Frequently Asked Questions
To find out more about the partnership between Middlebury and K12, and how the new for-profit enterprise will work, click on the questions below.
Why are Middlebury and K12 undertaking this new venture?
Fewer than 18% of Americans speak any language other than English but 50% of European Union citizens speak another language.* This lack of language skills puts our nation’s students at a disadvantage in a competitive global society. As a longtime leader in foreign language instruction, Middlebury is well positioned to help address the critical national need for more widespread language education.
(*2000 U.S. Census/National Center for Policy Analysis)
The new company will offer pre-college students access to two forms of language education based on Middlebury’s decades of experience in this area:
New online high school language-learning courses. The first courses, in French and Spanish, will be available in the late summer of 2010.
Expansion of the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy (MMLA) with additional sites. MMLA is a summer language immersion camp for students in grades 8-12 that currently has four locations.
Is the collaboration between K12 and Middlebury unusual?
It is unusual for a nonprofit and a for-profit to form a company. This partnership is only possible because of Middlebury’s position as the leader in foreign language education. The Middlebury Language Schools, the Schools Abroad, the Monterey Institute, and the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy comprise a unique set of resources that sets Middlebury apart from its peers.
Why is Middlebury entering into this partnership now?
Middlebury College has recognized the need for greater access to high quality foreign language instruction for pre-college students for some time. The development of learning technology now has reached a level of sophistication that will allow us to provide high quality instruction in an online environment. To do so, it is important to work with a partner that has extensive experience with online education. K12 is a leader in providing this type of instruction.
Working with K12, we can address issues of access and quality while affirming our preeminent position in language education. With this innovative agreement, Middlebury will be at the forefront of language learning technology. The Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy has allowed us to gain invaluable experience over the last two years creating language immersion programs for high school and middle school students. Together, the online courses and MMLA allow us to reach new student populations while increasing access to high quality language instruction both online and in person. The new company will expand the MMLA program so that it can serve students all over the United States.
Will Middlebury benefit financially from the new company?
Middlebury will be a partner in the new venture. In the long term, Middlebury's share of the earnings from this investment will supplement the traditional revenue sources — comprehensive fee (tuition, room and board), endowment and donations — and provide a more diverse financial model. Higher education institutions need to be more creative and innovative in identifying new revenue sources and Middlebury is fortunate to have such an opportunity.
Who is the audience for the online courses?
Designed with a great deal of flexibility, the courses will benefit the individual high school student, who otherwise might have no access to interactive, quality foreign language instruction. Language instructors will also be able to use the material to supplement teaching in a regular classroom environment.
The courses can accommodate many learning styles and students may progress at their own pace.
Students who have attended MMLA may want to take these courses to build on their own MMLA experience. At MMLA, many students advance in their language learning so that they have to jump ahead one level in their language courses when they return to school. One session at MMLA is the equivalent of one full year of language instruction at most traditional school programs although some of the students even advance two years.
What online language courses will be offered?
The new company will offer beginner French and Spanish for high school students in the late summer of 2010. Additional courses, including intermediate and advanced level French and Spanish, and other languages, will be available in the future.
How will students be able to take the new courses?
In the classroom, at home or wherever an Internet connection is available.
What are some of the features of the courses?
The new company will expand foreign language learning opportunities for students and offer an effective and engaging learning experience. The new courses will use features such as animation, music, videos and other elements that immerse students in new languages. These components will provide a lively base for daily exercises to practice listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Instructional games, clubs and activities will give students a wide variety of additional cultural and co-curricular opportunities.
Students will have access to qualified language instructors, native or near-native speakers of the language, as well as other students participating in the course. Students will also complete interactive, student-to-student virtual collaboration assignments.
How is Middlebury’s immersion approach to language learning preserved in an online course?
While it is true that no online program can duplicate the 24/7 intensive immersion environment of our Language Schools or of MMLA, we are committed to developing online language instruction with the immersion approach as our guideline. This commitment is possible because K12's expertise in online education will enable the immersion approach to come to life in an online environment. Like the Middlebury Language Schools, the courses emphasize use of the language, knowledge of the culture, and participation in a language learning community:
Unlike conventional materials for many beginner level language courses, the materials for the new online courses, regardless of level, will all be in the target language with the exception of a custom dictionary and grammar explanations to be used as needed.
In many cases, students will speak more of the target language, as they interact with the course material, than they would in a classroom where they might be intimidated to speak another language in front of classmates. Wiki and blog postings are two of the features that will encourage written interaction.
Authentic materials, such as video, music and text created by native speakers for use by other native speakers, are integral to the courses.
Supplementary or co-curricular activities, activities that take place outside of the “classroom” or core curriculum, reinforce the learning from course material. In the online environment, there will be additional opportunities for students to learn and use the language through exposure and interaction with videos, blogs, websites, music, etc.
How does Middlebury apply its language expertise, which has been targeted to college students, to the middle and high school population?
Middlebury has already applied its language expertise to this age group at MMLA, a summer language immersion camp established by Middlebury for students in grades 8-12 that currently has four locations. MMLA has held two summer sessions. Also, K12 has offered high school courses since 2005.
How is Middlebury ensuring quality worthy of its reputation in the online courses?
The curriculum is developed by expert foreign language faculty drawn from both Middlebury College and the international faculty of the summer Middlebury Language Schools. We are applying the same successful approach we have used in our language schools, but adapting it specifically to the high school age group and an online environment. Middlebury chose to partner with K12 to ensure that this environment would be of high quality.
How did Middlebury become known for language teaching?
Since the founding of the German School in 1915, Middlebury has become the undisputed leader in language education. Middlebury now has 10 Language Schools. Its Schools Abroad, MMLA, and its affiliate, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, have all contributed to Middlebury’s language resources as well. A timeline that illustrates the growth of Middlebury’s language expertise offers more information.