Lessons from a NITLE Seminar on Digital Humanities Courses
On December 16th Jeff McClurken, Brian Croxall, and Ryan Cordell shared their courses in a NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar Series session entitled “Teaching DH 101: Introduction to the Digital Humanities.” Each discussed teaching and designing courses with a digital humanities focus in the disciplines of English and history. Rebecca Davis and Rob Nelson hosted the seminar over WebEx, allowing over sixty participants to interact with the presenters, share links, and ask questions during the session.
Ryan Cordell began by discussing the design and approval process of a course he has yet to conduct, “Technologies of Text”. Ryan described how he decided not to design “Intro to Digital Humanities”, but instead a digital humanities course grounded in his discipline. By focusing the course on interpreting text and working under a disciplinary umbrella, Ryan was able to make the course understandable to his colleagues. Ryan wanted to incorporate an assignment to create a geospatial exhibit, so he attended DHSI to acquire skills in GIS. The course aims to help students understand that the technologies they use shape their encounters with texts. The links to Ryan’s presentation can be found here.
Brian Croxall’s course, ENG 389 “Introduction to Digital Humanities” drew a diverse body of students and covered broad selection of topics. Brian brought in many guests via Skype and even had his students collaborate with another course by reading the same book simultaneously. Another interesting aspect of his course was the inclusion of debates in the digital humanities. Brian noted that there was some pushback from students on having to read DH theory, but students in the course gained a solid understanding of the contours and debates in DH. Brian’s links are here.
As a historian, I found Jeff’s course, “Adventures in Digital History” the most exciting. It has several goals: to encourage students to work outside their comfort zone in public history, to teach students marketable and practical technology skills, and to collaborate on projects interpreting local primary sources. Jeff explained that trust was key in meeting these goals. It is important to assure students that what we are doing is new and that you won’t “beat them with the grade stick” for taking risks. His top goal was to encourage students to consume and produce history in new and interdisciplinary ways. Jeff has his presentation links here.
The models all three presenters shared were very exciting for anyone planning a DH-inclined course. However, I did have some concerns about how these exciting models might be applied outside of the classrooms the three panelists worked in. All three had smaller class sizes during a regular semester. My teaching opportunities have only come as a TA in a large lecture course or as the instructor of record for a larger online summer course. It would require creativity and adaptability to apply some of the lessons and models from the courses of the panelists. Clearly, the way we incorporate the digital humanities into our courses depends greatly on the size, setting, and composition of those courses. A recording of the seminar can be viewed here.