Sharing Courses in Self-Instructional Language Programs through Online Conversation (Fall 2020)

Renewed for Fall 2020!


In an increasingly globalized world, students are seeking ways to learn languages that are not commonly taught at schools in the United States. While self-instructional language programs (SILP) afford many opportunities to explore lesser-taught languages like Hindi, Korean, or Swahili, the scope of each program is limited. A new online collaboration will allow each program to tap into resources that other colleges in the consortium have, e.g. native speakers in the community that can serve as tutors, or advanced level instruction in certain languages. Students will have additional opportunities to explore new paths within their liberal arts education.

Many of the colleges within the consortium offer some form of guided self-instruction of lesser-taught languages already. The new LACOL project will launch a collaboration between the Self-Instructional Language Programs at Vassar, and Williams College, using online synchronous classroom-to-classroom interaction. As Lioba Gerhardi, Vassar’s Coordinator of the Self-Instructional Language Program and Adjunct Assistant Professor of German Studies says:

By sharing resources, the partners will be able to increase the number of self-instructional languages available to students in an innovative and cost-effective manner.

The self-instructional component of each language course will remain unchanged. Each student will enroll for the course at their home institution. For speaking and listening practice, students will join conversational tutorial sessions at a partnering college via video conferencing software, such as Zoom.

As a pilot project in Fall 2017, SILP students at Vassar and Williams colleges joined online to study Portuguese. As with any course taken through these programs, learning goals are determined by an outside examiner, who is also responsible for assessing learning outcomes in oral and written exams twice a semester. A successful pilot project can be expanded by including more languages and colleges, or it can serve as a model for collaborations between other colleges within the consortium.

Project Leads:
Lioba Gerhardi, Coordinator, Self-Instructional Language Program, Vassar College
Jane Canova, Critical Languages Coordinator, Administrative Director, Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Williams College
Steven Taylor, Director of Academic Computing, Vassar College