Middlebury College has announced a partnership that will create online language programs for pre-college students.
The small Vermont institution will invest $4 million—a 40-percent stake—in Middlebury Interactive Languages; their partner in the venture will be the educational-technology company K12.
Language professors from Middlebury, which has about 2,400 students, will work with K12 to create and manage the content of the Web-based language classes. The first courses will be beginner French and Spanish for high-school students, set to be released this summer.
The college believes the project could “revolutionize the way languages are taught and learned in the United States” by allowing students to start learning languages at a much earlier age, said Ronald D. Liebowitz, president of Middlebury College, in a video available on the university’s Web site.
“There is a huge language gap in the United States, a crisis in terms of having a number of folks who are proficient in languages—not only strategic languages but all foreign languages,” Mr. Liebowitz said, “and we, as a leading institution that teaches foreign languages, should have a role to play.”
Middlebury College founded its first Language School, a summer program that teaches students a foreign language by immersion, about a century ago. In the past six decades, more than 40,000 students have attended one or more of the Language School summer sessions.
In 2008 the university joined with the Monterey Institute of International Studies to create the the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy, an intensive language-immersion summer program for students between eighth and 12th grade. The four-week residential sessions take place at four campuses: Green Mountain College, Oberlin College, Pomona College, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock.