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Liberal arts education… Societies do not form by living near others but through communication and communication is educative, as one who communicates is having an enlarged experience ~John Dewey
Technology continues to grow and society thrives on it. Students do not like limits, especially limits to technology. They will go where opportunity, atmosphere, and technology exist because the value students receive from the aforementioned give the impression of variety. Schreiner University has many initiatives to provide opportunities and stay in-front of what students need to be competitive in our every growing global economy and workforce.
One of those initiatives is the Texas Language Consortium (TLC), not to be confused with the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC). In the TLC’s second semester, the spring of 2013, 32% of consortium students attended classes through a live, life-sized, video communication system, doing group projects, in-class discussions, tests, and laughing together in classes; in the process, they were up to 275 miles away from each other. The students utilize technology in a unique way to make the class work. Moreover, their efforts provide them with skills they can offer employers because consortium students have a necessity to become competent in inventive, successful, collaborative techniques.
When questioned in early 2013, Professor Silke Feltz, of Schreiner, said the motivation behind the TLC was “to keep foreign languages alive and flourishing. [In so,] several private institutions […] combined forces so new languages could be offered […] and schools could broaden the educational horizon of individual universities.” Pre-2009, Schreiner offered Spanish every semester; but, German and French was only available in the even years. We now have Chinese Mandarin, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese every semester. The availability is due to the collaboration of Schreiner, Texas Wesleyan, Texas Lutheran, Lubbock Christian, and Concordia.
Past TLC challenges have included: the collaboration and effort required across campuses, the time to design and implement the courses, coordination of exams and holidays, book orders, how to effectively accomplish group work, virtual office hours, and occasional inconsistency in sound quality or availability. The previous mentioned challenges decrease each semester and some no longer exist as challenges.
New pedagogical approaches were created by participating professors and student resourcefulness in researching/utilizing technology led to group successes. In a March 2013 survey of 1026 Schreiner students and 150 Texas Lutheran students, 77% and 64% of those responding, respectively, were interested in a language minor. In a different survey, 100% of students surveyed said they would take a consortium class again.
The TLC has just begun its fourth semester and continues to grow. TLC’s success is due to the dedication of the faculty, the IT staff, administration, and students across all the campuses. Currently, a student/faculty project is underway that will introduce students to the effectiveness of combining resources. We hope to develop group projects, maintain student-led chapter discussions, novel discussions, travel abroad information, and address difficulties with homework assignments, by means of Google Docs, WordPress, BlogSpot, and Zotero. The possibilities of where classes of this type may lead are limitless and the TLC student’s liberal arts education is an enlarged experience because of an unspoken requirement: find a way to successfully communicate.