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From Disruption to Student Engagement

Design and Assessment of Digital Humanities Course Assignments

Project updates

For updates on this project, visit From Disruption to Student Engagement: A Reporting

This website includes information about the project workshop in July 2016 and links to sample faculty projects.


Abstract

Knox and Monmouth Colleges will collaborate on a five-day intensive "summer camp" in the digital humanities, specifically directed at cultivating faculty capacity to manage digital humanities projects and assignments in their courses and, further, foster confidence that these assignments offer a rich and credible enhancement to their courses and student learning.

This workshop will have two main goals:

  • To allow faculty in the humanities from each campus to work together with instructional technology support staff, librarians, and external facilitators to "brainstorm" course assignments tailored to the learning goals of faculty members' courses.
  • Identify the skills, expertise, and technology needed to implement these assignments on each campus, with particular attention to building sufficient self-reliance and autonomy among faculty.

A third related goal is to build on existing work in digital humanities to offer insights and innovations for the many schools like ours. In particular, we want to create projects which could scale from an individual course to similar courses across a campus or campuses. Our ultimate outcome would be to match emergent technologies with best pedagogical practices in the humanities.

As examples of digital humanities projects are numerous, but research on the effectiveness of one sort of assignment or another remains sparse, we propose to rely on our existing skills as instructors to create, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of these assignments. To that end, we will be cultivating informed faculty voices on each campus to speak frankly on the investments and benefits of these assignments.

The desire is not only to build projects which engage specific learning goals and generate a specific technical mastery, but which also allow faculty the generative conversations which can only occur when they embrace not only the tools but also the theoretical underpinnings of the projects they envision.

Goals

Updated Feb 05, 2016

This workshop will have three goals:

  1. To allow faculty in the humanities from each campus to work together with instructional technology support staff, librarians, and external facilitators to "brainstorm" course assignments tailored to the learning goals of faculty members' courses.
  2. Identify the skills, expertise, and technology needed to implement these assignments on each campus, with particular attention to building sufficient self-reliance and autonomy among faculty.
  3. To build on existing work in digital humanities to offer insights and innovations for the many schools like ours. In particular, we want to create projects which could scale from an individual course to similar courses across a campus or campuses. Of course, resource-driven humanities ventures can deliver gaudy visual results, but none of these is particularly applicable to most liberal arts colleges nor are they often conceptualized as being rooted in a particular, valued basket of skills and technologies. Our ultimate outcome would be to match emergent technologies with best pedagogical practices in the humanities.

We also envision this development opportunity as generating opportunities for publishing results in appropriate disciplinary journals on teaching and learning. We know that this project does not leap from untilled ground, but instead relies on and builds on the innovations and success of the first generation of undergraduate digital humanities work at places like Hope College and Bryn Mawr. As indicated above, a goal of this project is to identify manageable, effect, and dare we say, modest agenda for digital humanities projects that is transportable to different institutional contexts.

(We acknowledge the considerable potential of data-driven research in the humanities and of cross-disciplinary research, especially drawing on science methodologies, are also a significant part of the digital humanities agenda at the moment. These initiatives are not broadly applicable to mainline humanities courses, so we leave them aside pending a future initiative to address them.)


Activities

Updated Feb 08, 2016

The proposed "summer camp" will have two major components:

  1. An intensive three-day assignment design and assessment workshop in Chicago, taking advantage of easy access to resources and expertise while bringing faculty together in a constructed collaborative atmosphere. This first workshop will take place in the early summer and will establish an agenda for each faculty member's course design work during the summer.
  2. A two-day workshop at Knox College later in the summer will bring workshop participants back together for presentation of course assignments and evaluation of the assignments potential and the skills and resources necessary to execute them.

The camp would work from conceptualization through assessment, gauging the challenges, anticipating pitfalls, and revising assignments to improve their potential effectiveness.

Benefits of collaboration among colleges and faculty

The collaboration takes advantage of similarities between Knox College and Monmouth College and their levels of development in instructional technologies up to this time. Each institution has a number of interested faculty, with pockets of expertise and innovation, but not necessarily a broadly-based embrace of instructional technologies among humanities faculty. Like faculty at many liberal arts campuses where the possibility of positive innovation runs up against the constraints of resources, including temporal ones, there might be an interest, and perhaps even a will, on the part of faculty, but there is also a concomitant scepticism about adding anything "more" to one's pedagogical load. The current project would allow space to engage that interest and support that will.

Moreover, both colleges share limited staff expertise in instructional technology and sharing resources thus makes best sense. The project workshop will allow instructional technologists, as well as humanities faculty, to articulate concrete needs based upon specific outcomes. Finally, while it goes without saying that the physical proximity of the two campuses will facilitate the execution of the workshop, we also believe the slightly different demographics of the two campuses will greatly enhance assessment of the project and promote ongoing conversations about the evolving landscape of instructional technology in a variety of liberal arts contexts.


Dissemination Strategies

The products of this collaborative summer workshop with be "test-driven" assignment plans that will be implemented during the subsequent academic year. These assignments plans will include: learning goals for each assignment and a rationale for how the technology-based assignment constitutes and enhancement of the course; detailed descriptions of necessary technology and software; a careful estimate of the additional support from library and ITS staff needed to implement the assignments; an agenda for assessing the success of the new assignments. Faculty will work with staff in academic assessment on the two campuses to carry out assessment of these assignments both within the context of the larger success of the course, while engaging in direct assessment of the digital humanities assignments.

Dissemination of the results of these activities will use both existing channels for sharing faculty development. At Knox, there is a regular newsletter sharing faculty activities of this sort and a regular seminar series about pedagogy. At Monmouth, there are regular brownbags in faculty development which could address the workshop's innovations; there is also an ongoing series of pedagogy discussions that can disseminate the work. Moreover, we will employ collaborative presentations for each campus with the aim of further widening the circle of conversation on digital humanities on and between the campuses. Additionally, we expect this collaboration to contribute to a spirit of collaboration between the two schools.


Lead Partner(s)
Mark Willhardt
Professor, Monmouth College
English
mwill@monmouthcollege.edu
Michael Schneider
Professor, Knox College
History
mschneid@knox.edu
ACM Program Funding
FaCE
Award
$12,200
Funding Cycle
2014-2015
Project Duration
Keywords
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