Remaining Relevant

I’d like to tell readers about a couple of cool things Richard Bland College is doing. This is partly because I love my institution and I want it to be a successful place, but it’s also because I think these programs are innovative and might help put Richard Bland College of the College of William & Mary on the proverbial map.

The first program is called the Language Institute. This is a partnership with Main Street Virtual Learning, and it uses an online platform that looks like one of the best I’ve seen. Students learn conversational languages, and Main Street’s parent company has a long history of working with military personnel to teach useful language skills. It’s unlike traditional language classes in that students learn how to speak the language, but they probably won’t learn so much about writing or reading the language. As the marketing material says for the Language Institute, “courses focus on the ‘hows’ of language, not the ‘why’ of traditional linguistics programs.” What I’m most excited about is the online platform, which I plan to try with an online English class in the fall.

The other program, and one that is maybe even more innovative, especially for a two-year college, is called Global Education Skills Alliance. GESA will be based on our little campus in Petersburg, Va., but its reach is worldwide. In brief, GESA will provide study-abroad opportunities for students. Right now, partner institutions are in Australia, New Zealand, and New York. I’m excited about GESA because study-abroad opportunities are readily available in four-year colleges, but they’re pretty rare in two-year institutions. I’m also excited to see how GESA and the Language Institute’s online platform can work together.

Both of these are examples of how Richard Bland College is trying new things, but I hope they are also a sign that higher education is headed in an innovative direction. It’s no surprise that we’re a two-year college trying new things; two-year institutions are traditionally inventive, as four-year schools sometimes get stuck. If RBC wants to remain relevant in 15 or 20 years, it has to be willing to try new things and embrace what works. Hopefully, other institutions are doing or will do the same.

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