and the other TLC faculty (each campus has one TLC instructor) have learned to work with administrators and tech staff at partner institutions to help proctor exams and ensure that the communications technology runs smoothly during class meetings. They have also found some tools to assist them, such as the CamScanner application, which allows students to scan in-class quizzes and send them in to Feltz while in class. Despite these challenges Feltz and Brown are already looking for ways to expand the program, such as inspiring a student-run Texas Language Consortium blog to facilitate greater communication between students at partnering campus, or beginning virtual conversation groups to stimulate more practice outside of class. With the many resources at hand–not the least of which is faculty and staff’s enthusiasm and skill, which keeps the technology secondary to the interpersonal relationships it fosters–the program is sure to provide a fascinating example of a liberal arts approach to distance learning.

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