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The Shared Course Initiative: A collaborative model to support the instruction of less commonly taught languages across institutions

Over the past decade, it has become increasingly difficult for both European and American institutions to continue offering a wide selection of the smaller and less commonly taught languages. Due to budgetary constraints as well as institutional pressures, in the past decade or so many universities have been forced to reduce the number of less commonly taught languages they offer. In some cases in fact, support has even discontinued for traditional modern languages - languages that had been hitherto considered integral to an overall broad, educational experience.
It is against this back-drop, and in order to try to formulate answers to this problem, that three private US research institutions who share similar educational principles, have formed a partnership to develop a collaborative framework for teaching the less commonly taught languages (LCTL). This framework uses high-definition videoconferencing and other distance learning technology classroom in order to make additional language learning opportunities available to our students. The shared model of instruction supported by this framework is designed to address the specific needs of language learners and offers a synchronous, interactive and learner-centered environment intended to closely emulate an interactive classroom.
Having just completed the first, two-year pilot phase of the project, we are now in the process of setting specific objectives for the second, three-year phase and reflecting on how this model can be adapted to support other academic disciplines as well as other forms of instruction. In this presentation, we will first describe the model; provide an overview of the languages and courses offered thus far; reflect briefly on the outcomes of Phase I; and present a summary of the technical, pedagogical, and administrative benefits and challenges of the project. In addition, we will offer a preliminary analysis of the data collected on the experiences of teachers and learners in this environment. We will then discuss our specific objectives for the next three years of the project, including the further expansion of the project and plans to more fully assess both the learning environment and the learning outcomes. Finally, since our model has been replicated in a number of different institutional, we will outline how institutions can form similar strategic partnerships and implement this collaborative model in different academic contexts and for different pedagogical purposes. In particular, we will consider how such a model can facilitate the creation of communal spaces in which students can develop the skills required to become effective co-creators of knowledge and engage in critical dialogue with both teachers and peers in order to pursue the meaningful exploration of knowledge.


Stephane Charitos    
Language Resoruce Center
Columbia University
United States

Stéphane Charitos earned a B.Sc. in Data Processing and Quantitative Analysis from the U. of Arkansas and an M.A in French and Philosophy from the same university in 1983 before completing a Ph.D. in French and Spanish from the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1992.

He taught French at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and at the U. of Memphis. In 1996, he was hired by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL to design and administer the university's new Foreign Language Media Center. Subsequently, he was recruited by Columbia University to conceive, build and direct the Language Resource Center, a Mellon funded initiative which serves as the university digital language lab as well as the administrative center overseeing language instruction in the less commonly taught language and providing training and support to language faculty integrating media-rich applications into the foreign language teaching curriculum.

He has given papers and published in areas as diverse as 16th and 20th-century French and Francophone literature, Cultural and Film Studies, Modern Greek Studies, Critical Theory as well as on issues related to technology, globalization, and language instruction.

Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl    
Center for Language Study
Yale University
United States

Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl (Ph.D. Linguistics, University of Florida) is Associate Dean of Yale College and Director of the Center for Language Study at Yale University. Her research interests focus on applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, heritage language learning, and technology-enhanced foreign language teaching and learning. Her most recent publications include “Research on heritage language issues” (in Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States: Research, Educational Practice, and Policy, Routledge, 2014), “Online Discourse Strategies: A longitudinal study of computer-mediated foreign language learning” (in Mediating Discourse Online, edited by Sally Sieloff Magnan; John Benjamins, 2008). She edited the second edition of Foreign and Second Language Education (Volume 4 of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education; Springer, 2007), co-edited with Nancy Hornberger, and is currently working on the third edition under the General Editorship of Stephen May. With Maria Carreira, she edited a special issue of the Heritage Language Journal entitled “Heritage Language Learning and Identity” (December 2010). She is currently involved in two grant projects: as principal investigator of the Directed Independent Language Study (DILS) Distance Learning Initiative, funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, and as co-investigator on a shared course initiative with Columbia and Cornell to collaborate on less commonly taught languages, funded by the Mellon Foundation. With Nina Spada, she is Series Editor of the Language Learning and Language Teaching book series published by John Benjamins.


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